Is A Ribbon Interface The Right Thing For A Netbook?

I really really really like my netbook, it is so convenient, especially when traveling and not having a lot of space. But one of the things that is missing is screen real estate, especially on the vertical. My Ubuntu and the Gnome GUI make good use of what's available as the icons and window frames are smaller than on MS Windows. But even with MS Windows, working with a netbook should be o.k. But what about Microsoft Office that uses a ribbon interface instead of the traditional menu / icons on top of the window? The height of the ribbons costs precious vertical space and as far as I know there's no way to change that!? So I wonder if Microsoft at some point will come with a netbook / small screen optimized UI for its Office suite!?

What about you, how do you feel about 'ribbons' on smaller screens?

6 thoughts on “Is A Ribbon Interface The Right Thing For A Netbook?”

  1. You do know that the ribbion can be minimized right? And also that you can customize the quick menu above the ribbion with commands? Both of those would make it easy to keep the ribbon out of the way on smaller screened devices. Its how I use Office on normal comps since I’ve always thought that the chrome was too gaudy/large for being productive; and what I didn’t have in a context menu or the customized quick menu weren’t big losses to prpductivity.

  2. While I share the same view as Mobileminmag (i.e – just minimize the ribbon and use the keyboard more).
    Your words do make sense. As we all move to a 16:9 or similar wide screen ratios, it does make things harder to read and easier to watch.
    On my SCOPIA VC240 monitor which does 1080p, I have a lot of screen real-estate but the right side of the screen is usually too empty – it would be a great place for the ribbon/menus/alerts instead.


  3. Hi there,

    Yes, the ribbon can be minimized but then I always have to open it to do something, or, as Tsahil says, I remember keyboard commands. But that’s a bit clunky and the interface is not adapted to the device I am using.


  4. The problem you describe is symptomatic of the gross mismatch of form factor and software on todays netbooks.

    Not sure how close to the mark I am, as I am not a netbook user now, but I think that a significant part(maybe large majority) of the netbook market might give over to tablets once the smartphone OSs move into the mix. Could they all essentially become tablets and the battle, like smartphones, be the physical versus virtual keyboards camps? Slide / fold out / who knows what else keyboard tablets.

    How many of the use cases for a netbook would be better fulfilled by a tablet if the interface was based around touch(read – not just a desktop OS with touch latched on as an afterthought – the apps would have to be redesigned with this as the primary input as well). Smartphones have already started to show the way on this front.

    While I’m not sure I find anything compelling enough about the Apple iPad to run out and get one right away(we’ll see – until the 3GS I found too much lacking in the iPhone to buy one). I do however, see where it could kickstart a market of tablets that would take over the current netbook market.

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