Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

Licensing the Office 2007 UI? Read This First

Yesterday, Microsoft made a landmark announcement that it would be licensing the Office 2007 UI to non-competing applications. They also released a 106-page specification that licensees will be required to follow. Now, the Office UI has been the benchmark by which applications have been designed for years, but in the past, Microsoft pretty much just looked the other way. Officially sanctioning the use of their research work is a bold move for Microsoft, whose ramifications should not be underestimated in the developer space.

My friend Tim Dawson has been re-creating Microsoft UIs in reusable packages for years (he had WinForms dockable menus long before Microsoft built them into .NET, and has the best WinForms window docking component on the market). He was one of the early adopters of the Office 2007 UI license, and his SandRibbon component is by far the easiest way to get jump-started on the Office 2007 UI. If you're doing .NET development and want to use the Ribbon, then you should take a look at the hard work Tim has done to comply with many of the guidelines as possible.

DISCLAIMER: This is not a paid endorsement. I am recommending this solution of my own volition, because I've tested several different Ribbon components and I think this one is the best.



  • Robert, good comments. We develop DotNetBar Suite for Windows Forms which includes by far the most consistent and stable Ribbon Control available. We released it back in November 2005 and have been constantly improving it since then. Your readers would definitely benefit giving it a try, check out

    November 22, 2006 2:50 PM
  • Robert Plisandro said:

    I have tested several 3rd party Office 2007 UI  Windows Forms libraries and I think that we have now only two component vendors that follow the original Office 2007 UI closely. They are (Elegant Ribbon) and Developer Express (the functionality is included into a quite big UI library). The product from prof-uis is in beta stage yet, but it shows very smooth look and feel and awesome implementation of automatic ribbon item resizing/layout. The guys from Developer Express have made good thing too, but they desided not to implement the visual themes identical to original Office 2007 ones, and you have to buy a lot of other stuff in the kit (maybe it is an advantage?).

    Anyway, I think that now we can be shure that using the Office 2007 UI in our applications is not a big problem.

    November 22, 2006 4:51 PM
  • Thanks for the other plugs, guys. I've evaluated the components you guys posted, and that's why I plugged Tim's control.

    DotNetBar has some rather ugly visual inconsistencies, like the way Contextual Tabs and group headers are rendered. The Quick Access Toolbar is not rounded evenly, and looks out of place. The attention to detail is just not there.'s controls are better visually, but are not for managed code. Plus, it's not stand-alone, you have to buy a bunch of other stuff with it.'s version looks horrible! It's barely even close to the Office 2007 UI. There are visual defects all over the place. It looks amateur at best. It looks like they rushed it out the door to get it to market, and my code won't touch it.

    SandRibbon is a pixel-for-pixel match to Office 2007, because Tim's attention to detail is unparallelled.  If you want a real solution, and not a hacked-together one, you should go with Divelements.

    November 22, 2006 9:07 PM
  • Robert Plisandro said:

    Thank you, but I have to tell that prof-uis Elegant Ribbon, as far as I know, is written purely in managed code (of course, these guys make a unmanged MFC library too). I has pretty logical and simple managed API.

    About DevExpress components look you're right - the work is quite incomplete, but the layout techniques they have implemented is seems to be close to original (still, not to compare with the very innovative elegant ribbon implementation).

    If you look at (one chapter draft about ribbon resizing from the original Office 2007 UI specification), you will see that only too components I've mentioned are designed with respect to this specification. Other vendors prefer not to show ribbon resizing functionality, because it is as simple as in a plain toolbar.

    As for pixel-for-pixel match, I think that we can tell so only about Elegant Ribbon. (And several unmanaged libraries - codejock etc).

    November 23, 2006 1:05 AM
  • Chris said:

    There is no perfect solution.

    SandRibbon performance is very high, while dotnetbar performance is lower.

    SandRibbon has a very nice combobox and slider, which dotnetbar doesn't have.

    Dotnetbar includes cool docking facilities and so on.

    There is no clear winner.

    November 23, 2006 9:54 AM