Nostalgia IS What It Used To Be

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
. This can be found at



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



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.


In Summary

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
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.


13 thoughts on “Nostalgia IS What It Used To Be

  1. A tool like this would be most helpful if it could import all your customized toolbars from Excel 2003.

    Like many people, I have to use multiple versions of Excel, so it’s tough to remember where everything is in each version. But some days it’s tough to remember where I live, so that could be part of the problem. 😉

  2. That would be great, but not this tool, its ambition is aimed towards ‘normal’ users, not super users like yourself (even if you cannot remember where Mississauga is!).

    Serioulsy though, even after 3 years, I still struggle with the ribbon. And when I install on a new machine, it is worse, I have to try and remember all my customisations that I added to overcome my navigation difficulties.

    Watch this space, maybe one of the others that I will review.

  3. “Personally I think it is like smoking, either give up or carry on…”

    Oh how I wish I could! I’ve begged, pleaded, almost threatened the IT department and my supervisor to no avail. I am stuck with the dreaded Office 2007, like it or not. NOT!

  4. It’s funny how Excel 2007 creates such strong emotions.

    I suppose the good news is that there are always good people out there trying to mitigate matters, such as these classic menus, and some of the ribbon tools around.

  5. It may just be change that gives rise to the strong emotions.

    Not particularly relevant, but 1-2-3 still had the Classic Menu (/ followed by letters or numerals) in all Windows versions through the last (9.8).

    Somewhat more relevant, Excel 5 was the first version bundled into MS Office. All MS Office applications got new, harmonized menus in that first MS Office version, but Microsoft provided an optional Excel 4 menu in Excel 5 because (cynicism warning) in the early 1990s they hadn’t yet achieved reliably commanding market share, so they didn’t want to alienate anyone. These days Microsoft just doesn’t care about alienating people.

  6. In my view, we are pampering the users a lot. There will be a group which will like the 2007 Ribbon. It is a matter of practice. More you use the ribbon, more easy it will become. We resist the change in life but when persisted with it, we fall in line and live happily there after.

  7. Surely, what you call pampering is just proper customer service. Why should we all just fall in line if we don’t like something, we have no obligation to MS to follow their dictate.

  8. pampering v customer service I would suggest is simply a matter of point of view.
    What is interesting is the whole classic menu market that Office 2007 has spawned. I bet there are around 10 or more commercial classic ribbon apps and loads of free ones. Of course all these vendors could be wrong, I doubt it though.

  9. I’d love to use an older version of Excel, unfortunately, I can’t because my employers have installed 2007.
    The user interface is terrible and I desperately want the old menus back. Unfortunately I can’t because all .exe and .msi files are blocked at the firewall…

    Why did MS chose to fly in the face of GUI design and implement this steaming pile of horse manure? Probably just so that they could say “This version is radically different from the last” in an attempt to get the sheep to upgrade.

  10. Fred, UBitMenu is just a workbook, no .exe or msi.

    I think MS felt that had to refresh Office to generate continued sales, hence the ribbon. I agree it was misguided, but far more importantly, it has taken the focus away from addressing the real issues with Excel; instead we get inundated with poorly conceived and poorly implemented visual effects.

  11. I have used UBit Menu for a period, but I turned to Classic Menu for Office 2007 which is released by at last.

    I need to change my Office 2007 interface language between Japanese and English frequently as a result of work requirement. However, UBit Menu does not support two languages at the same time. The Japanese setup.exe does not support English, and the English setup.exe does not support Japanese.

    But the Classic Menu for Office 2007 does well! No matter when and how I changed the Office 2007 interface language, the drop down menus and toolbar are shown in the same language of my Office 2007 language. I do not need to download another setup.exe packages at all. What’s more, those drop down menus and toolbars are valid in Outlook 2007 and Access 2007 too.

    Classic Menu for Office 2007 may be better choice.

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