December 1, 2010

Updated Office UI Licensing

The Office UI (or Ribbon User interface) is controlled by a "license" based on the idea, not any actual code.

The Office UI or Fluent User Interface (better known as "Ribbon") is controlled by a "license" based on the user-interface idea, not any actual implementation or code. This is the license you are warned about when you install recent versions of Delphi. In fact, even if Delphi includes a totally custom and VCL-based implementation of the Ribbon control, using its UI is subject to a Microsoft license agreement.

Here is a sample DBnavigator in a Ribbon, I wrote for a projects discussed in my Delphi 2009 Handbook:

I signed the agreement a few years back. Because of that, today I got a very strange email from an Alan Maier of Microsoft:


On behalf of the Microsoft Office Applications Group, I want to thank you for your past interest and participation in the Office UI Licensing Program. This email is to inform you that the Microsoft Office 2007 UI license and guidelines have been updated for Microsoft Office 2010

The mail includes also a link to the page where I can obtain an updated license Now, if I got it right, even if you signed the original deal you have to sign it again, it the original one will become void. Certainly possible, but quite strange. Still, it takes very little time to sign and it is free of course.

As you provide your data and digitally sign the agreement, you are forwarded to a page where you can downlaod the udpated Ribbon documentation, a PDF file called  "2010 Microsoft Office Fluent UI Design Guidelines" The mail also specifies that the license is to " use the Microsoft-claimed intellectual property in the Office UI " and that it is required "when the software developer does not use one of the Microsoft-provided implementations of the UI". So it is obvious this license is required by the Delphi VCL implementation.

There are elements of this overall situation that I'm not terribly happy with: the need to license a UI idea, the fact one side can void the existing license and force you to change your implementation, and the different licenses depending on the implementation you pick. Nice Ribbon to all of you!



Updated Office UI Licensing 

 Never liked them, won't use them...
Comment by Thomas Wassermann [] on December 1, 22:50

Updated Office UI Licensing 

It's why I chose not to implement the Ribbon in a 
project I'm starting right now. It's my first attempt 
at doing something commercial to sell on my own. The 
way I read it, and the way all the articles I read 
understood it, is that you are obligated to keep up 
to date on their Ribbon requirements. I really do 
like the Ribbon myself. I know a lot of people don't, 
but I think it looks good and when done well is very 
intuitive. If I do an application and decide not to 
update it for quite a while for whatever reason, I'm 
not interested in getting any letters from Microsoft 
saying I'm out of compliance and have to update it as 
part of the terms of usage. I suppose the option is 
update it or remove it. I'd rather not have to face 
the choice. Traditional toolbars can be very well 
done and don't have any of these issues.
Comment by Ron Grove [] on December 2, 01:08

Updated Office UI Licensing 

Gotta agree with Thomas.  The Ribbon is ugly, bulky
and unintuitive.  I don't see why anyone would want to
use it over established, familiar design principles. 
If it actually improved the user experience, that
would be a different matter, but it doesn't.
Comment by Mason Wheeler [] on December 2, 01:20

Updated Office UI Licensing 

 As far as I know MS dos not hold a patent on Ribbon, which 
makes this whole license (which is about an idea as you mention 
right) very questionable. If you sign it you might be bound to it - if 
not there does not seem to be anything that MS would have 
against you in their hands ...
Comment by Olaf Monien [] on December 2, 01:54

Updated Office UI Licensing 

 Does anyone know if that license also applies to the
"Scenic Ribbon" used in Office 2010 (and other MS

I mean the ribbon implementation that does not use
that round file button.
Comment by Ralf Kaiser on December 2, 06:58

Updated Office UI Licensing 

Anyone has any idea how do we stand today with this
licensing? I tried to access the MS licensing pages
but they all return a "Page retired" message, and I
can't find any working pages from Microsoft regarding
this issue.
I need to know if I can use the Ribbon (Delphi XE) in
my commercial application (it does not mimic any of
their software, so no Word, Excel and so on...)
My app is a hotel reservation application.
Please let me know if you know anything.
Thank you
Comment by Calinutz on August 6, 00:01

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