I reckon one reason I dislike the Office ribbon is because it actively defies location/placement memory.

With old style drop down menus, I rely a lot on knowing the vague locations of commands: “about 3 menus form the left and about half way down. This is perhaps more physically instinctive than conscious remembering. I just flick the cursor somewhere toward the right side couple of menus and find it, without interrupting my conscious processes.

Is it any different from subconsciously knowing “Where is…” and not consciously asking “What is…” when we are looking for something in the real world?

With the ribbon, I am forced to remember the actual names of panes (or contextual rules to show hidden panes). I must consciously stop thinking about what I was working on, and move to consciously remember the name of the pane I think I need. In this case the pane I needed (the Design pane) is not even visible until I am inside a table.

This is the tool getting in the way of the work.

The same location holds completely different things depending on context. This makes intellectual sense from a design point of view. But during operations, it also forces an interrupt to my thinking. And this is not good. The screen grabs below show how the same location holds vastly different commands.

In real life, when I am looking for socks I know to go to the drawers WHERE related things like underwear are stored. This is useful contextual location at work. Over a short time I can quickly get to know where the socks and drawers are. I don’t need to go through a conscious remembering process.

The same drawer does not also contain kitchen shears or the lawnmower depending on my state of dress, or which door I enter the room by! I did not have to stop and think I must put pants on before the drawers containing the socks will appear. I did not need to consciously choose to enter the room by a specific door.

Maybe other people have different ways of remembering where their tools are. Maybe they write down step by step instructions for everything start with “Click Start”…

Do you find yourself frequently and consciously looking through different panes for the right commands?