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Don't like Windows 8's ribbon? Sorry, Sinofsky says

Responding to user criticism about the ribbon in Windows 8 Explorer, Windows head Steven Sinofsky counters with claims of higher satisfaction with products that use the ribbon.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read


Microsoft's choice to add the ribbon interface to Windows 8's Explorer has triggered some complaints, but the company is sticking by its decision.

Posting another installment of the "Building Windows 8" blog last Friday, Windows and Windows Live Division President Steven Sinofsky responded to user feedback over some recent blogs, including one from August 29 in which the company revealed that Windows Explorer would sport a ribbon interface.

That bit of news prompted a fair number of user complaints.

"We chose the ribbon mechanism, and to those that find that a flawed choice, there isn't much we can do other than disagree," Sinofsky wrote. "We were certain, and this proved out, that the dislike of the ribbon is most intense in the audience of this blog."

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Despite the complaints, Sinofsky claims that satisfaction with software that uses the ribbon is much higher, and that its usage is broader and deeper. But still, the company seems to be resigned to the fact that some people just don't like it.

"We also know a very small set of people remain unhappy," Sinofsky said. "That was true in versions before the introduction of the Ribbon mechanism, though obviously for different reasons. It might be the case that no matter what we do, there will be a small set of people that are not satisfied."

Sinofsky did admit that there has been a lot of "back and forth" at Microsoft about the ribbon, specifically whether it is geared for beginners or for more advanced users.

Looking at the history of how a user interfaces with Windows, menus used to be designed for beginners, while the keyboard was adopted by power users, according to Sinofsky. Context menus (pop-up menus triggered by a click of the right mouse button) were originally geared for advanced users but grew popular with everyone. And now Microsoft finds that menus and toolbars are favored by more advanced users.

The goal at Microsoft, Sinofsky said, has been try to unify all these ways of interfacing with Windows to make things simpler and the screen less cluttered, one reason the company has gravitated toward the ribbon.