VSTO & .NET & Excel

January 20, 2008

RibbonX: Customizing the Office 2007 Ribbon – Review

Filed under: .NET Books, VSTO Books — Dennis M Wallentin @ 10:52 pm

RibbonX: Customizing the Office 2007 Ribbon
Robert Martin, Ken Puls, Teresa Henning (Oliver Stohr)
Target group:
According to me: Power user to professional VBA-developers
Targeting softwares in the Office suite:
Excel 2007, Word 2007 and Access 2007
7.5 (out of 10)

This book is the first of its kind as it explicit only target the RibbonX and how to manipulate and customize it. It covers how to work with RibbonX in Access, Excel and Word.

According to the book itself it contains two parts but for me it contains three parts where the first part serves as an introduction to RibbonX, XML and VBA. The second part is a walkthrough of the RibbonX’s object model and the final part leverage the preceding parts as well as cover some advanced topics.

Part I
The authors present the Ribbon UI and discuss its pros and cons. As we all know, new things solve some issues but also at the same time create new issues and the Ribbon UI is no exception from that rule. Two important tools are also presented, the Custom UI Editor and XML Notepad which is probably not so known among VBA-developers. Together with the presentation of the tools the tools’ pros and cons are also being discussed. ‘XML for RibbonX’ is also presented here together with a chapter for beginners of VBA.  

I find it to be good that the authors actually also discuss the shortcomings of new technologies and tools. The introduction is well written but does not give a ‘clear picture’ for the remaining parts of the book as it tries to target all groups from ‘novice to professional’.

Part II
This part is the backbone of the book as it describe the RibbonX’s objects model in detail and provides us with a great number of examples for Excel, Word and Access. Whenever there is a discrepancy between the softwares, on how they handle the RibbonX’s object model or how the XML files needs to be written, we are given examples that cover it. The presentations of the objects are strictly and a lot of data about the objects are given.

All the chapters are well written and it covers all aspects of the RibbonX’s objects model. It can be a little bit confusing when focus is switched from one software to another one but the authors have managed to keep it together.

Make sure You got the book available when developing RibbonX’s solutions as You need to go back to this part on a regular basis.

Part III
In this part the authors put things together and provide us with practical cases as well with some advanced topics on both VBA and on how to customize the RibbonX.

Here You will find some interesting aspects such as creating UI for Web Service and to work with contextual controls, keytips & keyboard shortcuts as well as how to share and deploy ribbon customizations. By the way, the chapter ‘Sharing and Deploying Ribbon Customizations’ is excellent.

For me this part of the book is the best part. In these chapters the authors push the customization of the RibbonX to the limit but also at the same point out some ‘traps’ to avoid.

Missing entries
The following aspects would have been nice to take part of:

I consider the RibbonX UI design to be very important. Therefore I was surprised that the book didn’t cover or at least discussed best practice for Ribbon UI design.

The book discusses reading and writing settings to Windows registry which is good. The way security is implemented in Windows Vista that approach may not always be the best alternative. On the .NET platform we use XML files for various tasks and since RibbonX rely on XML it would have been natural to also cover XML files to store settings in.

A book that explicit focus on how to customize the RibbonX should at least have some part that introduce RibbonX developing on the .NET platform. It becomes more important when it exist some shortcomings via VBA which the book also discuss.

Special kudos to the authors for:

  • Emphasizing on functionality and by doing so they don’t get ‘carried away’. 
  • Recommend to use a table-driven approach when customizing the RibbonX.
  • RibbonX Naming Convention which is based on RVAB naming conventions. This is a good start in order to create a standard on how we name the RibbonX’s object model in code. We may not necessary agree but it allow us to discuss the subject.
  • The tool, imageMSO Reference, which allows us to lookup imageMSO and gets the XML code for the selected imageMSO. Of course, I would be very pleased if it had been created as a managed COM add-in but that’s another story. 

This book provides us with a depth on how to control the RibbonX and it does it well. 

If You are a serious VBA developer who target Access 2007 /  Excel 2007 / Word 2007 then this book is a must have.

Kind regards,


1 Comment »

  1. thank you!

    Comment by hung — June 30, 2008 @ 2:37 pm

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