Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Windows 7 and Ribbon Changes

I've been reading up lately on what we can expect to see in Windows 7 (coming October 22), and I've mostly been excited about the new features. But today I found something that worries me a bit.

Windows 7 is implementing what MS is calling the "Scenic Ribbon." Essentially, they're expanding the Ribbon interface that they introduced with Office 2007 to more of Windows. We'll find a Ribbon in WordPad and Paint (which hasn't been updated since Nixon was president), as well as the next version of Visio (Visio 2007 didn't have the Ribbon). They're releasing the Scenic Ribbon API so that developers can bring Ribbon functionality to their software.

None of this worries me. In fact, I think it's kind of cool. What worries me, though, is that they will be releasing an update to Vista and Office 2007 so that it integrates the new Scenic Ribbon feature. That worries me because I have a bunch of Ribbon customizations in Office 2007, and I don't know for sure whether (a) the customizations will stick with the new API or (b) my normal route for customizing the Ribbon will still be usable. Microsoft is normally pretty good about backward compatibility (they'll continue to release XP security updates until 2014), but their documentation is wanting. I've noticed a distinct lack of consideration for intermediate programmers (aka tinkerers like me) in the coverage. For example, you can see a highly technical video that gives an overview of the Scenic Ribbon and how to use it in your programs, and you can find plenty of information for Office novices, but I have to rely on outside sources for the in-between info. (A warning or two about the video: You need to have Silverlight installed to watch it, and one of the two guys in the video has a heavy accent. French, I think. It took me a bit to realize that "zamil" is XML.)

A lot of the information about Scenic Ribbon creation involves C++ programming. I don't know squat about C++ programming. I can only hope that it only applies to application development.

On a related note: The upcoming release of Windows 7 has given whiners new energy to complain about the Ribbon and bemoan the loss of the good ole toolbar interface. Like many of those who protest healthcare reform, these people seem to believe that the "old ways" are intrinsically better. Honestly! These same people would still be whining if Microsoft had started with the Ribbon back in the 90s and decided to switch to toolbars in 2007. All these anti-Ribbon whiners essentially just don't like the idea that they might have to learn something new — even though the difference between driving a manual and automatic transmission is larger than the difference between Office toolbars and the Ribbon.

All right. I'm shutting down MS HighHorse.

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