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Learning to Deal with the lousy new Office 2007 interface...
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Written by WATYF on Tuesday, 05 December 2006 (8918 hits)
Category: Nerdery

In a previous article, I ranted on about how much I hate the new look and navigation system of Office 2007. Well, this article will be less "rant" and more "informative".

As many people know, with the advent of the new Office 2007 interface, there is no longer a menu system... and there is no longer a standard toolbar system.... there are only "ribbons". If you can't find it right in front of your face on one of the ribbons, then chances are, it's gonna be hard to find and less-convenient to use. Tongue out There are also a few things behind the scenes that have to be done differently. This article will be an attempt to help poor souls like myself find all of the functionality that they've been using for years, which has now been moved to a completely different location just to make our lives more eventful. Tongue out I'll be providing some MS docs, as well as stuff that I personally stumble across or find on the net.

Note: I probably wouldn't have felt compelled to do this if it weren't for the fact that the first two major functionality needs that I was looking for were nowhere to be found in the "amazing" new "Help" feature. I searched every way from Sunday for what I needed to do and not one search result even hinted at where I could find it.

Microsoft 2003 to 2007 cross-reference files:

These files list all of the old Toolbars/Menus (and every option in them) and show you where that same option can be found in 2007. If you do anything, read these files. They will save you a ton of time in trying to get acclimated to the new GUI. They are extremely helpful... (of course, it would have been more helpful if we didn't have to re-learn how to do everything Tongue out).

Excel Cross-Reference 

Word Cross-Reference

Powerpoint Cross-Reference

I couldn't find versions of these files for Outlook or Access. You don't need it as much for Outlook, but it would have been nice to have one for Access.


Misc Tips:

EXCEL 2007

1) Bypass the Auto_Open (or Workbook_Open) macro by holding down shift: I used this all the time. Most of my Excel files have code in them and many have an Auto_Open procedure. When testing and debugging, it's pretty much essential to keep that code from running when I first open the file. It used to be that I would just hold down shift and the Auto_Open code wouldn't execute... but not any more.... (THANKS MICROSOFT!!!! Yell). Of course, this same exact feature still works in Word and Access (in Access, shift bypasses the initial Display Form instead of Auto_Open). As of yet, I still haven't figured out what the new way is to do this (other than the less-than-desirable workarounds).

2) Customize the Ribbon/Quick Access Toolbar: If you stumbled across this article using Google and expected to find an answer to this issue... you might as well leave. Tongue out The fact of the matter is, customization in Office 2007 sucks in every way shape and form, and that's the way MS intended it to be. Apparently, because novice users are too stupid to control their random mouse clicks, Microsoft decided to make customization darn near impossible for everyone. Obviously, the QAT can be customized manually, but it's a slower, more difficult process than previous toolbar customization (no drag and drop). Oh yeah, and you can only fit a max of 40 icons on the QAT. Obviously, they don't want you to just customize your QAT to look like the old toolbars. God forbid you get to set up Office 2007 the way you actually like it. Tongue out And then, as if that's not bad enough, the Ribbon (the primary method of navigation), can't be customized manually at all.

Now there are two ways (that I've discovered thus far) to programatically customize the UI:

One is to keep using the old way... the CommandBars object model (which oddly enough, was extremely simple to use... go figger). The only problem is that any buttons that you add to any CommandBar group will show up in a new Ribbon called "Add-ins". This is because there are no CommandBars (i.e. Menus/Toolbars) any more, so Office 2007 just corrals them all into one ribbon. If you're OK with this behavior, then customizing the UI is still pretty simple (i.e. just keep doing it the old way)... You're just limited in where you can put your buttons.

The second way is to use something called RibbonX. I like to think of RibbonX as an extremely large pain-in-the-ass way to do something that should be extremely simple. Tongue out It's basically using XML to modify the Ribbon (and possibly even the QAT). There are a couple of caveats. For instance, unlike Command Bars, you can't just run code to modify the toolbars and then be done with it... the modifications have to be applied every time the app is opened, so they have to be part of an Add-In or a template. Also, if you want to use your own buttons that call your own code (instead of just moving around the stock MS buttons), you have to create something called a "callback", which is similar to an event. So basically, you have to write the buttons in XML, create a template or add-in that will load all of your XML changes each time the app starts, and create events for each procedure you want to run from a button. In addition, MS has made it clear that they don't want developers messing with the QAT (which does allow us to make permanent toolbar changes), and that if we find a way around modifying it programatically, they will find a way to stop it. So much for MS's "Developers! Developers!! Developers!!!" mantra.


1) Set the default folder for file attachments in Outlook: This is a feature that has eluded (and annoyed) me for years. In every single other Office app, you have always been able to easily set the default folder that the program uses to save/open files. So when you open the app, you're not in some crazy, low-level "My Whatever" folder that you don't ever use, but instead, you can tailor it to a network drive or whatever that you usually work from. But for some crazy reason, Outlook has always been denied this feature. In the past, there have been registry hacks that sometimes do or don't work. But that only worked for the saving incoming attachments... what about when I want to attach a file to send out...? What if I almost always pull my attachments from the same folder? Well... they didn't totally remedy this situation in 2007, but they made it somewhat possible (albeit, in a dumb kind of way.Tongue out). The new ribbon interface for composing emails borrows heavily from Word. In fact, when you're writing an email, you're pretty much looking at the Word ribbon with a couple of Word specific things taken out. Due to the heavy integration with Word, you can actually change the folder that an email looks in for attachments by changing the Default Path in Word (Office button > Word Options > Save > Default file location). Yeah, if you usually work with files for Word in a different folder that you usually store attachments, this solution won't work out too hot for you, but hey... it's Microsoft... what do you expect. Tongue out Btw, this only change the outgoing attachment default folder. To change the "save" attachment default folder, you'll still need to use the registry hack (linked above).


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Nice try... how about calling create menu etc in C++ from inside Excel. Will give that a go... Works in Excel XP.

Ribbon could be a lot better if things moved around... eg edit, replace. See there is a tool to customize the ribbon which cost $30 at this


Even then forget the days of running Excel side by side with other apps. Squeeze the horizontal size and the Ribbon - which is the entire
UI - is utterly useless!

Anyway I am thinking Msft is going too far with these changes. We know
that a completely new looking Office could potentially drive upgrade
sales, to what extent is the Ribbon a function of this rather then
genuine usability? Here is an article about it:



Posted by William, whose homepage is here on 02/01/2007 at 08:44

I would also love to know the shortcut to bypass auto_open, I'm far too used to using it.

Posted by dean, on 02/05/2007 at 07:59

Oddly enough holding Shift is now preventing auto_open from running...

I can't think of anything I've changed to make it work.

Posted by dean, on 02/05/2007 at 08:12

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