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Play Ribbon Hero and hone your Microsoft Office skills

Hi! I’m Jennifer Michelstein, a Program Manager and casual games enthusiast in Office Labs. My current project is Ribbon Hero, which works on Vista and Windows 7, and in Excel, PowerPoint, and Word 2007 and 2010.

I think that Office has a lot of powerful features that can save users a lot of time and help them do some really cool things. When I meet Office users, I often hear them say things like, “I want to be more productive, but I don’t want to take the time to learn new features.” Then, I’ll watch them do something in 10 steps that could really take just 1 or 2. I love watching people’s reactions when I point out a quicker way of doing things. People often react by saying “Wow! I had no idea I could do that,” and that’s exactly where the Ribbon Hero idea came from.

Games for learning is an increasingly popular field that’s quickly gaining ground. When we started this project, we wondered if there was a place for games in Office. We set out to understand whether elements of game play (things like scoring points, competing with friends, and earning achievements) could motivate people to explore more of the app, learn new features, and ultimately become more productive. Could we do it in a way that fit well into the regular Office workflow, without being too much of a distraction?  By playing Ribbon Hero, would people feel like they’d increased their Office skill level?

How does Ribbon Hero work?

There are two ways to earn points. The first is simple – just by using the app. As you start using basic commands, like bold, italic, and underline, you’ll start earning a small number of points. As you use more complex features, like Styles or Style Sets, or combinations of features, you’ll earn even more points. But that’s just the beginning.

There’s a second way to earn points, and that’s by playing challenges. Click on the Ribbon Hero button to see a breakdown of your score (for example, how many points do you earn from Working with Slides versus Getting Artistic?). 

Ribbon Hero button in PowerPoint
Breakdown of Points in PowerPoint
Ribbon Hero button in PowerPoint

Breakdown of Points in PowerPoint

Ribbon Hero watches what features you do and don’t use, and then it recommends challenges for you to play, to hopefully expose you to new features.  The first time you complete a challenge, you’ll earn points. But then we want you to use those same features in the app (on another day) to prove you’ve mastered those features! You can max out a feature by using it twice, on two separate days – and only one of those times can you get points from playing the challenge.

Ribbon Hero + Facebook?

Ribbon Hero is the first Office Labs project to dabble with Facebook integration. From the Ribbon Hero dialog box, you can click the “Connect to Facebook” button. Enter your Facebook credentials, and voila! From the Ribbon Hero dialog, you’ll see a leaderboard showing your friends’ scores. Click on any friend to compare your overall score, and your score per challenge. (Hit the skip button a few times, and pay attention to the big blue circle to see who’s winning that challenge.)

Connect with Facebook button
Who's winning on a challenge
Connect with Facebook button
Who's winning on a challenge


After you’ve connected with Facebook, Ribbon Hero will also let you compare your score to the average score of all of your friends, the average score of all Ribbon Hero users, and the average score in your primary network. Better catch up and get ahead of the curve!

When you hit various milestones, Ribbon Hero will ask you if you want to publish those milestones to your newsfeed. This happens every 100 points you earn per app, every time you get a perfect score in one of the categories, and when you get a perfect score overall.  There is one limitation of the application for Office 2007 users: you can't get a perfect score, because there are new features on Office 2010 where you can earn more points. To get that perfect score, you can try out the Office 2010 beta, which is available as a free download here.

Sample Facebook post
Sample Facebook post


Learn More about Ribbon Hero...and give it a try!

You can find videos, a link to the installer, FAQ, and discussion forums here.

Give us feedback!

Visit the Ribbon Hero page, and post feedback in our discussion forums! We’ll be monitoring and responding in the forums listening to what you like, love, or flat out hate. 

Follow us on Facebook!

Become a fan of Ribbon Hero on Facebook, to stay in the loop about the project, updates, milestones, and more.

Tell your friends!

The more friends you have playing Ribbon Hero, the more fun it will be to compete.



interesting idea

The ribbon hero seems like a great idea to discover new features in the products.  In fact, it can even help make the transition to the new versions of Office for those of us still used to the old keyboard commands!

Quick question - first what kind of intelligence is baked into which challenges someone is recommended?  Are the challenges based on what I have done to date using Office products - for example, I may not have used pivot tables while doing things that would ideally be done using pivot tables. 

