Excel 2007 has had much comment since its introduction, most of which has been centred around the ribbon, is it a piece of inspired insight by MS, or a blunder of enormous proportions? This post will not concern itself over that issue directly, but will take a look at how some have addressed the introduction of the ribbon, seeing product opportunity. I am referring of course to the advent of various applications that provide the old 2003 style menus within Excel.
Over the next few weeks I am going to look at a number of these applications, cover their main functionality, and say what I think of them. I have to start by declaring a prejudice against such aplications, as I believe that if you want classic menus, why not use classic Excel? But of course, some may want the 1M+ rows, I don’t but some may, and yet still crave the old style menus, so I guess these products have a place. And of course, it might help the transition to Excel 2007. Personally I think it is like smoking, either give up or carry on, trying to do it by stealth is ultimately pointless.
The first Classic menu that I looked at was UBitMenu, supplied by Ubit Schweiz. This can be found at http://www.ubit.ch/software/ubitmenu-languages/
The price for UBitmenu is reasonable, free for private use, and € 10 base fee + € 0.65 per user for commercial use (+ VAT if applicable).
UBitMenu can be installed with standard user rights on any Windows® Office 2007 / Office 2010 environment. The suppliers suggest that you may need to save the file to a trusted location on your hard disk before you run the setup. I had no need to do so.
The setup application installs UBitMenu AddIn-files for Excel, Word and PowerPoint. I had expected different menus for Excel and Word and so on, but oddly on my system, the Word menu was the same Excel menu. I don’t know if I did something incorrectly, not being a big Word or PowerPoint user I was not too concerned with it. All changes are registered for uninstallation.
[Update - it has been pointed out to me that they are not the same, they are just very similar, which was a deliberate choice. My only excuse is that I saw things in Word that are not on my Word 2003 toolbars, such as the charting icon, but as Ubit Schweiz seem to have done this as something that would be value added for most users, and it is intended, I will stop digging and accept my fate].
UBitMenu is a simple Excel 2007 addin, with the menu items defined in the CustomUI XML. You can view the XML using CustomUI, and can see that it just invokes the builtin functions within Excel 2007.
When installed, there is a new ribbon tab added called Menu (why not UBitMenu? [Update - I am told this is to restrict space encroachement in restricted situations, such as a laptop, which given the space grabbing proclivity of the Ribbon, I guess I should applaud this]) which looks like the classic Excel 2003 menu, Standard and Formatting toolbars, with the Drawing toolbar thrown in for good measure.
One aspect of the installation is unusual is that it installed into my XLSTART directory, it did not give me the option to direct its placement.
The tool is very simple to use, works well, and does exactly what the suppliers suggest. It cannot be customised as Excel 2003 commandbars can, it is simply a means to use a familiar format within an unfamiliar environment, a transition tool until one is comfortable with the ribbon.
The suppliers suggest that you uninstall using the ‘Software’ applet in the Windows Control Panel, although as it is just an addin, you can uninstall it using the Addins dialog, and then delete the file. Any further selection in the addins dialog throws up a message that allows you to remove it from the list.
This may be a good option for corporates that are looking to install Excel 2007, but are concerned with the effect that the ribbon may have on their user productivity, as it allows a smoother transition, at a small cost to the potential productivity loss. Its ease of deployment should not create any logistical problems.
A personal user may also find it useful in transitioning to Excel 2007, especially as it is free for personal use.
It is not for the power user who wants to continue using classic menus in an Excel 2007 world as it does not support commandbar customisation. That would require delving into XML, which defeats the point somewhat.