Look for Ribbon in a Windows 7 application near you

Ribbon user interfaceThe people who are drafting the new user interface guidelines for Windows 7 plan to build the Ribbon, Jewel and “other new UI concepts” natively into the Windows platform.

Ultimately, they want software developers to avoid the prehistoric Win32 UI framework from no other than Windows 95. Instead, use this new lightweight and high performance markup-based UI framework to build “rich, graphics and animated user interfaces”. The Ribbon and Jewel (button in the top left corner) will be a part of this new framework. It sounds very much like WPF, except native.

The Microsoft job posting writes,

Come lead the effort to update the Windows 7 platform with the latest advancements in User Interface design. Bring the Ribbon, Jewel, and other new UI concepts to the Windows platform and work with internal partners and ISVs to update their applications to utilize these hot new UI technologies.

Our mission is to enable the next generation of user interface development on the Windows platform. We will be determining the new Windows user interface guidelines and building a platform that supports it. We’ll eliminate much of the drudgery of Win32 UI development and enable rich, graphical, animated user interface by using markup based UI and a small, high performance, native code runtime.

The UI Platform Team is looking for a senior technical leader to help drive the design and implementation of the new UI framework. Come join our startup team and help us grow it into a powerhouse focused on delivering solutions that developers will love. We offer an environment where you can channel your creativity towards software innovation, work with world-class software professionals and hone your professional skills to grow your career.

Integrating the Ribbon UI into your own applications today is already very possible. Thanks to a royalty-free license and widely available UI controls, the process is quite straightforward. The initial concern was that every developer under the sun would put in a Ribbon because they could, but for the moment it looks as if developers have held back the urge.

By integrating the Ribbon into the Windows platform might provide more consistency compared to the many subtlety-different third-party implementations of Ribbons, but besides that I can’t imagine any other benefits. However, I am intrigued by what they mean by “other new UI concepts”. Perhaps the touch features that will “blow you away”.

44 insightful thoughts

  1. I developed by own “tabbed-interface”, because i do not like the ribbon style. Although it is not bad, and its something new, i dont think that the ribbon is the future. I think it is a big design failure to delete the “file-menu”. Thats the big point in my opinion and why i do not use the ribbon stuff.

  2. Yes, because what Windows obviously needs is another UI framework… I’m sure that’ll improve consistency.

    Does this mean MS has officially given up on WPF as the next big UI thing for Windows? Sure sounds like it.

  3. Ahh so THIS framework is lightweight and high-performance. Shees. The ribbon UI concept (apart from that retarted “ORB” and lack of a file menu) works quite nice, but MS has a consistency problem already, and the current Visual Studio GUI “evangelists” don’t impress me with their markup stuff

  4. Yeah great, another framework. Anybody doing GUI development in native c++ needs to have their productivity examined.

  5. I don’t see why they can’t just add a native API to WPF, the composition engine underneath is unmanaged code at the end of the day. Doesn’t exactly breed confidence when Microsoft reinvents the wheel internally for every project.

  6. For all .Net enthusiasts – it should be clear at this point that your beloved framework works great on the server and adequately for LOB apps on the desktop. However, It is not a solution for OS shells and MS seems to have realized that finally.

  7. @piingpong: Was is the fact that possibly the most successful new Windows component since the introduction of .NET — the Media Centre shell interface — is written entirely in WPF that tipped you off?

  8. Media Center uses it’s own UI framework.

    piingpong’s post is still nonsense considering Microsoft never attempted to position WPF as a solution for “OS shells”

  9. @Mycroft: I wouldn’t be surprised if they build this new native UI framework on top of milcore (the unmanaged part of WPF). Of course I wouldn’t be surprised if they went all NIH and built it right on top of DirectX too.

    I bet MS is getting pushback from ISVs with large native codebases that want to have access to snazzy new UI APIs like the managed world is getting, but aren’t going to port to managed code in a million years.

    PS: I wonder if the new framework will be Windows 7 only, or if it will run on Vista and XP?

  10. They still need to build some killer first party Microsoft apps later with that framework, that’s what MS is not getting.

  11. so, the ribbon concept continues with the new windows7 after office 2007. Now this must be something big that MS is finally considering a slight change in the windows UI.

  12. Well, good to know. But hopefully they do not think, that the Ribbon will solve all problems by itselve.

    The Office 2007 UI is not only so usable because of the Ribbon. It is also because of the quality of the whole interfac: menus that do open on mouse-press (not mouse-release), double-clickable radio buttons in dialogs and readable icons and so on.

    And I hope, that they will leave the title bar clean. That small qick access toolbar feels like a third party extension, IMO.

  13. Why you guys saying they are droping WPF? That’s insane when the new Expression Blend targets WPF and Silverlight is based on WPF technology as well. Even the new Surface scatter view control is based on WPF.

    I doubt it has anything to do with WPF. Like when you set Window Mode as normal, you can get that Jewle automatically, just like the automatic features of close buttons, move, and resize. But you still can define your window layout with XAML.

    It should be something like build-in Ribbon that you don’t have to implememt yourself. But just like the menu bar, you need a consisten tabs for all senarios.

  14. The ribbon is great, and WPF is poised to replace Win32. If .NET can do this, then Microsoft has won a major victory, as they will be able to port software to new versions of Winodws much easier, and do major changes like the 9x/NT and 16/32/64bit transitions much easier.