Good luck as you refine the product!
Abhinav667 at 1/19/2010 11:31 AM

Ribbon Hero & Office 2010 Beta

Although it appears to install, it will not run on Office 2010 Beta. The add-in is listed for each application. I place a checkmark in the box for the add-in so that it starts when the application is open. However, when I return to the add-ins, the checkmark is gone.
Willie at 1/19/2010 2:48 PM

Re: Interesting Idea

Hello Abhinav -
Thanks for your feedback!

The recommendation order of challenges is based on what you have and haven't done since you've installed Ribbon Hero. So, if you've used some features prior to installing Ribbon Hero, we don't have any awareness of that.  This means that starting out, everyone will see the same recommendation order of challenges, but the more you use Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, the better-tuned Ribbon Hero will be to your skill level.

Jen (Office Labs)
Jen (Office Labs) at 1/19/2010 3:20 PM

Re: Ribbon Hero & Office 2010 Beta View Item

Hi Willie -

It's hard to say what is causing this problem, but it's possible that you have another add-in that conflicts with Ribbon Hero in some way. Can you try unchecking some of the other add-ins from that dialog and enabling Ribbon Hero to see if that works? Let us know if this solves the problem; if not, you may need to uninstall and then reinstall Ribbon Hero.
Jen (Office Labs) at 1/19/2010 3:25 PM


“I want to be more productive, but I don’t want to take the time to learn new features.”

If you had any concerns about productivity you would have had the courtesy to provide a switch back option to classic menus and toolbars... so that people dont have to hunt for their features.
Trivial things like the Start Button, Media player, Control Panel etc came with a "switch to classic view"... and yet a Productivity Suite like office 2007/10 does not.

This is something only a monopoly can afford...

Here is the Real Ribbon Hero...Lets you have the menus and the toolbars and / or the Ribbon


sameer at 1/19/2010 7:43 PM

Love the Ribbon

Just found this, will have to install and see if my score justifies my shirt slogan!

robincapper at 1/20/2010 12:36 AM

Sharing on My Site (SharePoint 2010)

Looks Great! We've been also playing around with connecting games and learning.
Any chance of sharing this on SharePoint in addition to Facebook? Can we create something to enable sharing on SharePoint 2010's My Sites?
Pauli at 1/20/2010 1:00 AM

Works on Win XP

Hi, I've just tested the application and it works on Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2
PetLahev at 1/20/2010 2:37 AM

GREAT idea

We got games to teach use of  mouse so why not games to teach new applications.
A few too many of the challenges don't work or won't let you pick up any points in 2007 which is very frustrating.  Having said that I've been using Office since the start and in 30 minutes trying Ribbon Her I've found things I didn't know existed in 2007
Dave2649 at 1/20/2010 4:23 AM

Integration with SP and OCS

Ribbon Hero seems like a great idea!

I agree with the other post that integration into SharePoint would be useful in a corporate environment - we block Facebook in our organization.

Maria at 1/20/2010 6:31 AM

Excellent idea

Wish you all success in this project!
Victor Kalashnikov at 1/20/2010 6:38 AM

Answers and Feedback

Thanks for all of the feedback and questions. A few answers and responses to what's been posted so far.

Sharing scores via SharePoint - it's a great suggestion and something we're taking into consideration.

Win XP - This wasn't one of the OSes we targeted, but we've heard that people have been able to successfully install it on Win XP. Glad you are able to start using it!

Challenges not picking up points in 2007 - We tend to reward points for the fastest way of doing something. This usually means that if there are a few ways of completing a task (e.g. keyboard shortcut, ribbon button, right-click menu, and dialog box), we might award the first three but not the fourth if it requires extra clicks. You can always ask for a hint in the taskpane to see which way we recommend completing a task. If you think your method is just as efficient, please tell us how you completed the task, on discussion forms at the bottom of the project page:

Jen (Office Labs) at 1/20/2010 6:53 AM

Doesn't mean the Ribbon isn't working

It has been suggested all over the web that Ribbon Hero signifies the Ribbon is a failure and going back to menus, submenus, context menus, hidden menus, secret menus, and battleship-gray dialog boxes is the way to go.

There is no Menu Hero to compare with Ribbon Hero, so empirically, we can not say the menus are a success and the ribbon is a failure BECAUSE OF Ribbon Hero.

