Sunday, January 29, 2023 08:20

Here Comes CB 11 (or “Why, oh why, is the ribbon so (*@&%@ popular????” ;) )

Noodling around Tuesday night….  not quite enough energy to pull off a move in my two correspondence games where I’m on move.  So I decided to add the Rybka 2.2 (which is free to download!)  to my system.  Doing so led me to the Rybka 3 forums.  And deep in there (Rybka forums covers all kinds of Caissic subjects) was a link to this YouTube video:

Which is a preview of ChessBase 11, due out in mid-October according to the video.   OK, I think, let’s see what it offers!  One thing, unsurprisingly, is that CB 11 apparently has the same Ribbon interface that users of Fritz 12 and Office 2007 / 2009 have been forced to get to know.

Can you tell I have no love for ribbons?  Yes, get to learn and know the ribbon system and you are theoretically fewer mouse-clicks away from whatever it is you want to do. The ribbon features are supposed to be logically organized into easily discernable categories which make it quicker to figure out how to get to a particular feature in that software.

Yet all is not wonderful in Ribbonland.  For example, Excel 2007 only offers a couple of very specific new features.  It is virtually the same as Excel ’03.  Yet, so I was told in an Advanced Excel class I took, fully 33% of users who adopted Excel ’07 in 2008-9 reverted back to ’03 within six months of installation.  Why?  Lost productivity trying to figure out just where the heck your most commonly used features went to, and vastly increased help desk requests trying to figure out just how you get to your seldom-used features now.

Here’s the long story of my biggest issue with EVERY ribbon-based program I’ve had the misfortune of having to deal with (including Fritz 12):  Those of us old enough in computer usage remember when there wasn’t even such a thing as dedicated on-screen menus.  You did things either by switching to a dedicated menu screen, or by the use of keyboard commands.  (WordPerfect 4, 5.1, 5.2, anybody?)  For some programs, keyboard commands were all you got (early Scripsit or WordStar, anybody?)

Then along came dedicated on-screen menus.  It was a real leap forward in technology – you could actually see the root level of commands and find what applied in the hierarchy of commands.  But for the most part, you could still use those same keyboard commands.  Now this has held sway for so long most of us have forgotten those days.

(ChessBase used to be utterly oriented towards keyboard shortcuts, even professing their superiority in the help system.  IIRC there were a couple of functions you could *only* get via keyboard commands.)

Then along game onscreen toolbars with icons.  If you could remember what a particular picture represented you could do it quicker than pulling a menu hierarchy.  Most of us know open-save-close-print without even thinking about it now.  Yet those of us who want to do it quicker still hit Ctrl-O,-S,-C,-P.  After all, there always has been some confusion in application-specific icons and what all those things do.  For example, here’s my control icons as I compose this in WordPress:


I hope you can see them shrunk down quite a bit.  Now the Bold, Italic, Strike, Paragraph, Underline, Jusity, spelling, undo, and help are easy for me to recognize.  What those ones in the bottom row to the right of the font color are… couldn’t tell you.  And I am always looking for my “what do I click to insert an image?” button, even though it’s right at the top next to “Upload/Insert.”

But, if I’m using Word or OpenOffice Writer, I can still use my keyboard shortcut or, failing that, go to my menus in that program.

OK, thanks for reading all that history.  The fact that it is history, and I’ve been actively using computers for 29 years, is relevant, I promise.  Here’s my big-ticket issue:

Why don’t the managers in charge of developing apps with ribbons recognize some of us still want our familiar pull-down menus, and provide a compatibility mode?????  Here’s the one thing that Corel still has all over Word and any other Word Processor… You can still run it in a mode that looks exactly like the old white-on-blue WP 5.1.

You may ask, “Why would you want to do that???”  Well, all I can say is that if  you ever spent a half hour trying to parse just why Word’s WYSIWYG is WYSIWYDW (What you Saw is What You Didn’t Want), and remember how to Alt-F3 reveal codes (12 years after you last used that combo) and the two-key combination to do exactly what you wanted (one of them being Delete the bad code)…  Then reallize that probably 95%+ of what you create and type never requires 90% plus of the buttons and shortcuts on your screen… Then remember that every single comannd you needed to write a complete Chicago Manual of Style 50 Page research paper used to exist in a simple three-row banner above your 8 function keys (and you rarely referred to it…)

Well, having to learn a whole new interface to do that same damn thing just kind of seems redundant.

Now, that preview video does seem to have a bunch of cool stuff in it…  One feature that might be brand new is the ability to query the ChessBase online database to find novelties.

But please, if you’re a programmer:  Try to incorporate a backwards-compatibility mode for your interface so that we can keep using the new features and a wonderful upgrade in the same ways we, your customers, are used to!

End rant, and thanks for reading!  I hope that by reading this developers will help me and you… so that you can

Enjoy your chess!

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