Software

Five add-ins for users who hate the Office Ribbon

Those who pine for the classic Office menu structure can re-create it, thanks to a variety of affordable add-ins.

There are many products that will help users adapt to the infamous Ribbon interface. Most display the classic menu structure in a new tab so users have access to both interfaces. The extra tab's a natural for users who want the best of both worlds. Users can ignore the other tabs or they can learn the Ribbon structure while having the classic menu close at hand. The following add-ins are among the most popular with support personnel and users. All are easy to install and similar in practice, but they have subtle pricing and licensing nuances.

1: UBitMenu

This UK English version installs a Menu tab that offers the traditional menu and toolbar structure for the three most popular applications, Word (Figure A), Excel, and PowerPoint. UBitMenu is free for personal use and has a reasonable licensing schedule: $14.90 per company and 98 cents per user. It comes in 23 languages. There is also an add-in for Outlook, with similar pricing.

Figure A

Most of the add-ins insert a new tab that contains the classic menu and toolbar structure.

2: Classic Menu (OB Utilities)

Like UBitMenu, Classic Menu from OB Utilities displays a new tab that houses the old menu and toolbar structure for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It supports several non-English versions as well. Classic Menu lets you choose between placing the new tab first or last on the Ribbon, which is a nice touch. The price is $19.95, and there is a 15-day free trial period.

3: Classic Menu (Addintools)

Addintools offers add-ins for all the 2007 and 2010 apps. If you use more than Word and Excel, you'll need this one. The Office 2010 add-in supports both 32-bit and 64-bit versions, and there's a reasonable licensing structure for enterprise users. After downloading and installing Classic Menu, users will find the classic menu structure on a Menus tab. Prices vary from $22 to $39, with a free trial period. If you don't use the full suite, you can purchase one of the single application add-ins. These tools are definitely the most comprehensive and versatile for covering all the applications.

Another add-in from Addintools, Ribbon Customizer for Office 2007, adds the Menus tab and includes a tool for customizing the Ribbon. It works in 2007 and 2010 and is similar to 2010's built-in customizing feature, but it offers much more. Customizing isn't necessarily intuitive, but users will find several quick video tutorials online. This add-in is $39.95 (it includes the classic Menus tab and the customization tool) and comes with a 15-day free trial.

4: Classic Style Menus and Toolbars for Microsoft Office 2007

This add-in from ACCM Software displays a menu named Classic Style Menus. It works in 2007 and 2010 for Word, PowerPoint, and Access. The price is $19.96. ACCM Software offers a seven-day free trial period, but it's annoying, as it continually prompts you to buy the product.

5: Search Commands

Search Commands is a free add-in from Microsoft Office Labs. It doesn't return the menu structure intact via a tab as all the others. Instead, it displays a Search Commands tab, which lets users search for a familiar command or option. When they click the Search Commands tab and enter a command or option name, it displays the option and the Ribbon path to the command, as shown in Figure B. Users can click the option or review the path information to find the command themselves. It's both a shortcut and a learning tool.

Figure B

The Search Commands tab returns a lot of information without displaying the entire menu.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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