Microsoft released their first preview of the Office 2016 suite for Windows 8 over the weekend. One of the new features that has Office users abuzz is the return of the toolbar.
In a surprise decision reversing years of engineering practice, Microsoft will return the oft-maligned feature, which was removed in 2007. At the time, the toolbar and menus were removed because they used up too much screen space, and were considered to be a developmental dead end. Microsoft replaced this feature with a ribbon – a move that was heavily criticized by the feminist movement for enforcing gender stereotypes.
“We felt the existing model was sending the wrong message to young girls and women. We’re no longer living in the nineteenth century. People shouldn’t be forced to learn how to use a ribbon in order to understand our tool.
The new office 2016 for Windows includes the return of the toolbar. A toolbar (box) is something both genders should master. We also feel it gives a homier look to the screen space, and makes it look well used. Users can easily get lost if all they see is endless white space. Why fill your page up with words when you can fill it up with buttons instead?” Microsoft wrote in a blog post announcing the Windows preview.
Additional features include the Coffee toolbar and the Help toolbar. These toolbars are intended to enhance the user experience by providing much needed external coffee support. Each button on this toolbar can be used for placing an online coffee order from your nearest Starbucks. The help toolbar is used for contacting knowledge experts, such as subject matter experts (SMEs), the neighbor’s eight-year old daughter, or even technical writers, depending on the need.
“We take the meaning of the word “Help” literally. If a technical writer feels the need for more information, the SME button will alert the nearest SME who will immediately drop whatever they are doing to help the writer. If an end-user feels that the knowledge base has insufficient information they can use the Writer button to contact the person who wrote that information to receive more direct support.”
Reactions to these latest features have been mixed.
“I look forward to introducing my daughters to the toolbar,” one excited mother wrote. “For too long, I’ve been avoiding Microsoft office because I was afraid the ribbon would cause my daughters to go husband shopping.
“But what kind of man will want to date a girl who uses a toolbar?” Another mother wrote in dismay. “I’ve got five daughters to marry off, and this decision will just make things that much harder.
“I’m looking forward to being able to work with the new coffee options,” a college student wrote “I wonder if I can get Microsoft to develop a Beer toolbar next?”
“I look forward to being to contact my developers more easily,” a technical writer wrote “I am not sure how I feel about end-user being able to contact me. This gives a whole new meaning to accountability.”
The official version of Office is expected to be released sometime next week – a little over a year ahead of schedule.