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Give credit where credit is due

Over the past couple of decades Microsoft has been perceived by many as a monstrous monopolistic leviathan capable only of dishonestly capitalizing on innovations done by others (such as Apple), and such powerful is this perception that it’s sometimes easy to overlook some the true innovations that originated at Microsoft.

One of the more recent ones was the complete redesign of the familiar menu-based GUI in the MS Office productivity suite, the new ‘ribbon interface’. It was quite a bold step on the part of Microsoft, as it wasn’t just some minor tweaking to improve the user experience, no they simply went and scrapped the old GUI that everybody had gotten used to and to some extend dependent upon. I remember the cries of indignation from old time Office users back in 2007.  Initially a lot of people talked, blogged and complained about how they were lost in the new interface and how they couldn’t find one thing or another in it. Well, to be honest, it represented a bit of a learning curve for me too, I remember the day I fired up MS Word 2007 for the first time, having typed up a page in the document I was working on I decided to save it and duh, the familiar floppy disk icon was nowhere to be found, after several minutes of searching for it in vain I had to resort to reading Help, that’s how bad it got.

But a couple of months later, on another computer I had to download and install OpenOffice and all of a sudden all those menus just weren’t the thing any more, they were plain boring and on top of that, compared to MS’ ribbon they were also time consuming.

Today many other software manufacturers are using the Ribbon interface in their products, in fact it’s well on the way to becoming a standard for productivity software. And with this piece I just want to give credit where it is due, MS may be many things, and they’ve had their share of flops in their time, but the Ribbon interface is definitely not one of them. In fact I dare say that in terms of user experience it leaves most Apple products in the dust. It’s truly innovative and effective at the same time

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