Windows 8: Microsoft confirms Ribbon UI in explorer

By Tom Warren, on 2nd Jun 11 8:32 am with 60 Comments

Windows 8 Ribbon UI

Microsoft has confirmed it will bring the Office Ribbon to Windows explorer.

The software giant demonstrated explorer’s new touch friendly look during a Windows 8 user interface preview on Wednesday. The refreshed explorer interface takes the well known Ribbon, originally introduced in Office 2007, and builds it straight into the Windows shell. The Ribbon elements are collapsed by default and appear to include increased spacing on the standard home, share and view buttons.

The first hints of a Ribbon UI inside Windows 8 were originally discovered by Rafael Rivera in early April. Rivera unlocked a number of features in an early leaked copy of Windows 8. Microsoft’s early work on the Ribbon explorer user interface made a number of WinRumors readers question the company’s motives. “Looks too cluttered, hopefully will improve,” said one reader. “Ribbons are a total step backward in usability,” said another. One suggested that the ribbons should be expandable “over mouse hover” and it appears that this is the way Microsoft is implementing the Ribbon UI.

Ribbon UI touch controls

Microsoft is making a number of changes to Windows 8 to improve its touch interface. The company demonstrated some of its work on Wednesday, including the ability to simply flick between applications and snap and arrange apps. Microsoft’s approach is one that will make it easy for hybrid device owners to simply switch between native applications and those designed on the company’s new HTML5 and JavaScript front-end. Microsoft plans to share more information about Windows 8 and the developer implications at its BUILD conference in September.

  • http://twitter.com/revanmj Michał Jakubowski

    So, they simplified Windows Explorer UI in Vista and 7 to make make it more complicated in 8 …

    • GP007

      It’s safe to say it’s not done, the way it looks now isn’t how it’ll look at the end I bet, also how is it more complicated?  Keep in mind for touch use the ribbon fits, and although you can tap and hold to get a right click popup menu if the same controls are in the ribbon it’d be faster when using your hand.

    • Anonymous

      The point is that it makes sense to give explorer more features; the old UI will be dedicated to legacy apps, a lot of people will use it to get work done, and the ribbon is there to enhance productivity. It doesn’t need to be stripped down: there’s a whole new tile-based UI to make things nice, simple and easy.

  • http://twitter.com/revanmj Michał Jakubowski

    So, they simplified Windows Explorer UI in Vista and 7 to make make it more complicated in 8 …

  • Anonymous

    Oh Microsoft… going half ass again.

    If you’re gonna add a new UI, don’t let me see that crappy old one underneath… EVER

    • GP007

      They’re going to tweak the UI to match the tablet one I’m sure, but the point is that you can flip between the two if/when you want. 

    • http://www.andrew-stockdale.co.uk Andrew Stockdale

      We’re at a bit of a crunch point, UX and usability wise. The new Windows UI is awesome for tablets. When you’re using your tablet to do tablety things, I don’t think you’re ever really going to see the ‘Classic’ interface underneath.

      But decide one day you decide you need to do some work (creation not consumption), and you bluetooth a keyboard and mouse to your tablet. Cool. That tablet interface, while great, just isn’t so awesome for bashing out a word document, or doing some skils-so-mad-they-pay-these-bills excel stuff.

      It’s about the right UI for the right task. It’s not halfassed at all. Halfassed would be just rolling with one that was ‘good enough’ for both tasks when in reality it’s suited to neither.

    • Capric0rn

      They should at least update the way the Explorer bar looks right now. It’s currently looking like a mix between Classic’s BG and Aero’s controls. They should go for at least a gray line around the cumbbar and searchbar, instead of the gradiented line. And they should also add a line below the toolbar in order to at least see the difference between a list of folders and the toolbar.

      It’s all still beta etc. so I guess it’s a little too early to address those things. I’m sure they’ll polish the GUI of the new Explorer.

    • Capric0rn

      They should at least update the way the Explorer bar looks right now. It’s currently looking like a mix between Classic’s BG and Aero’s controls. They should go for at least a gray line around the cumbbar and searchbar, instead of the gradiented line. And they should also add a line below the toolbar in order to at least see the difference between a list of folders and the toolbar.

      It’s all still beta etc. so I guess it’s a little too early to address those things. I’m sure they’ll polish the GUI of the new Explorer.