No, all we can truly say is MSFT was inspired by a presentation made about using games as an inspiration for software design.  The presentation intriduced the concept of the "Princess Rescuing Application" and how damn boring everyone's favorite plumber-slinging-fireballs game would be if it were a dialog box in battleship-grey.

It debunked the idea that users want applications with oodles of menus that feel like a bloated Swiss-army knife.  Instead, look to how people learn from and are motivated to play games.

Games like World of Warcraft, modern first person shooters, and even Bejeweled or Farmville have complex interactions to master.  But PEOPLE MASTER THEM.  Why?  It's FUN.  There are various rewards handed out in these games (cool explosions, better loot, social rewards in Facebook, high scores, etc).

Ribber Hero is the manifestation of this ideal.  We can learn from games to help design user experiences that make people WANT to get their task done (instead of dread it).
cagomez at 1/20/2010 8:08 AM

Love it

I think this is a wonderful way to help people learn how to become more productive with the Office products and learn new ways of doing things.  Nice Work and I hope the concept makes its way into the Dynamics busines line.

One problem, I see the Word Ribbon Hero when I open Word, but do not see it when I open Excel.  Is there a way I can troubleshoot this?  Can I check a registry setting or something?

Thanks again, great project, I really like the concept!
edwardsdna at 1/20/2010 8:54 AM

Cool Add-In

Well, I really like this Add-In, but there are a few problems with the ... levels in Win7 and Office 2007 (both german versions).

For example the -paste in in same style- or how this was called. I can't find the dialog which is shown in the hint, not in the ribbon, nor on right mouse-click.
Also Word also freezes if I try to add the cover page while ribbon hero is activated.

So I've got two questions:
* Will it translated to german, or can it be done by myself (Little to advanced programming knowledge with C, Java, PHP, Lisp, ...)
* Is there somewhere a place where I can post the problems which appear, or can make some suggestions?

But, besides the mostly very tiny problems its quite cool and I found some nicer and quicker ways to do some work with office. And I learned them with quite a bit of fun
Emma (Germany) at 1/20/2010 1:10 PM

Install finishes but no button on ribbon

This sounds like a great concept for training on our upcoming roll-out.  Unfortunately I can not get it to install.  The install completes, apparently successfully, but there is no button on the ribbon in Word or Excel and I do not see a listing in Com Add-ins.  Since this there is not a support site for this add-in, am I out of luck?
Melissa at 1/20/2010 1:37 PM

No Ribbon Button?

If you are not seeing the Ribbon Hero button appear on the Home tab, please try the following steps:

in Office 2007:
Office button -> Word (or Excel or PowerPoint) Options-> Add-Ins. At the bottom of the Add-ins dialog box, choose COM add-ins from the drop-down, and click Go. Make sure there's a checkmark next to Ribbon Hero.

in Office 2010:
File ->Word (or Excel or PowerPoint) Options-> Add-Ins. At the bottom of the Add-ins dialog box, choose COM add-ins from the drop-down, and click Go. Make sure there's a checkmark next to Ribbon Hero.
Jen (Office Labs) at 1/20/2010 5:20 PM

No Ribbon Button

I'm having the same problem as Melissa: I installed Ribbon Hero, but I don't see the button. I looked at COM add-ins, but Ribbon Hero isn't listed there. Investigating further, this looks like a LUA/UAC problem.

I'm running Office 2007 on Windows Vista, logged in as a standard user. When I installed Ribbon Hero, I got a UAC credentials prompt, so I supplied the username/password for an admin account so that it could run elevated.

If I now run Word/Excel/PowerPoint with my standard account, I don't see the button, or the add-ins. When I ran them as administrator, I got a message the first time:

"Publisher cannot be verified. Are you sure you want to install this customization?"

I clicked "Continue", and the Ribbon Hero button then appeared. However, there's still no sign of it if I run those applications as a standard user.

So, I assume that the installation is user-specific, which means it will only work if everyone logs in to Windows as an administrator; that's certainly not the case in my workplace! I like the idea of Ribbon Hero, but unfortunately it's completely impractical for me to use it at the moment.

As a related issue, I think it would be a good idea for someone at Microsoft to digitally sign this add-in, so that it doesn't say "Unknown Publisher".
John Kirk at 1/21/2010 7:02 AM

Doesn't mean the Ribbon isn't working?

