Thursday, January 18, 2007

Customizing the Office 2007 Ribbon: Easier Said Than Done

I am not a fan of the new Ribbon paradigm in Office 2007, but I have seen how it can be integrated into the new Access 2007 gui with good effect: the sample Access 2007 Marketing Application from Microsoft is an excellent example of how to use the Ribbon and the new Navigation Bar.

The trouble is that creating custom Ribbons is messy and not a native Access feature. You must use tools outside Office/VBA. The Ribbon process in Access 2007 is driven by a set of system tables, but there is no native interface for visually building or customizing a RibbonBar inside Access. A minimum tool-set would be an XML editor and a list of Office 2007 Control ID's currently available only as an Excel spreadsheet. Debugging is a nightmare.

When CommandBars were launched in Access 95, at least there was a way for even non-developers to visually build CommandBars with full drag'n'drop functionality.

MSDN articles on customizing the Ribbon:

Office RibbonX API: Extend The 2007 Office System With Your Own Ribbon Tabs And Controls An introduction to the Ribbon, RibbonX controls and features, upgrading add-ins to use RibbonX, and building add-ins for Word and Excel.

Ribbon Extensibility in Access 2007 Learn how you can create a custom Ribbon for an Access 2007 database by using only Ribbon extensibility markup XML and macros. Discover how to create a command space without writing any code and also learn about more advanced scenarios that require code.

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