    • http://www.andrew-stockdale.co.uk Andrew Stockdale

      Some good points there for refinement, but you’re right that its early days for any of that. Bear in mind that this was a demonstration of the tablet UI, with seeing anything behind it quite secondary. By the time 8 ships, I would imagine tablet and classic looking up to shape :-)

      Sent from my Windows Phone

    • Capric0rn

      Exactly my point, though with classic I meant the classic UI from Windows 2000 and below :P

      Sent from my iPhone 4

    • http://www.andrew-stockdale.co.uk Andrew Stockdale

      I guess Aero is the new Classic :)

    • Capric0rn

      Naah, not really. With classic I meant the classic from Windows 2000 and not Aero from Vista/7. The toolbar background which is being used behind the Aero controlls (forward/back button etc.) looks like Windows Classic. Seeing that with those gradiented outlines looks horrid.

    • DavidD

      Wrong, I just talk to a young woman who was finishing up her 10 page term paper all written on a iPad. Just because you are stuck in the past, the next generation can adapt.  

    • http://www.andrew-stockdale.co.uk Andrew Stockdale

      She wrote a ten page term paper on an iPad without using a physical keyboard or handwriting recognition? Jesus. Somebody’s going to graduate with RSI (Hons).

    • Anonymous

      Yes, someone who understands what Microsoft are doing!

      I love Microsoft’s approach to this – one OS that is flexible and adaptable to what you need to do and the best way to do it. I look forward to a netbook/tablet convertible computer running Windows 8.

      The opposite approach would be to have completely different OS or devices for different types of computing with no effective overlap (e.g. a Mac and an iPad). Horribly inelegant.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, someone who understands what Microsoft are doing!

      I love Microsoft’s approach to this – one OS that is flexible and adaptable to what you need to do and the best way to do it. I look forward to a netbook/tablet convertible computer running Windows 8.

      The opposite approach would be to have completely different OS or devices for different types of computing with no effective overlap (e.g. a Mac and an iPad). Horribly inelegant.

    • https://parithon.startssl.com/ Anthony

      I’m sorry, but Microsoft isn’t like Apple and changes something like the UX completely throwing their entire ecosystem and partners to the wind… backward compat. has always been a forethought for Microsoft.

    • Anonymous

      and rightly so… why is it that they are so many idiots that think that touch would do it all. I mean yes there are advantages to touch but also major disadvantages. You won’t see someone using Photoshop using touch to edit, this requires precision, something tha touch won’t offer. In a desktop environment when you are crunching numbers you don’t think oh geez i wish this was touch, hell not that won’t be productive. When you are coding your webpage or programs you don’t think that you will do that based on touch. It’s pathetic how many people are shortsighted and don’t see that we are getting the best of both worlds. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/Bad.Trigger Bart Reding

      For standard home users it’s really coming handy because they can do everything with touch.
      For a developer or web builder they are still and will always be in need of mouse and keyboard.
      When there comes big editing with Photoshop or Office. It will never be touch!
      Sounds logical, doesn’t it? Touch won’t let our mouse’s die! Only for low-end user.

    • Anonymous

      The touch UI also has uses for more advanced users. I can see myself quickly checking a few things with the touch UI as I’m getting ready for work and then using the ‘normal’ Windows interface for my main computing.

    • TryllZ

      This forethought needs a serious rethought, a new UI means a NEW UI, anything difficult to pull off! !..not for M$, but why do they have it half-new-half-old UI everytime…?

    • Anonymous

      Because writing up an Excel spreadsheet in a touch UI would be an exercise in tedium and stupidity.

      Some tasks need a simple touch interface, some tasks need a more traditional mouse and keyboard interface.

      For users who only need simple tasks the new UI will be all they need. More advanced users have the option of also using the traditional interface.

      There is nothing half-half about this. It’s covering different ways of using a computer.

    • Anonymous

      Because writing up an Excel spreadsheet in a touch UI would be an exercise in tedium and stupidity.

      Some tasks need a simple touch interface, some tasks need a more traditional mouse and keyboard interface.

      For users who only need simple tasks the new UI will be all they need. More advanced users have the option of also using the traditional interface.

      There is nothing half-half about this. It’s covering different ways of using a computer.

    • TryllZ

      This forethought needs a serious rethought, a new UI means a NEW UI, anything difficult to pull off! !..not for M$, but why do they have it half-new-half-old UI everytime…?

