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office ribbon interfaceThat pesky Ribbon Menu.

Ever since its introduction in Office 2007, I’ve been struggling to come to terms with it. I much preferred the Office 2000/2003 method of “hiding” tools that you don’t use often – and I don’t think I’m alone in the preference. I also don’t like being “shouted” at.

Similarly, I think it’s fair to say that I was disappointed to see the Ribbon Menu incorporated into the Windows 8 pre-release versions. Although there might be some benefit to having all of the controls where they can be quickly and easily accessed, there are plenty of reasons not to do this. For instance, you wouldn’t leave a self-destruct button on the outside of a car, would you? Someone might accidentally knock it.

That might be an extreme comparison but let’s be serious for a moment – we’re talking about user data here, files and folders that you have created or relied on. Making tools openly available that can change your files irreparably is pretty risky.

Fortunately there are a few tweaks that can be applied to the Ribbon Menu in Office and in Windows 8 that can improve the situation somewhat.

Tone Down the Office Ribbon Menu

While it might not be so bad in Windows 8, the Office 2013 Ribbon Menu is rather… aggressive. You can see examples of this in our Office 2013 guide. The reason for this is that for some reason, Microsoft have opted to head each tab on the menu in capitals.

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office ribbon interface

Fortunately, this can be easily resolved. If you want to rid Microsoft Office 2013 of capitalised menu tabs, right click a tab and select Customize the Ribbon…;  from here, in the right pane ensure that Main Tabs is selected beneath Customize the Ribbon and right click the heading you want to change, selecting Rename.

office ribbon menu

All you need to do is position the cursor at the end of the tab name and tap the space bar, then click OK to close. This will force the Ribbon Menu to display tab headings in normal case.

Customizing the Ribbon

There are various ways in which you can persuade the Ribbon Menu to work more efficiently for you.

office ribbon menu

For instance, in Office 2010 and 2013 you can add shortcuts, or even create your own tab. Adding a tab in Office 2010 is quick and easy. Right-click on the menu and select Customize the Ribbon, and in the right-pane select New Tab (you might like to rename it). You can then populate the ribbon with commands chosen from the left pane, selecting them and clicking Add >> to move them across. Note that individual commands will need to be added to groups, so use the New Group button to create this first.

office ribbon menu

In Office if you prefer to revert back to the basic Ribbon Menu look, you can use the Reset > Reset all customization options in the Customize the Menu screen to restore back to “factory” settings.

In Windows 8, manual customization of the Ribbon Menu isn’t possible. Your best bet is to leave it permanently minimised.

Using Ribbon Disabler

If this isn’t enough, however, you can disable the Windows 8 ribbon completely with Ribbon Disabler, from WinAero.com.

office ribbon controls

This small download will require unzipping to extract the Ribbon disabler2.exe file. You will then need to run it, accepting the UAC message. Click Disable Ribbon Explorer to rid Windows 8 of the Ribbon Menu – note that the effect isn’t universal, as Microsoft Paint will retain its menu.

office ribbon interface

Ribbon Disabler will undo the Ribbon Menu enhancement on Windows 8, resulting in a Windows Explorer that is almost identical to that found in Windows 7.

Conclusion: Don’t Put Up With Unnecessary “Enhancements”

In an age where Microsoft appears to be moving away from desktop computing (certainly as far as domestic users are concerned) it seems odd that they should be “enhancing” Windows with the controversial Ribbon Menu. When was the last time you heard someone bemoan the fact that Office 2013 had a user interface feature that wasn’t present in the rest of Windows?

Fortunately, Windows is ripe for reconfiguring, and thanks to free tools such as Ribbon Disabler and useful hacks to tweak the menu (and deal with other irritating niggles 7 Windows 8 Niggles Resolved 7 Windows 8 Niggles Resolved Windows 8 has a number of features that can be annoying to experienced users of the traditional Windows desktop. From adding a Start menu to disabling the bulky ribbon, noisy live tiles, and unnecessary lock... Read More ), we can continue using Windows 8, and Office 2010 and 2013 without being forced to accept what Microsoft considers to be an improvement.

  1. techguyknows
    March 29, 2013 at 8:54 am

    The ribbon takes up so much space that we must keep scrolling up and down with small-screened tablets!

  2. Nevzat A
    March 29, 2013 at 7:34 am

    I love Ribbon interface. The big missing functionality of Office 2007 was customization of ribbon, MS added it with 2010 but not everyone of us upgraded. Fortunately we have 3rd party utils. Thanks for the article.

  3. Abhi
    March 29, 2013 at 4:30 am

    I love Ribbon interface. I could never use Office properly before Ribbon came. Now I'm Word and OneNote guru. Have become substantially good at Excel, Powepoint and Visio too.

    Ribbon can be hidden if you don't like it. Quick Access Toolbar works just like conventional toolbar.

    Not just Office, I like other products that come with Ribbon, like Minjet (MindManager).

  4. Michael Heffner
    March 29, 2013 at 1:30 am

    The ribbon was yet another disaster from Microsoft. We had users that had created custom macros, buttons, tool bars, etc. and it was pretty user friendly to do so. When the upgrade rolled out, everything had to be re-created and we we swamped with questions with the number one being, why did they change it?.

    Make things better, but remember that most of your average users are not tech savvy at all.

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