A Ribbon Gotcha!

I ran into an interesting foible using the Ribbon in Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 today. I'm generally a big fan of the Ribbon in Office, but today it got the best of me. Hopefully this post will help you avoid this pitfall if you use it the same way I do.

The "gotcha" stems from the fact that I tend to use the Ribbon in "minimized" mode. I like this mode because it lets me reserve the vast majority of my screen real-estate for my content in my window, and I can still get at all the Ribbon stuff in a single click.

You see, one of my favorite features in Office is a thing called "format painter". It's a little paintbrush icon on the home tab. When you click on it after selecting some text, it will let you "paint" the formatting of the selected text on the next block of text you select. The thing I really like is that you can make it sticky by double-clicking. When you double click, you can paint multiple selections in a row, and then tap the <ESC> key to exit format-painting mode. This is useful if you like to type a bunch of stuff and then fix the formatting after the fact.

So here's the "gotcha". Normally, when you click a button on the Ribbon in minimized mode, it dismisses the ribbon back to minimized mode and lets you go on about your business. Unfortunately, this behavior doesn't seem to understand the concept of a "double-click". This issue conspires with the unfortunate placement of the format painter icon in Outlook – which overlaps the "Send" button in minimized mode. The result of these two things is that when you double-click format painter to make it sticky, the first click of the double-click selects format painter (in non-sticky mode) and dismisses the ribbon, and the second click gets sent to "Send", which in turn sends your incomplete email message.

Luckily, the workaround is simple – you can add format painter to the "quick access toolbar" using the Quick Customize Menu, and then you're free to format-paint in safety!