Microsoft shows off its 'Ribbonized' Windows 8 file-management interface

Microsoft shows off its 'Ribbonized' Windows 8 file-management interface

Summary: The Microsoft Windows 8 engineering team is sharing yet more information on the file-management app built into the next-generation Windows release.


To start off the week, here's a quick round up of Microsoft news bits from around the Web:

The Windows 8 team is showing off more of the guts of Windows 8's Explorer feature: The Windows 8 Engineering Team is continuing to trumpet the coming changes in the Windows Explorer component of the coming operating system. In the third post about the Windows Explorer internals on August 29, the Softies explained more about the Explorer file manager application built into Windows 8. (Here's more info on the first of the three blog posts on the Windows 8 Explorer.)

Microsoft is revamping the Explorer to use the Ribbon user interface. As noted in today's post, "(w)hile not primarily a touch interface, the ribbon also provides a much more reliable and usable touch-only interface than pull-down menus and context menus (we'll have lots more to say on the topic of touch, of course ... we definitely know there is a lot of interest but also want to make clear that we know how important keyboard and mouse scenarios are to power-user scenarios of file management)."

Update: Windows watchers Paul Thurrott and Rafael Rivera first noted the Ribbonized UI for the Windows 8 Explorer back in April 2011.

Update No. 2: Reader @TenHoveR notes that the Explorer Ribbon will be able to be hidden. (Ribbon haters, rejoice!)

The Microsoft social gaming toolkit for Azure has reached 1.0, downloadable status: The Redmondians released "the first stable version" of the Windows Azure Toolkit for Social Games and the Tankster game, as of August 25. The latest update "adds several new features, improves the performance and stability of the server application-programming interfaces, and contains many user interface improvements to the sample game," according to Azure Technical Evangelist Nathan Totten. Microsoft released a test build of the social-gaming toolkit for Azure in July.

Microsoft is phasing out the Windows 7 Logo program for software apps: Microsoft is removing the Windows 7 logo page as of September 15, 2011, according to a new post. The Windows 7 logo program -- aimed at identifying products with Microsoft-designed tests designating products as "Compatible with Windows 7" is on its way out. I'd assume there might be a similar program for Windows 8, waiting in the wings... (Thanks for the heads up, @Windows4Live)

Microsoft is stepping up its private-cloud push: The company is re-igniting its Private Cloud Blog and other related social-networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, forums, etc.). I'm thinking this is all (or largely) in preparation for the launch of a number of new System Center 2012 deliverables. In fact, it seems that the Release Candidate of System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 is right around the corner (based on the wording on the Microsoft download center).

Topics: Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: Microsoft shows off its 'Ribbonized' Windows 8 file-management interface

    Love the Ribbon UI. Curious. The Ribbon is not a "Metro" inspired touch driven interface or UX is it? It's not Live Tiles and all that jazz?<br><br>Is there a version of the File Explorer with the "Metro" style and UX designed for touch? Is this version of File Explorer with the Ribbon for Windows 8 "Classic Mode" only? If so, then obviously Windows 8 "Classic Mode" has UX improvements from Windows 7? <br><br>Just speculating and curious. Obviously, who knows?

    OK, just reread the post and saw the quote where MS acknowledges that the Ribbon is not primarily a touch interface but in their mind seems better suited for touch than old style menus. Interesting.
    • There's a time and place for everything


      Metro is designed to be quick, simple, touch-based, and obvious.

      Fluent is designed to expose (sometimes complicated) functionality much more easily to users, thereby reducing the learning curve. It is meant as a solution to "menu-bloat" where things often get hidden away due to lack of space and organization.

      They both have their place, but their designs conflict with each other. Windows Explorer is something that will probably become the file manager for power users, while regular users will be content with simple file commands via the Start screen.
      • RE: Microsoft shows off its 'Ribbonized' Windows 8 file-management interface


        I think u r right. Until the day comes, if it does, where the desktop/keyboard/mouse ceases to exist, there will always be a "Fluent" UX and a "Metro" UX, and "Fluent" will not just be a static, backwards compatibility mode for "classic" apps.

