Office 2003’s longevity is awe-inspiring in the digital age. With web browsers iterating and reiterating in a matter of months, a program remaining unchanged is practically unheard of. New computers ship with newer versions of Office, bringing changes not everyone wants.
Luckily, it is not an isolated complaint. While the “new” Ribbon UI has been around since Office 2007, there are numerous workarounds to restore the classic menu layout.
UBitMenu is the work of Swiss developers, and works with Office 2007, 2010 and 2013. The program is free for personal use, but if you’re planning to introduce it to your workplace, this necessitates a purchase. Installation is a cinch, too.
1. Download the installer. At only a few hundred KB, this takes seconds, regardless of which language you choose.
2. Close any open Office windows. Installation will succeed even if you do not close them, but the new menu will not be visible without completely closing Office.
3. Run the installer; accept the warning pertaining to an Unknown Developer which we recently covered in another article.
4. Confirm the installation directory, and wait a brief moment to see the installer report successful installation.
5. Open Office and observe the change; a new “Menu” entry will have appeared among the other tabs.
Removing the Ribbon entirely would be an enormous undertaking, so UBitMenu instead blends the old with the new by creating a Ribbon entry that nulls the need for the others.
If you happen to be using Office 2013, you’ll notice a visual difference given that Microsoft’s tabs are written in capitals. To make UBitMenu look that little bit more native, it’s possible to modify the other tabs so that they are not in upper case.
This method merely adds to the existing UI which has the drawback of not allowing you to default to UBitMenu: you’ll always have to move over to it when you open Office.
1. Begin by right-clicking the Ribbon. There may be four or five entries in the associated menu depending on where you have clicked, but “Customize the Ribbon” is always among them.
2. The window that opens will have two columns of information, with the list on the right pertaining to renaming tabs.
3. Click one of the tabs; ensure it is the tab name instead of an asset inside the tab, and the “Rename” button directly below this column will illuminate.
Office 2013 wants you to use the default all-caps tab names, so renaming them with nothing more than a capital letter won’t work – it will simply transform into capitals. Instead of doing this, enter an extra character in the textbox.
Pleasingly, you can simply press the space bar at the end of the existing tab name, and Office 2013 will not attempt to display the tab name in capitals. It does not appear to move the tab names off centre either, which is always a bonus. In fact, you may see the tab names move marginally closer together as the lower-case letters need less room.
This method leaves the Office UI looking considerably different, but does not require any external modification. If you want to make changes as quickly as possible, this is undoubtedly the faster route.
1. Right click the Ribbon, and choose the ‘Customize the Ribbon’ option as before.
2. When the window appears, uncheck the box by every entry in the column on the right.
3. Confirm this action (it can always be reverted by rechecking the boxes or choosing to reset customizations).
The default Office tabs simply disappear, leaving you with the 2003 menu and nothing more. For any die-hard fans of Office 2003 who are intimately familiar with its layout and menus, this is the route to take. The ‘FILE’ button in the corner will always appear in upper-case, though with only one tab present it is not too jarring of an effect.
UBitMenu provides a quick and easy way to bring back a much-loved interface from Microsoft’s past. While it might be dated in comparison to Microsoft’s present approach to interface design, there can be no denying that it is highly functional.
The process is also easily reversed should you decide the 2003 UI was better in your memories than in practice; uninstall UBitMenu and restart Office. Given that it can be installed and set up in as little as two minutes, and is free for personal use, it’s well worth a go.