Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Why the Ribon is Bad and Good

There has been a lot of discussion with regards to Autodesk's changes to AutoCAD's interface. There have been many complaints about the ribbon and that it is considered inefficient by many of its users. I feel that the claims of inefficiency are valid when compared to using toolbars and somewhat agree to its comparison to pulldown menus. The issue here is that it takes more clicks to get to the command needed. You can’t disagree with that because it’s true, just count the clicks and mouse movements to get to a command.

I am not saying the ribbon is garbage; I only want to point out the fact that if you are a user that works with toolbars and menus, then you will have efficiency issues.
I propose that toolbars and menus are still less efficient to use then keyboard input. Admittedly I am an old DOS based AutoCAD user and learned to use cad with keyboard entries, a tablet, and the menu screen. Perhaps that makes my opinion a biased one.

If a user can type with the left hand and work the mouse with the right then this, in my opinion, is the most efficient use of time. This work process means a user doesn’t have to move the mouse back and forth across the screen increasing the time it takes to work. It is much quicker to use the keyboard and mouse simultaneously. I call this method “Two-Handed CADing.” “One-Handed CADing” would have the user ignoring the keyboard as much as possible while moving the mouse over the entire screen. This method also takes up more screen real estate. Because more buttons (menus, toolbars, etc.) are needed. If the toolbars and menus change, then the user can not work as efficiently until the new interface is learned.

Two-Handed CADers use keyboard shortcuts. What if they change? Then they can easily open the old alias file, copy and paste the customizations into the new one. They do not have to learn anything unless it is for a new command. Much easier than relearning a program they already knew.

This is where I feel the Ribbon fist best, with Two-Handed practices. Even though TH (Two-Handed) users key in commands, several often use toolbars, palettes, or menus every once in a while. I know that I do. Sections of the Ribbon can be pulled out (like toolbars) and placed anywhere on the screen, while the rest of the Ribbon is collapsed, docked, hidden, or left alone. This has the potential of using even less screen real estate.

For these two reasons I like the Ribbon. It fits well with my Two-Handed style of CAD use.
Do you like it or hate it? Why?
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