Yes, the Windows 8 rumour mill is really spinning up now. This time around though, they’re not really rumours, since the information is coming from Rafael Rivera and Paul Thurrott, long-time Microsoft enthusiasts with loads of insider access. They’ve got a bunch of screenshots showing a work in progress of… A ribbon in Explorer. And yes, it looks just as bad as it sounds.
The ribbon is a magnificent thing. It turned Microsoft Office from an inhospitable and undiscoverable utter mess of a user interface into something where you could actually find the things you were looking for. It didn’t use up more space than the old UI (contrary to popular belief), and thanks to the hide button, doesn’t get in your way if you don’t need it.
However, a ribbon interface has its place, and that place is with complicated applications with more features than you could fit in 17179869184 Excel cells. For applications with smaller, more compact feature sets, the advantages of the ribbon become pretty much non-existent, and it all starts looking a little silly – for example Paint in Window 7.
As such, the idea of a ribbon in Windows Explorer doesn’t really make me very excited. Explorer was finally slowly but surely starting to get halfway decent as a file manager in Windows 7 (like,
n finally just opens a new window, and a cleaner, less convoluted UI), but giving it a ribbon seems like six zero steps forward, 34523 steps back.
It would seem Rivera and Thurrot aren’t particularly excited about it either, and apparently, nor are all the folk in Redmond. “In early builds of Windows 8, this Ribbon UI is only half-finished and, frankly, of dubious value,” Rivera and Thurrot write, “In fact, based on the divergent ways in which various related UI elements are repeated around the window frame, we get the idea that the use of the Ribbon in Explorer is, in fact, quite controversial inside the halls of Microsoft’s Redmond campus.”
They note that the use of the ribbon in Explorer isn’t by any means final, and as such, I’m getting the idea that Microsoft is trying to gauge public response by letting the two oust this particular idea now. In other words, I’m hoping that the more disapproving we are, the less likely this change will make it to the final build. So, just to make myself absolutely clear: this is a bad idea, Sinofsky. Don’t do it. I will personally send you naked pictures of myself if you do this. You do not want that to happen.
Another, far more welcome change is the new welcome screen, which takes most of its design cues from the Windows Phone 7 ‘Metro’ user interface. As a very satisfied Windows Phone 7 user, I approve. Any steps taken to Metrofy the Windows 8 user interface is a step I will welcome by not sending any naked pictures of myself to Sinofsky. Heed this warning.
Windows will probably hit somewhere early 2012, so there’s still considerable leeway for the company to move things around and gauge interests by controlled leaks like this one. Now be good little readers and repeat after me: ribbon in Explorer BAD, moar Metro GOOD.
The new Explorer UI is very interesting.
In my application (a music player, see http://stoffiplayer.com) I have used Explorer as a measurement for the most native application on Windows. That’s why I have tried to mimic its interface as much as possible. It is clean and simple.
The funny thing is that I did actually experiment with a ribbon interface at first. But for a music application with the aim of being simple and feature a very clean interface it just didn’t fit.
Do I need to say that I will *not* continue to use Explorer as an inspiration if they go down this road.