Microsoft's two big releases of 2007 were Vista and Office2007. At least I liked one of them! The new Office07 products -- Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc -- have a number of small refinements that I appreciate. They look much nicer than their predecessors, at least to my eye, and they're technically improved, including with a new file format that takes only half the storage space of previous versions. Some of the commands are annoyingly different from the ones my fingers had been used to for years. But, conveniently, in most cases the programs will still recognize what you're trying to do if you hit the old sequence of keys.

What I don't like is "The Ribbon." This is the big banner at the top of each Word, Excel, etc display that takes up an awful lot of screen space with its new menu of commands.

http://i142.photobucket.com/albums/r96/jfallows/Officeribbon2007.jpg


Two reasons I object to The Ribbon: it's big, intrusive, and busy, getting in the way of the actual material I'm supposed to be thinking about. And, it reflects the same questionable design trade-off as Microsoft's previous and dreaded Clippy feature -- "You seem to be writing a letter!", that Clippy. These quasi-tutorial aids are possibly useful the very first time or two or ten you use the program and are still figuring it out. The next million times you use it, after you've learned how it works, these "assistants" just get in the way. Or, again, that's how Clippy and The Ribbon are for me.

Am I the last person on earth to figure out that you can make The Ribbon go away in Office 2007 programs? It is easy, though underpublicized. I came across it by accidental keystroke. You right-click at the top of the screen, in the command bar or the big fat Ribbon zone; you chose "Minimize the Ribbon," and it is gone! Five or six more usable lines of screen real-estate immediately come into view. (Depends on the specific program, font size and zoom factor, etc.) And if you need to see ribbon commands at any point, you just click on "View" at the top of the screen and it toggles on and off.

If anyone else had been in the dark: well, now, let there be light.

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