So, I work on one of those applications with a million little modules and a menu with hundreds of options.

We'd like to simplify this since 90% of our users use 5% of the options on the menu and we've developed better ways for them to get at the features they use than even to use the menu.

With Delphi 2009 and Up, we (slowly) became interested in redesigning the toolbar to use the Ribbon provided in the Delphi VCL.

The guy who is designing it thought he could just replace the existing toolbar (which has always been directly under the menu, showing only the things the end user has the ability). It looks a little better and is nice because it has the parts of our program grouped in a much more comprehensible way.

However, it doesn't do anything to really benefit the program. I was thinking that it would be more useful to move the toolbar buttons on our specific modeless windows to the ribbon whenever the focus changes between windows. It would require a lot of reprogramming and retraining but might be worth it to unclutter all our screens.

So my question is, are there any examples of MDI programs making use of the ribbon interface? And do they use it more as a menu or a toolbar?

Can't show screenshots because of NDA, but I can make a mockup if necessary, although I think this is more of a question of proper use than proper design.

  • It's a few years since I played with the Delphi Ribbon but as far as I'm aware it's essentially the Office 2007 ribbon - as used by MDI apps like MS word/excel/etc 2007, where the ribbon updates accordingly to reflect state/context when you switch document...? Commented Jul 12, 2011 at 14:51
  • @Roger Is Word/Excel considered an MDI app? That's what I thought the difference was. We've got 10-20 different screens that would each need to have it's own controls on the ribbon. Commented Jul 12, 2011 at 15:07
  • 2
    Word defaults to one OS window per doc (SDI), but Excel defaults to MDI. In MS Word 2007 you can set it to using MDI via: The Office button at top left > Word Options > Advanced > Display > Show all windows in the Taskbar. If unchecked, you get true MDI. Commented Jul 12, 2011 at 15:34

2 Answers 2


AutoCad 2009 and up uses a ribbon for its multiple document windows. From what I've understood (I haven't actually worked in the program myself) it is used as more of a menu, but the ordering is a couple of hundred times (one user's opinion) better than the menus. And as you can see in the picture below, there's a second level of categories, like in Word but better structured and named.

AutoCad 2009


Without screenshots its difficult to assess what would work best in your case. To provide you with an alternative idea, the screenshot below shows a vertically oriented control panel that was inspired by the Ribbon (in this case, the application isn't a true MDI, but there are some parallels).

The control panel is used to show context-specific data as well as a range of controls. The controls on the darker region on the control panel change according to the current task. Its vertical orientation means that it takes advantage of modern wide-aspect monitors; independent toolbars can still be used without crowding out the screen. On a multi-monitor setup the control panel can be displayed on a separate monitor to free up yet more space.

enter image description here

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