Are classic Office 2003 menus already making a comeback?

Excel 2007 menuright arrowExcel 2003 menu

It's inevitable. After moving away from what is now referred to as the "classic" menu style ("classic" probably because it's not only old but worked well), Microsoft is slowly moving back. My prediction is that by Office 20, they'll be back in full.

As evidence, I present to you the following.

  1. This blog post from Microsoft Office Product Development Group.
  2. In it, the PDG writes:

    From the early days of this release, we have been working on making the common commands like Print, Save, and Open more discoverable than in Office 2007.

    Translation: We went too far and now need to mitigate some of the changes we made.

    The article goes on:

    Over and over in the usability lab, customers told us the word “File” was something they were looking for in the UI – all the years of using the File menu to use commands like “Save As” and “Print” is a hard habit to break. So we’ve listened to our customers and in our Beta release you’ll see we’ve added the “File” label to the tab. This has been a tremendous success in the usability labs and we’ve seen an incredible surge in initial discoverability of the Backstage view.

    (emphasis added)

    Besides being hilarious (in a disturbing way), this gives us a view into the Microsoft mindset, which is:

    • Users have "habits" that need to be "broken".
    • Previous versions of a program do not exist.

    As evidence, look at Microsoft's reaction when discoverability soared after they replaced the Office Icon with the word "File". It's like they've never seen the File Menu before and are actually surprised (surprised!) when they put it in and got a good response.

    What's next at the Usability Labs? It might go something like this:

    "… In our tests we found that usability and discoverability soared when we hid the Ribbon and used a single menu bar, called a toolbar, and put commands on dropdown menus which are accessed from the toolbar."

    Are the Microsoft engineers living in a post-apocalyptic world where they have to rediscover fire? (The perfect example is Anthem.)

  3. The fact that Office 15 is already under development.
  4. And so publicly. Why couldn't the new features be included in Office 14, or is Microsoft trying to distance itself from Office 2007 even further?

I'm sure there is more I'm missing. The classic menus are making a comeback. Right?

About JP

I'm just an average guy who writes VBA code for a living. This is my personal blog. Excel and Outlook are my thing, with a sprinkle of Access and Word here and there. Follow this space to learn more about VBA. Keep Reading »

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comment bubble 3 Comment(s) on Are classic Office 2003 menus already making a comeback?:

  1. I think you're putting too much emphasis on the Office 15 cycle. The development cycle of a huge product like Office is several years long.

    Office 14 is in beta. It's too late to make any changes unless the software explodes, burning down city blocks.

    Office 15 is under development. This means they are locking in or have locked in the overall UI and feature set. There still is room for changes and enhancements, given sufficient resources and a perception that something needs to be changed. The article you cite states that MS has "started planning" Office 15, but they started planning probably before Office 2007 came out.

    Office 16 is probably already in the "started planning" stage. This is where they look at all the neat stuff they wanted to put into the past few versions, and decide what they will finally be able to do for v.16.

    All they're doing is tweaking the ribbon in a minimal way. It's cleaner in 2010, and they added a File button, but it's not really a File menu. And nothing else is turning into a menu, and there are no flexible toolbars like there used to be.

  2. notstevegordon writes:

    Hell Yeah

  3. whyfixit writes:

    I think Microsoft was drinking the Steve Job's Think Differently Kool-Aid when they changed the interface for Office 2007.

    They should have at least provided a classic toolbar as well as the ribbon as an option.

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