        Wow. One OS, two UX modes based on the nature of the app. Very interesting.
    • Not a fan of the ribbon

      @fhsheridan Not a fan of the ribbon - too much eye candy, and the ribbon in Office dropped, obscured, or hid obvious functionality from the menu.

      Try doing a "change case" in Office 2007 or later. Its possible, but you basically have to hunt it down on the Internet to figure it out. Office 2007 took my 20 years of Microsoft Office skills and flushed them, turning me back into a total noob. Four years later, I can do stuff again, but that's a long time to get productive again with something I already knew well.

      That said, menus won't work on a touch screen... I suppose that's what we're all being prepared for!
      • Change case was tough?

        I only have Word 2010 (not Word 2007) but on my copy, Change Case was on the Home tab in the Font group and had an icon with a capital letter and small letter and when I hovered my mouse over it, the tool tip said "Change Case". It took me 3 seconds to find it. In fact, it would have taken me longer to change the case with the old menu system.

        I appreciate that you have 20 years of MS Office skills and this is something new but the truth is that you didn't find "Change Case" easily when you used Word for the first time 20 years ago.

        An argument could have been made that MS could have kept a "classic" mode but that would have been the wrong move for 2 reasons:

        1. It seriously slows down adoption rates since all the 20 year veterans teach the new employees the "Classic" way of doing things even though these new employees would be far better off with the new system.

        2. It unnecessarily complicates all development and documentation. Much easier to write for 1 UI.

        Apple gets credit for killing the floppy and now for killing the optical drive. MS deserves credit for killing a grossly inefficient UI. Right now, MS is out-innovating everyone else in the UI department.
      • RE: Microsoft shows off its 'Ribbonized' Windows 8 file-management interface

        @toddybottom ... I completely agree.

        I've been working with Office for 20 years too, and yet I had no challenge learning the new interface or even teaching it (since 2007's release) to hundreds of employees that I provide systems for. The only people who have a hard time coping are the ones who can't cope with change at all.
      • RE: Microsoft shows off its 'Ribbonized' Windows 8 file-management interface

        People either love or hate the ribbon.
        I can't agree more on the subject of flushing 20 years of MS Office skills. Add to that loss of your previous macros that you worked with for years and keyboard shortcuts stored in that you used to simply copy from an old computer. All that was gone with Office 2007. I might be wrong but it seems that the folks who embraced the ribbon and other drastic changes in Office 2007 were those who didn't really notice those changes in the first place because they were either new inexperienced users or never had been power users in previous version. All said above is IMHO.
      • RE: Microsoft shows off its 'Ribbonized' Windows 8 file-management interface

        Why 'loss of your previous macros that you worked with for years and keyboard shortcuts'?

        Macros stored the object model commands and not menu-options, and keyboard shortcuts basically still work.
        Even the Alt-key menu-options sequences still work.
      • RE: Microsoft shows off its 'Ribbonized' Windows 8 file-management interface

        @rbethell "Try doing a 'change case' in Office 2007 or later."

        In 2010 it's a single click, and it's in the home tab, so it's showing on the screen by default. For most people, that's gonna mean it's far easier to find than older versions of Office.
      • RE: Microsoft shows off its 'Ribbonized' Windows 8 file-management interface

        @rbethell yah dood... it's right there under the fonts. I hope you didn't spend TOO long searching the internet for that tidbit...
      • RE: Microsoft shows off its 'Ribbonized' Windows 8 file-management interface

        @rbethell - I agree. The ribbon was a big step backward. I'm not sure I agree about menus on a touch screen though. It's not any more difficult to touch a menu item than it is a similarly sized icon of some kind. The only real difference is reading vs interpreting hieroglyphics.
      • RE: Microsoft shows off its 'Ribbonized' Windows 8 file-management interface


        Actually, I love the Ribbon interface! It's gotten a number of people to switch to and now Libre Office which means I'm doing less tech support for them.
      • RE: Microsoft shows off its 'Ribbonized' Windows 8 file-management interface


        Hate to burst your bubble there, but not everything about the Ribbon interface can be praised. I didn't have any problem using it either, but much of the new layout is not the least bit intuitive and 'liking' it has little to do with flexibility or intelligence. For a simple example, where do you go to insert a page break in Word? Insert menu perhaps? Ah yes, there it is! Now how about a section break - Insert menu perhaps? WRONG! It's under Page Layout.

