/ Technology

Do you hate Microsoft’s ribbon interface in Windows Live Mail?

Microsoft ribbon toolbar

When Microsoft released Office 2007, its traditional menu system was discarded in favour of what was called the “ribbon interface”. The change was hated by many, so why bring ribbons to Windows Live Mail 2011?

This icon-based display (pictured) divides into tabs, which Microsoft claims will let people get to their desired option with fewer clicks. Yet, Microsoft suffered a backlash to its 2007 ribbon introduction, with many reacting badly to the changed interface.

So it came as a surprise when Microsoft decided to introduce ribbons to its 2011 update of Windows Live Mail (WLM). Ribbons are even rumoured to be making their way to Windows 8’s Windows Explorer – a move I’m sure many will despise.

Since the release of WLM 2011 we’ve been inundated by Which? Helpdesk emails complaining about its ribbon interface. But, unfortunately, there’s currently no way to return to the traditional menus and toolbars found in the 2010 version. It looks like ribbons are here to stay.

The resurrection of ribbons

When the 2010 version of WLM came out, the transition was relatively painless. Yet, that was just the calm before the storm. As part of an automatic update the menus were soon transformed into the much hated ribbons.

At the end of the day, the big mistake wasn’t using ribbons in the email client, it was adding them after it’s release. Why wasn’t it included in the first place? Perhaps this is a mystery only Microsoft can answer.

Like any other software company, Microsoft’s constantly trying to improve its software and develop its designs, but in this case, ribbons just seemed to come out of nowhere. And when it comes to an interface that’s used by billions, most likely in their daily jobs, wouldn’t it be wiser to follow the expression ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big supporter of innovation and pushing technological boundaries. But if your goal is to make people’s lives easier by cutting down the amount of clicks to select a particular option, don’t change the whole interface at once. Doing that makes people click around even more as they incessantly try to find the right option.

What’s next for ribbons?

After four years I think it’s too late for Microsoft to re-evaluate and redesign its WLM interface – at least for people who, like me, have somehow managed to get used to the new layout.

However, when Microsoft wants to radically change the interface of one its products in the future, such as in Windows 8, there needs to be a transitional stage. People should be given the option to either keep the new design, or revert back to the one they were so used to (similar to the option on the Windows Start menu which lets you return to ‘classic view’).

At least that would ease people’s annoyance when they’re trying to meet a deadline and don’t know how to print or save a document!

megulito says:
9 April 2011

no anyone who hate ribbon is either a psuedo high end computer user or an idiot its easy for ludites expasiev and easy for technophiles and hides extremely well while organizing and giving great access to once hidden feature i hope ribbon end up in everything on windows


Thank you for describing me as an idiot. I think you are the idiot for being fooled into believing that the Ribbon is the new menu. I guess the quality of your post defines your inability to actually use either a menu or ribbon.

Try learning to use the shift and punctuation keys before learning to use the more advanced features.


Hi megulito and terfar. Thanks for your comments, but I just wanted to point out that we don’t really like provoking or offensive comments. So please take note of our Commenting Guidelines and then continue your Ribbon debate!

Razor Light says:
12 April 2011

What a muppet! Can’t even string a simple sentence together but expects people to take notice of his comments. Learn to construct an argument and then try again. As a long time use of Windows Office programs changing ove to W7 and Office 2010 has massively reduced my productivity (no one I know likes it at all!)

Yoyo says:
20 April 2011

There was actaully a survey done on this exact point and high end expert users ‘hate’ the ribbon while casula users like it. You can google to find the results of the survey.

TJD Swansea says:
19 March 2014

Yeah ! Nice reply ! Such is the standard of education in this country when people have neither the knowledge nor the desire to write proper English. The consequence is that people reading the rubbish that comes out cannot fully understand what is being written and have a very low opinion of the writer !


Quite frankly – Yet another reason for not using Microsoft produced software – I’ve found non MS software far better – more flexible – more reliable – and cheaper.

The only reason I do not use Linux is because it makes serious changes too fast.

I do use XP pro in preference to Vista or 7.

I have never found MS software better or easier to use than other products..

I seriously dislike software that dictates how I use my hardware. (The reason why I hate Apple)

DrJon says:
29 January 2012

Extraordinary statements re Linux and Apple. Linux installed on a machine will only make changes which you want to happen, the same as all OSs; and the reason you hate (?) Apple? You’ve obviously not used a mac recently then to know that OSX is, in fact, Linux by another name :).

We use all the OSs and the Macs are the most sought after to work on as they seem to have fewer crashes, and MS Office for the Mac is so much nicer than MS Office for windoze machines.


Not that it’s relevant to the topic we should be discussing, but I cannot see many benefits of Office 2011 for the Mac over Office 2010 for the PC. They are closer than they have ever been, and if Microsoft would sell Office to Adobe we might have the same product on both platforms, and one without so many bugs.