    • Tony

      It seem to work pretty well for Apple… Mac sales increasing while PC sales tanking at consumer level.  

    • Anonymous

      What drugs are you on?

      Mac sales are relatively stable at around 4% while Windows is at about 95%.

    • freddy

      Tell Apple not to do the same thing in Lion aka Launchpad and you will prove yourself not to be a Mactard!

    • http://www.twitter.com/wixostrix WixosTrix

      They aren’t replacing the old UI with the new one.  You either use one or the other depending on your device or both if you have a hybrid pc and wait for it…. WANT to use it.  Wow, a choice! Yes a choice.

    • Anonymous

      yeah because windows 8 is going to be launched next week : so no time to change anything else…

      /s

    • Anonymous

      It’s a touch friendly and “simple home user” friendly interface.  Most users won’t ever see it.  Those that don’t need it will be able to turn it off (a guess but Microsoft has allowed the start menu to look “classic” once again).

      Also, the crappy old one is Windows 7.  If anything the tablet will be as friendly as an iPad but not as worthless as an iPad.

  • Anonymous

    Oh Microsoft… going half ass again.

    If you’re gonna add a new UI, don’t let me see that crappy old one underneath… EVER

  • Christoffer Brodd-Reijer

    In my hobby project (a music player for Windows 7, I have screenshots at stoffiplayer.com) I have tried my best to mimic the Explorer interface. However, I did experiment with the Ribbon interface but deemed it inappropriate.

    If microsoft does this I can say that I will no longer see Explorer as an inspirational interface. The ribbon interface, while great, does not fit everywhere. I have doubts about it in a file manager and it will certainly not fit in my minimalistic interface design.

    • http://twitter.com/kenobeano Keno Butler

      just downloaded this, and i have to admit i like it alot!

    • Christoffer Brodd-Reijer

      Thank you so very much. :)

      I hoped you guys here wouldn’t consider it a spam post (it was my first comment here, actually). :)

    • Christoffer Brodd-Reijer

      Thank you so very much. :)

      I hoped you guys here wouldn’t consider it a spam post (it was my first comment here, actually). :)

    • Anonymous

      Don’t be too hasty.  As the article states, the ribbon in explorer is collapsed by default– which makes it rather minimal while also providing a touch-friendly alternative to a right click context menu.

      I could actually see where a similar implementation could help you maintain a clean interface in Stoffi as you build out more features.  I imagine more users would take advantage of this type of UI as more devices include touchscreens.

    • Christoffer Brodd-Reijer

      Yes, the fact that it is collapsed is absolutely a big advantage. But I am not sure if I have (or ever will have) enough functionality for the ribbon to be justified. Maybe some day I will and then I could try it once more, but I am skeptical. :P

      As far as the touch interfaces goes I will probably tailor specific GUIs for specific devices (just as I plan on making a native GUI for both Mac and Linux).

      (as you may have noticed: my core focus is on interface design here :)

    • Christoffer Brodd-Reijer

      Yes, the fact that it is collapsed is absolutely a big advantage. But I am not sure if I have (or ever will have) enough functionality for the ribbon to be justified. Maybe some day I will and then I could try it once more, but I am skeptical. :P

      As far as the touch interfaces goes I will probably tailor specific GUIs for specific devices (just as I plan on making a native GUI for both Mac and Linux).

      (as you may have noticed: my core focus is on interface design here :)

  • Christoffer Brodd-Reijer

    In my hobby project (a music player for Windows 7, I have screenshots at stoffiplayer.com) I have tried my best to mimic the Explorer interface. However, I did experiment with the Ribbon interface but deemed it inappropriate.

    If microsoft does this I can say that I will no longer see Explorer as an inspirational interface. The ribbon interface, while great, does not fit everywhere. I have doubts about it in a file manager and it will certainly not fit in my minimalistic interface design.

  • Anonymous

    Just what IE needs – less content and more UI!

    • http://twitter.com/jamiet Jamie Thomson

      Nowhere, absolutely nowhere, in this article is IE mentioned. Go read it again.

  • Grannyville7989

    I hope the Ribbon UI is a place holder for what will become the Metro UI for explorer. 

  • Grannyville7989

    I hope the Ribbon UI is a place holder for what will become the Metro UI for explorer. 

