System Center Ops Mgr, Config Mgr and the Ribbon

Those of you following the news out of TechED Europe will have heard that the next versions of System Center Configuration Manager and System Center Operations Manager will a new administrative interface based on the Office Ribbon.

A lot of geeks have a problem with the Ribbon. Ive regularly seen commenters on geek blogs declare that OpenOffice (or Libre Office which seems to be the new thing) will triumph over Microsoft Office because the open source product eschews the Ribbon interface.  The geek attitude comes down to a belief that by reducing the complexity of the administrative interface, there is a flow on reduction in functionality.

For those of you that are familiar with SCCM and Ops Mgr, the shift to the new interface is likely to be a blessing. Although SCCM suffers more from this than Ops Mgr does, it can be challenging to locate a particular functionality area unless you are extremely familiar with the product. Ive taught SCCM courses for some time and while students are generally positive about the product, they are less than enthusiastic about the interface. It can take some longer to find where they do something than to actually do it.

The idea behind the ribbon is that it allows you to access functionality with a minimum of clicking. Rather than dig down into a category, node, sub node and even sub-sub-node, youll be able to hit any area of functionality with an average of two clicks. The context sensitive nature of the ribbon will reduce the Action Pane problem - when certain functionality becomes available in the Action menu when have exactly the right item selected. Im sure Im not the only one who has been following instructions, looked over at the Action Pane and thought okay, where the heck is that command then?

The trick to understanding the ribbon is that it allows administrative tools to have their complexity simplified without reducing the overall functionality of the product. In fact, because many people arent aware of functionality that is hidden away in the recesses of the old interfaces, I suspect that many people migrating to the new versions of SCCM and Ops Mgr will mistake existing functionality for new functionality simply because they havent noticed it before.

The ribbon is the future of the administrative interface. It allows you to get where you need to be with a minimum of hunting about. It also allows you to become more aware of product functionality that has been available, but until now has been completely hidden.

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