        Now, 'I' know where it is, but that doesn't mean I think of this as the best layout for my menus.

        Don't even get me started on the now missing Options menu. Instead, we now have to navigate to the main office menu, then Options, and are confronted with a host of generic sounding menu items, none of which seem to vaguely describe the options that lie within. Again, 'I' know how to go about finding something, but I constantly have to answer end user questions about where something is, after they have spent half an hour searching for it. Now, call me Mr. Obvious, but that doesn't seem particularly intuitive, or superior to Tools->Options->[Insert Appropriate Category]

        In MS Access or Excel this syndrome is 100 times worse.....
  • Have to agree

    Once I took the time to really learn and use it.
    Itnis a much better tool than the legacy menu/bar system.

    • RE: Microsoft shows off its 'Ribbonized' Windows 8 file-management interface

      I think it literally took me a year to get as good with the ribbon as I was with the menus. I don't know if it's any better than menus were, but it certainly isn't worse -- at least on higher-res screens. However, when windows are scaled down, information on the ribbon disappears, and this can be hard to work with.

      Still, overall I think it's an improvement. Very elegant.
      x I'm tc
    • RE: Microsoft shows off its 'Ribbonized' Windows 8 file-management interface

      Agreed. And if you look at the MS presentation, it's easy to see their case that the main features on the main ribbon cover 80% of what a user is likely to want.
  • After 3 years, I still can't stand the ribbon interface.


    It is so much slower to work with than the old menu systems. I see that the learning curve is not as steep but the proficiency plateaus very quickly.
    • RE: Microsoft shows off its 'Ribbonized' Windows 8 file-management interface

      @Bruizer - sorry, but I heartily disagree with you. Taking Office 2007/2010 as a currently accessable example, the Ribbon has exposed a TON of features that used to be buried deep in dialogs that were only accessible via a nested menu. Many of my clients are stunned to "discover" that Word has column support, footnotes, etc. which are all accessible with two mouse clicks, even though they've actually been in Word for YEARS.

      Further, the new easy to learn keystroke sequences allow you to reach EVERY feature of the ribbon, unlike the toolbars of old. While it takes a little time to learn the new keystrokes, the increased range of features accessible through keystrokes MORE than makes up for having to re-train my fingers.
    • @bitcrazed: Shallower learning curve but plateaus quickly.


      That is what I said. The speed that I can still navigate the older menu system is 2-3X faster than the Ribbons even when using keyboards. For the casual once a week user, the Ribbons are OK. For people that actually use Word/Excel, they are a RPITA.

      MS should have kept both available since almost all Ribbon interfaces simply take you to the legacy confusing dialog boxes anyway.
    • RE: Microsoft shows off its 'Ribbonized' Windows 8 file-management interface

      @Bruizer ... I remember 4 years ago when it first came out, I was taking a Business and Technical Writing course, and our class was sitting in a lab with Office 2003 computers. We were tasked with formatting a document in a particular way, and use it to generate a mail merge. I pulled out my laptop with Office 2007 on it, and it took me less time to boot up, logon, open Word and complete the project than it took for most people to figure out where Mail Merge was even at in the menus.

      There is nothing I can't accomplish in 2-3 clicks that didn't require more than 5 in the old version, and that's assuming I knew where to look in the old.

      It's pretty freaking obvious when you click "Insert" or "Page Layout" which options you're going to see!