  • http://twitter.com/jota João Pedro Melo

    I am using that leaked build (7955) and the Ribbon UI makes things easier. Maybe not for me, but for the regular preson learning to use a computer it’s perfect. Also is very touch-friendly.
    Instead of right  clicking a file to get a bunch of options, you have all those options up there in the ribbon. New folder, new item, copy, paste, rename and open with only to name a few. It worked great on Office and it’ll too on Explorer.

  • Tesmond

    The Ribbon UI helps a highly functional minimalist interface, especially in a touch environment…

    The touch environment calls for larger touch areas.  In order to not lose action functionality, but allow for the larger touch area and generally smaller screen sizes actions often need to become very context specific.  

    The current Explorer bar is context specific, but by tabbing this interface as the ribbon bar does allows context shifts to be higlighted, the general functionality to remain available, and the functionality to fill a smaller area without the (IMO) rubbish right chevron drop down menu that the current interface has.  

    It works very well in Office 2010, and is only a “poor” choice if the contextual nature of the menu is poorly implemented.  

    • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

      I hate the rubbon UI, its ugly and ti defiantly doesn’t match the Metro UI, then again its just Windows 7 with new featured + Windows Phone 7

    • FMH

      It is unfinished for now.

    • MSblog

      The why the heck show it off????  Just wait until it done, but they cant because they are trying to keep people interested about the future of MS so they ignore how poorly Ballmer performing right now.  

    • GravyMade

      Yep it is all about Ballmer trying to look competent 

    • Anonymous

      The company hasn’t been Apple but then Apple, for all it’s monopolistic ways, hasn’t been under the scope of the anti-trust that Microsoft has.  

      Ballmer has done fine and the board supports him.  He’s VERY uncharismatic but he’s driven the company just fine since Bill left.

    • Trader

      Ballmer has added no value, what 2 new product has his tenure introduce that has been both successful and profitable?   

    • Anonymous

      Xbox, Bing, Azure, and Zune is bringing in a profit (the service), Media Room…  the list is quite long and Microsoft is still doing better than they ever have before,  just because everything they have done hasn’t been solid gold doesn’t mean they aren’t still doing great.

    • Anonymous

      Xbox, Bing, Azure, and Zune is bringing in a profit (the service), Media Room…  the list is quite long and Microsoft is still doing better than they ever have before,  just because everything they have done hasn’t been solid gold doesn’t mean they aren’t still doing great.

    • Anonymous

      You are very ignorant. 

      Microsoft are showing this UI off because they want developers to start thinking of how to take advantage of it, and to showcase to hardware manufacturers what they are going to be designing hardware for.

  • Anonymous

    If they kept the navigation bar up, like in win 7 and vista, it would look good. as there is glass beneath it. They could make the tabs on glass, and not on a normal plane (like in office 2010 and not in office 2007).
    Also the detail plane and side plane could be glass.
    Then it would look nice. (a bit more)

  • Test1ngi23

    I guess I may be the only one here that hates Metro and loves the Ribbon. lol

  • Anonymous

    I used it with a leaked version of win8 i wanted to test *im so evil*
    and it feels nice, i minimized it like almost every ribbon UI. i use all the time keyboard, less to create a new folder in win7 (i seem to forget the shorcut =_=) but then i used ribbon in win8 and it felt nice, it was nice to reach some features without moving my hands to the keyboard and be lazy and use mouse. and if i dont use it much i can minimize it which people seem to forget sometimes when they were saying “it takes to much space” in leaked screenshot.

    i will use still keyboard. but it didn’t feel bad at all using ribbon UI. it had some problems like it wasnt minizimed all the time but obviously they would be fixed.

    PS. im glad they minimized it, if idiot-Walt saw the orange placeholder he would have been like “whats that?? ipad nor iphone have that…”

  • TryllZ

    NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO…

    need I say more, where is M$ creative team, I think M$ recruited all college failures for W8 GUI development…when will M$ learn that apart from being a performer software, the GUI has to be as appealing too….MY OH MY…From where I see, W8 will a super-performer but GUI will be a severe distraught for me atleast…..PLEASE, M$, PLEASE HEAR MY PLEA AND DONT IMPLEMENT THIS NON-SENSE RIBBON UI, PLEASE…

  • Me

    you people give way too much attention to a file manager. it’s just a file manager. get over it!!! how many hours of a user’s day is spent in explorer managing files, vs surfing and using apps?