    It could be a major problem however, if the Mono project works, and Microsoft isn’t getting any money for all its work. Plus we can kiss .NET goodbye if all the Linux distros pick it up, because people might write to their billion diffrent UI frameworks, i.e. the GNOME and KDE rivalry. Either its .NET (or some other standard… it just has to be ONE standard though, much like X11 was the standard) to which people write everything to, or the consumer loses.

    I dunno, its all on what happens.

  15. the ribbon is nice for office, but i dont think its portable to every type of situation. i think microsoft needs to think about how the concept of the ribbon can inspire other interface elements that are ribbon-like, but not necessarily the same

  16. Wow, a whole lot of you guys are just thick.

    It is not possible to use a ribbon interface built off of WPF?

    yeah, okay. Thanks for playing.

  17. It is weird that Microsoft renamed the so called Ribbon UI to “Fluent UI”, a more confusing name. Fluent is not a silver bullet, and I guess that’s why Microsoft makes such a complex licensing process.

  18. Boy, whoever takes this gig has a LOT of work ahead of them — potentially exciting work, but a lot of it. These new interface concepts as is have little pulling them together. Imagine trying to roll that out to developers — and, likewise, imagine the wrong-headed UIs that could result.

    If you look at some of the work going on in the Java and Mac development communities, I think the wave of the future will be enabling more basic techniques rather than just generic widgets — animation frameworks, etc.

    But the one thing *really* missing — how about resolution-independent UIs? In fact, without one, isn’t this a waste of time?

  19. Best way, in my opionion, would be to bring more stuff of the WPF runtime to unmanaged code (They’re doing that with Silverlight, I guess). Then they should extend the whole model to unmanaged programming too and, of course, add many more controls (like ribbon and such)…
    This would lead to a faster runtime (which is one of the key problems of WPF) and could guide c++ programmers to a new UI framework that can be accessed both managed and unmanaged.
    By the way, designing GUI via markup smells like XAML or a similar language.
    Finally, I think MS isn’t that stupid to re-invent the wheel again when it already has a good technology (WPF) that just needs a little tweaking (perf) and more controls.

  20. The ribbon UI is pretty nice if there’s lot of commands involved. But if there’s just a few simple ones, then they could just be on a toolbar with nice icons.

    I like how the Ribbon has a tab-like interface, rich visual icons, hover-dialog boxes to understand the command, and of course it’s pretty. The ribbon is very visual, thus very easy to use. It’s just too bad that it takes up a bit more space, especially if you have a small res monitor.

    I just mainly like the orb and the quick access toolbar. It’s simple and effective.

  21. Who says the file menu’s gone?

    Just click the Office Button and there it is!

    But it’s a picture, not the word “File”.

    Welcome to the new millennium!

  22. One key thing to remember is that organizationally, Windows Presentation Foundation is not owned or developed by the Windows division, but by DevDiv (developer division) as a subset of the .NET Framework. This was one of the changes that happened during the Longhorn Reset in 2004.

    That, and the fact that WPF perf leaves a lot to be desired, explains why they want to build their own framework.

    As for will it be built on milcore or DirectX directly, my guess is that it will be built on DirectUI. DirectUI is what powers the task panes on XP/Vista, the tab bar and quick tabs in IE, all of Windows Live Messenger, and the Office ribbon (Spy++ calls it NetUI, so it looks like it forked from the original DirectUI at some point). DirectUI itself is all User/GDI+ as far as I can tell.

  23. I think it’s worth noting that developers DO have choices for UI frameworks. There’s some very nice stuff happening (finally!) in the Java world with UI. There’s Flex/Flash. There’s Qt. There’s GTK. Getting people away from ancient, awful Win32 frameworks is good. But you also have a number of frameworks that *can* feel equally “native” that are also cross-platform. Look, I expect there are now, as there have been in the past, apps that benefit from building on Microsoft’s UI work. But there will also be times when you want metaphors that work cross-platform, that are built organically out of whatever your app does. I’m happy to use the ribbon in Office because it fits that app. And I have no problem with Microsoft, say, leveraging UI work that it’s doing on the Windows Live apps, for instance. But I don’t HAVE to have these things to feel like I’m running a native Windows app. I can feel really comfortable in the current version of Pidgin, which is built on GTK, etc.

    So I hope that developers really do look more closely at their choices and spend some energy on interface and interaction design.

    Oh, yeah, and I’m never all *that* excited about Mac, Linux, and Windows apps that look like they were glued together out of UI examples. Eep.

  24. It took them this long to figure that out? I’ve been saying USB hardware manufacturers should do this for years.

  25. @hoopskier: In my opinion, it doesn’t make any sense to build yet another different set of APIs for the same target. Also GDI+ should be finally dumped for a hardware accelerated, DX based API (like milcore), since GDI doesn’t offer the power for fancy stuff you see in OS X or even Vista (Aero is based on milcore, the only part with fancy effects in Vista – and Vista is built by the Windows division – duh!).

  26. @al: actually, I wrote that APCmag story around the middle-to-end of last week (can’t recall the exact day, as I write a lot of stories each week!), but it was held over until t’other day because the magazine’s Web site was being cut over to an all-new design, and in the interim no new stuff was posted onto the old site.

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