Windows Ribbons Explained by Christopher-Mark Gilland
*Note: I thought some of our GTT Followers would get some benefit from this article so I’m sharing it here. If you have questions for Chris I will pass them on to him, so send them to Albert Ruel, GTTWest@CCBNational.net
Posted on Thu 3/10/2016 1:39 PM on the Windows 10 Screen Reader Users
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I want to start out by explaining what exactly is meant by a ribbon. Let’s take this into literal terminology which could be probably compared to something concrete that you can visualize in your mind.
Do you know what a clothes line looks like? OK, you have this big long rod, right? It’s totally horizontal. It might span over say, 5 or 10 feet long from the left end to the right end in width. Basically just imagine a sheet of paper, then take a ruler and place it on the paper, in a horizontal left to right position going across the very top edge of the page.
OK, that’s the line itself. Now, imagine what it looks like when this line is full of clothes. It has maybe shirts, skirts, dresses, pants, sweaters, coats, whatever, kackies, you get the point, hanging from it with clothespins. So, if you can kind a visualize this for a second, you have this long horizontal rod running left to right from end to end. Dangling from it, you have a piece of clothing, then a teeny little bit of space, then moving on to the right, you have another piece of clothing which is dangling from the bottom side of the rod. Then a little more space, keep working to the other end of the line, you have a third set of cloting. Right? So on so forth. Are you following me so far up to this point?
OK. This is exactly how the ribbon bar behaves. The ribbon is basically two levels in height. Think of it like a 2 story house. You have an upper level, and you have a lower level. OK, let’s go back to the clothes line for a second here. Take all those clothes you have hanging from the rod. Let’s say you have three shirts. OK, so all three of those shirts are grouped together in their own section of the clothes line. Then, you have a little space, thenyou’re your pants are grouped together side by side. Then a little space, then say, maybe, oh, I dunno, maybe, you have a few dresscoats all aligned together side by side. In other words, each type of item is in its own group. Again, this is exactly how the ribbon works.
So, let’s go back now to the ribbon. Honestly speaking? Get the word ribbon totally out of your head! just forget entirely that you ever were told it was a ribbon. I think that was the stupidest! Term Microsoft ever could have used! Why? Because it doesn’t really per sé look like a ribbon. I know MS’s logic of thinking, and where they were trying to go with that, but honestly, they really made it harder than it has to be, and really have obviously confused a lot of people, both sighted or not with things by introducing that lingo. So, again, I want you to just totally throw the word ribbon away. It doesn’t exist for now.
I’m sure you understand how the menu bar looks though. You have menus which go across a horizontal line/bar, hence why they call it a menu… what?… bar! Going left to right, you have things in the top level of that bar, right? Things like File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Table, Window, Help.
Once you navigate to one of those menus, what do you do? You down arrow to open it. right? Why do you do that?
Well? Think about it.
You have a virtical menu which pops open right below the top category, be it file? Edit? Whatever.
Within each of those menus, you may have a submenu, or as Window eyes users would know it, a pulldown. So, what is a pulldown/sub menu? Exactly! It’s a menu which branches off to the right of the original menu item. If you remember back in the days of Windows XP, you may remember under start, you had programs submenu. When you went to programs, what happened? It brought up another menu with all of your programs over to the right of the start menu itself. Correct?
OK, well, guess what! The um… word we’re not gonna remember… LOL? is the same way in escence.
So, think of it like this for your ribbon.
You have two levels. An upper ribbon, and a lower ribbon. Underneath your lower ribbon, you have items which are sectioned off into groups.
So, for example. Let’s take Outlook for instance. I’m not where I can open up Outlook right this second to give you the literal order/hierarchy of the Outlook ribbon, but that’s actually a good thing, as I don’t want you looking right now. I want you to totally do this cognitively in your head.
So, the top of your ribbon has these different categories. Those categories are called tabs, BECAUSE, ESSENTIALLY, SURPRISE SURPRISE, THAT’S ALL THEY ARE! Yes. You heard me 100% correctly. That’s all? they, are. Just tabs. No more? NO less. As you move across the top level, the bottom level will dynamically change and update accordingly. So, for instance. To access the ribbon, hit your alt key, doesn’t matter which one. Either your left or your right is fine, your choice.
You now will hear the last tab that you landed on. Now, if you left and right arrow, you will horizontally move and activate each of these tabs. So, say for example that you want to compose a new message. You’d hbit the alt key. Next, you’d arrow left and right across the top of the ribbon. Let’s say that you hear things like, Home, view, message, I’m saying this not in one big cluster, I mean as you move. So again, Home, View, Message, Format, Insert, so on so forth. Once you left and right arrow to either end of the bar, it will wrap you back around. So, say that the far left most tab was Home. The far right most tab was format. So if you’re on home, and you left arrow, you’d reach what?
Exactly! Format! So, say you’re on Format, and you right arrow once. Exactly! Now you’re on what? Home! Good job! See? This isn’t so hard, is it! All it did is wrapped you around, just as any menu/dialog box would do.
Once on the tab you want, though it visually! has dynamically updated your lower ribbon, we’re still on your upper ribbon, so we need to now activate that tab and get down inside of it. To do that, how do you activate most things in Windows? Exactly! You hit the enter key. Great job! So, that’s exactly what we’d do here. So, let’s go back to our little example. We want to compose a new e-mail message. Again, going across the top, let’s say that we have from left to right: Home? Message? View? Insert? and Format.
