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Look Ma, No menus!

Pete Brown - 27 September 2005

Ok, so let's say you're not into WPF and all the neat UI changes that will come about from that. You're not the design type, you just want to write traditional battleship applications. Will you still be able to stay in happy File | Edit | View | ...| Help menu land?


Microsoft Office has always been the UI innovator in Windows. Where it goes, developers of LOB applications must follow. Toolbars are a great example of that. All the Outlook-like applications out there are further proof. Take a good look at where Office 12 is heading with its menu-less toolbar-less "ribbon" task-oriented UI. The only faintly menu-like item in there is the File drop-down. Everything else is horizontal, almost like a GUI version of the old Lotus 123 for DOS. Once you see the more advanced layouts of the ribbon, though, that comparison quickly breaks down.

Microsoft has a press release on Office 12. Click on the screen shots of excel and other apps for larger images.

At the very least, we can finally tell users that 1024x768 is not going to be a realistic screen resolution any more :-)

We saw that at the PDC, and I was both intruiged and skeptical. While I think the traditional menu structure is definitely showing very gray hairs, it is something that most users know. The changes in Office 12 will make users more productive over time (I have no doubt of that, given the demos I saw), but what about that initial impact? Will Microsoft be able to get any companies to buy into Office 12 without significant incentives?

As developers and UI designers, we just need to know this is coming. Learn it, learn how to best apply it to your existing applications, and learn when it makes no sense. Oh, and check out the Windows Vista UX Guidelines while you're at it.

posted by Pete Brown on Tuesday, September 27, 2005
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