One of the biggest UI changes in Office 2007 is the ribbon. This UI element displays the most frequently used commands in a strip across the top of the screen. It is meant to replace the Office suite's ever-growing list of drop-down menus, toolbars and task panes, many of which sit unutilized by end users.
The ribbon does share a similarity with the menu list, though -- it can be customized. The best tool for the job is Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office, which was just released in beta for development for Office 2007. However, a combination of XML markup and any .NET language (including VB 6 and VBA) will suffice.
A two-part tutorial recently posted on MSDN, Customizing the Office (2007) Ribbon User Interface for Developers by Frank Rice, examines the many types of customization that are possible, offers hints and code samples and addresses frequently asked questions about Office 2007 development.
In Part 1, Rice offers a quick guide to the three ways to create custom, application-level Ribbon UI elements for Word, Excel and PowerPoint in Office 2007 -- COM add-ins, application-specific add-ins and Word 2007 templates. Rice then covers customization for Access 2007, which is a bit different because cannot add parts to the database file, and several additional customization scenarios.
Part 2 stands as an appendix of sorts. It presents descriptions, attributes and child information for Ribbon controls, lists callbacks and signatures for VB.NET, VBA, C++ and C, and includes an FAQ section. Between the samples provided in Part 1 and the resources in Part 2, Rice concludes, developers should be ready to start customizing Office 2007 for their end users.
For other Office 2007 development resources, check out David Gristwood's blog entry, So Many Office 2007 Resources for Developers Out There.
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This was first published in September 2006