Microsoft Boldly Plans to Revert the Ribbon Back to a Toolbar

Microsoft plans on stripping down the ribbon interface in Microsoft Office, freeing up vertical space in a way that’s reminiscent of the toolbars used before Office 2007.

The change will roll out to Microsoft Word’s online version today, a preview of which is seen above. The tabs remain, but the toolset is roughly 1/3rd the height of the current ribbon, and pretty much looks like the toolbars offered in the Office of old. The three-line ribbon is still available if users want it.

The change will roll out slowly to desktop apps. As Paul Thurrot points out, OneNote for Windows already uses this one-line ribbon. Here’s what that looks like:

Some Outlook users will see a similar interface in July, according to Jared Spataro, Microsoft VP for Office and Windows Marketing. He outlined a rough timeline for other desktop application in a blog post:

Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Windows offer our deepest, richest feature set—and they’re the preferred experience for users who want to get the most from our apps. Users have a lot of “muscle memory” built around these versions, so we plan on being especially careful with changes that could disrupt their work. We aren’t ready to bring the simplified ribbon to these versions yet because we feel like we need more feedback from a broader set of users first. But when we do, users will always be able to revert back to the classic ribbon with one click.

Note the language: not “if we do,” but “when we do.” Office users can expect this thinner ribbon, even if the timeline isn’t clear.

Personally I think this change is overdue. Since 2007 widescreen monitors have become the norm, and on those sorts of displays the ribbon takes up a lot of vertical space. Thinning the ribbon will give users more room to work on their documents, which is a good thing.

Justin Pot is the News Editor for How-To Geek. He lives in Hillsboro, Oregon and runs the Hillsboro Signal, which offers local citizen journalism. Follow Justin on Twitter and Facebook, if you want. You don't have to.