Which one of those tabs do you think most likely compose message would be inside? Well, obviously, it’s not going to be inside View. That would be for modifying the way things look. Would it be under Insert? No. You’re not insertting anything. What about Format? Nope. That would be for setting fonts and such. What’s left? Yes! Message it is.
So, you’d navigate left and right with your arrow keys. You’d hit alt to enter the ribbon bar. You’d arrow left and right until you heard Message tab. Now we need to get to the stuff inside of the Message tab. So, we now activate the message tab by pressing the enter key.
This now will drop us down to the lower ribbon. If you need to go back up to the upper ribbon, then just hit your up arrow key once.
OK, so now we’re down inside the Message tab. Now, you may hear something like Composition group: New Message Button. That’s what we need. So, we could just press enter.
OK, let’s now talk more about groups in your lower ribbon. Remember me saying that the lower ribbon has things in groups? So think of a group as basically what a classic based menu would call a submenu.
So Within our e-mail message, we want to make a bulleted list. Up to the ribbon we go with the alt key.
We now find the Format tab and activate it, again, how? Right! With the enter key.
Now, again, we’re in the lower ribbon. Again, left and right arrow, just like before, and we want to find the bullets button. Now here’s however where things get really cool! Let’s say that as you’re right arrowing, you hear things like color Group: Text color button. You right arrow, and hear Highlight color button. You go again and hear, center button. Again, Justified button. Again, bold button. Again, Italic button. Again, now, pay attention here. You hear the Following:
Paragraph group: Bullets button.
Look at how much work that took to get there! Gee! Willikers! After hitting enter on the Format tab in the upper ribbon, you had to then arrow 7 times roughly to the right before you hit that bullets button. Well, here’s the thing. There’s a way to move group by group.
If you press the alt key, you’ll get into the upper portion of the ribbon. This is where all your main tab categories reside. In this example, you’ll move across the top until you find the Format tab, then you’ll activate it with enter. Now, you’re again, in your lower ribbon. Right?
OK, now watch this. Rather than right arrowwing aa’aall? The, freaking, way, over to the bullets button, We know it’s not in the color group. Bullets have nothing! to do with color, do they? So, that doesn’t even make sense for them to be there. So, rather than waisting your time going through that whole group, just navigate with ctrl+Right arrow to the next group.
Think of it this way.
What do just the left and right arrow keys do when reading through a document? Exactly. They move item by item, or in that case, character by character. What if you want to jump in a bigger increment? Say, word by word? Excellent job! You’d hit ctrl+Left, or ctrl+Right arrow. So, Think of the items in your lower ribbon as individual characters. Then think of your Groups in the lower ribbon as words.
If you wanted quickly to get to the letter G in the word oranges in the following sentence:
The fruit on the plate consists of oranges, pineapples, and grapes.
You really don’t want to start on the capital T in the word, the, and then right arrow all the way over to the G, do you? Well, if you do, then O, Kayyy, more power to ya, but that’s really a waist of time!
You’d move item by item! Group by broup. Each group in that case would be like a word.
So The would be one group, fruit would be one group, on would be a group, etc.
So, you’d ctrl+right arrow to the, oranges, group, then within that group, the first item is, O. then you’d right arrow through that group on your lower ribbon, until you got to the G. Then you’d activate it with enter.
The final thing about the ribbon I’d like to talk to you about is something known as split buttons.
OK, so this is really easy! All that a split button is is, think of a button that has a virtical divider which extends across the whole virtical height of the icon. This virtical bar/line seperates the button in half. Think of the way a bandaid looks once it’s out of it’s rapper. You have two pieces of tape, with the little square pad in the middle. Right? Basically a split button is a bandaid. The little padded square is your split. It splits off the button, if you will, in two parts. I’ll give you a great example where you may have seen this, even if you don’t have Office.
Go to IE 11, and download a file. When your information bar pops up asking if you want to run or save the file, hit alt+N. Then tab. You’ll hear save split button. That’s because the save button is divided into two pieces. The left side is Save. This will do just that. It will save the file in your default location, probably your downloads. However, the righthand side of this same button is split off and says, Save as. This would bring up the standard save as screen letting you name the file, and choose where! to save it.
So, the way split buttons work is like this. If you press the enter key, you’ll activate the primary action of the button, which is the lefthand side of the button. If! however, you want to activate the secondary action of the same button, then once you land on the split button, instead of pressing enter, hit your down arrow key. Note: I’m speaking of your arrow keys not on your numeric keypad. I’m speaking of the invertted T arrow keys usually right below your 6pack on a desktop keyboard, and probably bottom right edge on most laptops.
What this will do is open a dropdown menu that you now can up and down arrow through to select either of the two actions. Arrow to the one you want, then, you guessed it. Hit enter.
One more way to think of the ribbon bar is like a multi-tab dialog, like you’d have in Control Panel, or whatever. Your tabs across the top which you could hit ctrl+Tab, and ctrl+Shift+Tab to move between would be basically like the top level of your ribbon. Things like General, etc.
Then, all of the content on that tab, populates directly under those tabs going across the top. The ribbon bar is the exact same principle. The ribbon is basically nothing more than a multi tabbed dialog, with the exception of pressing enter to activate the focused tab, and that you cannot ctrl+Tab nor ctrl+Shift+tab between the items in the upper ribbon. Aside that though, it’s identical!
Everyone have a great ribbon of a day! LOL! Just kidding.