libreoffice notebook bar gif

Microsoft Ribbon UI Coming to LibreOffice” shouted we last week, as we told you about the (experimental) ‘Notebook Bar; interface in testing in the latest development builds of LibreOffice, the hugely popular open-source office suite.

Lower the pitchforks; these changes are entirely optional

Today, The Document Foundation who steer the development of the suite, has shared a glut of further information on the GUI changes they plan to debut as an option — yes, these changes are entirely optional — in LibreOffice 5.3 early next year.

The succinct version is that, they feel, their user base needs a more flexible, adaptable user layout. That means catering to those who are used to modern office suites with contextually grouped menus, and those who aren’t.

In our initial post you may have spotted that LibreOffice is testing more than just one new UI: it’s testing 4 separate layouts, as the (rather marvellous) GIF shared by reader Amar S shared in the comments to post demoed (thanks again, Amar!).

LibreOffice’s MUFFIN

‘MUFFIN represents a new approach to UI design, based on the respect of user needs’

That’s where LibreOffice’s MUFFIN comes in.

All 4 of the new layouts are part of the tasty acronym MUFFIN. MUFFIN stands for “My User Friendly & Flexible INterface” — and if you hate tautologies you’re gonna want to avoid most blog posts discussing it as I’ve already seen people refer to it as “the MUFFIN interfaces” ;).

“The MUFFIN concept is … going to be available starting from LibreOffice 5.3 either as a standard or experimental feature: the Default UI (with toolbars), a Single Toolbar UI, the Sidebar with a Single Toolbar, and the new Notebook Bar (experimental).”

Why so many? The Document Foundation say it’s to cater to different clusters of user groups. The one-size fits all approach is broken; they want to build user interfaces that bridge the generational gaps (and user interface expectations) within its user base.

“[MUFFIN] represents a new approach to UI design, based on the respect of user needs rather than on the imposition of a single UI to all users, independently from their generation, PC hardware, and computer skills. Each generation has a different relationship with technology, and this means that a single UI capable of satisfying all users cannot be developed,” they explain in a dry, but insightful, marketing presentation.

libreoffice user generations

In many ways LibreOffice is taking a lackadaisical buffet approach to GUI; dish up the grub, but let users pick the meal they want.

It remains to see how many of LibreOffice users will take advantage of the tailored UI choices at hand, much less whether they’ll even discover that the new options are there to try! That said, LibreOffice users, be they faithful or fleeting, will surely recognise that the software suite needed some UI love. The open-source community has been working on streamlining and refining the “classic” interface for the past few release, and the arrival/announcement of MUFFIN doesn’t mean that’ll end, either.

It’s all about choice. A user interface that suits you. I like it. Do you? 

LibreOffice muffin