I couldn't agree more with an earlier post titled "Doesn't mean the Ribbon isn't working".


What used to be handy-dandy now takes playing "games" (if you could call it "game") to master? I bought Office to IMPROVE my productivity. Old Office was GOOD at it. Now with the RIBBONs, not only does my productivity goes down the drain, but now I have to invest lot of time playing GAMEs to gain back skills I already learned (with old Office) and was readily at my fingertip??? The ONLY reason I have to have Office is because of its monoply, the lack of no alternative. (StarOffice is a joke from usability/feature perspective. But now, with Google App, I CAN do many things I was only able to do with Office - still, Office is still needed, though not as often.)

Microsoft used to be the "Evil Empire". Now, for many, and good reasons, it's a joke/laugh-stock too. To name just a few:
- the ribbons, (not only in Office, but now in MANY other Microsoft products)
- search (msn-search, then live-search, then bing-search)
- messenger (msn-messenger, windows-messenger, live-messenger, now OfficeCommunicator?)
- Windows Vista (OK, Microsoft has "righted" the past wrongs with Windows7 - hey, that explains why Google and Apple are the new hotties, not Microsoft)
- IE7/IE8 (just try to open your "last IE sessions" in IE - how MANY clicks does it take? 3 or more, and you MUST first go to about:tabs!!! This is LONG LONG LONG after Firefox has been able to do it with 0 (!!!) clicks - you set it once and next time after your browser is restarted, you do NOTHING and ALL your previous tabs are automatically opened.)

For its own sake, Microsoft should really be thankful for its monoply on Office and Windows. Realistically, it does not take a lot of fiascos like Vista and Ribbons for its market shares to take significant hit, lose its dominance, and finally become irrelevant.
It will still take years, but it will happen - just a matter of time, esp. with Microsoft itself doing almost EVERYTHING it can to help:o

Frankly, has been pretty good - much better than before, though still not as good as good. At least it has many aspects that's better than Google (eg, sometimes its map/direction is better than G.)
But, I avoid using Bing like plague, before b/c its inferior quality, now because so many other, dominating Microsoft products are introducing jokes like Ribbons and Vista, seemingly with the sole purpose to make user suffer.

Give *one* reason to use Microsft product when alternative is available.  (OK, I do use BingCashBack - nobody doens't like money, right? But that doesn't attrack me to use Bing for search.)
Wayne2 at 1/21/2010 12:00 PM

HELP ! Error loading Ribbon Hero - Office 2010 (Beta) 32bit

I am running Windows 7 64bit v6.1 (Build 76000) and Office 2010 Beta 32bit.  Word 2010 ver 14.0.4536.1000 (32bit).
I have tried to remove and install multiple times with the same results.  When I start Word I receive the following error message.
"There was an error during installation. file:///c:/Program Files (x86)/Microsoft Office Labs/Ribbon Hero/RibbonHero.WordRibbonAddIn.vsto
The Handle is invalid. (Exception from HRESULT:0x80070006(E_HANDLE))"

I have intstalled on my Vista PC running Office 2007 without any issues.  Any help would be appreciated! Thanks in advance.
Phased Plasma at 1/22/2010 9:08 AM

RE: HELP ! Error loading Ribbon Hero - Office 2010 (Beta) 32bit

The configuration that you have is supported. One thing that you can try in to uninstall and then reinstall VSTO (v.3.0).
Jonas (Office Labs) at 1/22/2010 9:51 AM

Error loading RH

In the COM Add-Ins dialog I see the following for RH:

Not Loaded. A runtime error occurred during hte loading of the COM Add-in.

I've uninstalled and reinstalled. I'm running Vista with the 2010 beta. Any suggestions?
Machaira at 1/22/2010 10:19 AM

Error loading RH

In the COM Add-Ins dialog I see the following for RH:

Not Loaded. A runtime error occurred during hte loading of the COM Add-in.

I've uninstalled and reinstalled. I'm running Vista with the 2010 beta. Any suggestions?
Machaira at 1/22/2010 10:38 AM

Re: Play Ribbon Hero and hone your Microsoft Office skills

the tool is working for me: win 7 hp /32 bit with office 2010 beta.

BUT: Only as administrator, not as standard user. As standard user, the plugin is not available.
Tolomir at 1/22/2010 11:56 AM
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