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.

12 comments
Peter_Pan_7
Peter_Pan_7

I have never given a try to any of this Classic Menus add-ons but I was thinking that some of them would be customizable as the Original Classic Menu was. Apparently this is not the case. So I will keep on having both 2003 and 2007 versions on my laptop and use both of them: 2003 documents and templates with the 2003 edition and the new XML formats with the 2007 edition. Just one annoying point: despite what Microsoft states, both editions do not cohabit so well (new setup of any edition at startup after having used the other edition). I swear not to move to 2010 or any future edition not having the Classic Menu :) Cheers from France

carbonman
carbonman

I'm so busy trying to launch a consulting business that taking time to learn "the Ribbon" in multiple programs is impossible. I finally gave up trying to figure out PowerPoint and reloaded Office 2003 onto my laptop just to get a project done in time. Word is a clumsy nightmare; I often boot up LibreOffice to speed up work on text documents.

darin.10579319
darin.10579319

Honestly, I don't have a clue what any of you are talking about but, I must say it's pretty entertaining and I need the laugh. To me, none of it matters, if you got a job to do, get it done. These guy's are suppose to pitch new shish, its business. Now, what are we talking about?

tossick
tossick

The ribbon interface is total crap. I've tried using 2007 and 2010 versions and still can't find a damn thing. Still using 2003 across the suite. The ribbon is the most idiotic piece of sh*t Microsoft has put out.

andregous
andregous

I Dont know what is the " horrible Flaws " or what make people not like the Ribbon interface , I cant imagine going back to the old menus , I do a lot of Work on Word and Excel and the Ribbons is just much faster and More Productive, ( I even got Office 2007 for my home Ubuntu Machine)

Mr. G. Anson
Mr. G. Anson

I've found that OO or Libre Office to perform just fine for nearly %95 of what I need. Who ever at MS came up with this awful Ribbon UI should go back to school - it is SO unproductive and a time waster!

Kent Lion
Kent Lion

It's pretty clear that the Office Ribbons are not about improving Office, but about forcing the user to conform to what Microsoft wants. It appears to be working, sort of. Instead of switching to Open Office (the only option I'm aware of that has similar functionality with a decent menu system), now we're accepting the garbage we're being sold by Microsoft and spending more (time spent is spent, too) to make the garbage we bought act like what we really wanted, sort of. If Microsoft were to suddenly find that no-one is buying their garbage, perhaps they'd stop trying to force it on us; however, if we keep just putting up with it and trying to get around it, they're going to keep doing what we don't like. If you don't support what you want, you won't get what you want.

ssharkins
ssharkins

I'm not aware of any product that maintains 2007/2010 functionality and format with a menu and toolbar structure that's customizable in the 2003 format.

SirWizard
SirWizard

Many users who despise the Ribbon (for all of its horrible flaws) do NOT "pine for the classic Office menu structure," rather, we pine for the classic Office menu itself. Certainly, some of these third party apps can simulate some of the "structure" on the click-your-carpal-tunnel-to-death Ribbon or elsewhere, but the "structure" is not the point--the functionality is. Why don't you tell us the real deal?! Which of these apps are ersatz menu simulations that provide only STATIC structure, and which provide a real solution of menu and toolbar customizability that is comparable to what I have without downgrading to Office 2007/2010. My highly functional Office 2003 enables me to place commands (standard, built-in, and custom macros) onto my toolbars and edit the icons to make their purpose clearly distinguishable. Which of these add-on apps would let me do that and arrange the toolbars in multiple rows for convenient single-click access? I note that while the Ribbon interface does show some new in-situ information such as font pre-selection appearance, it has eliminated other crucial status information that these apps do not provide. A simple test: Try to place a few dozen clearly differentiated new buttons onto the toolbars in these apps, or onto the Office 2007/2010 Quicker-than-the-Ribbon Access Toolbar. How well does that work? If I could have the classic CUSTOMIZABLE interface instead of the Ribbon, I'd switch to Office 2010 in a snap, even though Microsoft does precious little to make the existing commands work better or more reliably. Ever try to insert a numbered item from that miserable Cross-reference dialog box? But that's another discussion for another time.

Gisabun
Gisabun

That's nice. I think the discussion was about replacement menus in Office 2007/2010 - nothing about OpenOffice or whatever.

Carl.Lee4
Carl.Lee4

Kent, I agree with you, this is just MS forcing users to decide whether they want Form or Function. I switched to Open Office, becase Function if more important to me. This position also support SirWizard's point that making the ribbon sorta work / look like the menus is not what most people are asking for. I resent being forced to use an add on, shareware or purchased, to add another tab to the ribbon I don't want in the first place. I find it hard to believe that the talented developers in Redmond cannot create a button, RESTORE 2003 MENUS. I have a question for you all, does anyone use any of the tools on the HOME menu? I don't I find it odd that so many, to me, unnecesary commands are slammed right in your face. Good article, I would have added Open Office as a 6th tool

ssharkins
ssharkins

I use the Home tab a lot -- I do occasionally use the other tabs, but I spend most of my time in the Home tab.