Making the Most of the Ribbon

This article describes how to make the best use of the Merge ribbon user interface.

Information The ribbon can be a little disconcerting at first if you are used to the old-style Merge user interface on Windows XP. However, any discomfort will quickly dissipate as you become familiar with the ribbon.

Background

Newer versions of Windows (e.g. Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista with the Platform Update installed) support the ribbon user interface style, which Microsoft first introduced in Office 2007.

The Merge ribbon interface makes it easier to discover and use Merge features than the old-style traditional menus and toolbars. Much more functionality is made immediately available, and many ribbon items are labelled, making it easier to identify each item.

The Merge ribbon for text comparisons is shown below.

Screenshot showing the ribbon user interface

Information Though not labelled as such on Windows Vista and Windows 7, the dark blue button to the left of the Text comparisons tab is the File menu.

Another advantage of the Merge ribbon interface over the older toolbars is that only the commands relevant to the type of the current comparison (text, image, binary or folder) are shown.

The rest of this article describes some ribbon features that can help improve your productivity.

Quick access to new comparisons

The main Merge window contains a quick access toolbar. This contains icons enabling you to create a new text, image, binary or folder comparison with a single mouse click.

Screenshot showing the ribbon quick access toolbar

The contents of the ribbon will automatically change to match the type of comparison that you choose.

Ribbon items that are both buttons and drop-down menus

Some ribbon items, like New text comparison and Find in the Text comparisons ribbon tab, are both buttons and drop-down menus.

If you click on the icon of such an item, you will perform the action indicated by the text label. If, however, you click on the small downwards-pointing triangle, a menu you will appear, enabling you to choose additional actions.

Don’t forget to explore these drop-down menus when you are familiarizing yourself with the Merge ribbon user interface.

The screenshot below shows the drop-down menu associated with the Find item.

Screenshot showing the drop-down menu associated with the Find item

Minimizing the ribbon to save space

The ribbon can be minimized to save space. To do this on Windows 8 and up, use the arrow just to the left of the help icon, towards the top-right corner of the main application window. Otherwise, choose the menu item shown in the screenshot below:

Screenshot showing how to minimize the ribbon

When minimized, the content ribbon is normally hidden. It only appears when you click the ribbon tab names. This is what Merge looks like when the ribbon is minimized:

Screenshot showing the Merge with the ribbon minimized

When minimized, the ribbon takes up far less space than the menu and toolbars on Windows XP.

Controlling the ribbon using the keyboard

Merge provides full support for choosing items in the ribbon using only the keyboard. Of course, Merge also continues to support the file and folder comparison keyboard shortcuts (other than those for choosing menu items) that you may already know.

If you consistently use the keyboard for particular operations, you will start to remember the relevant key sequences. Once you have, you will be able to control Merge much more quickly than is possible using just the mouse.

The ribbon makes it very easy to discover the appropriate key sequences. As an example, open the sample text files supplied with Merge in a two-way text comparison (see Comparing Text Files (or Typed/Pasted Text) for how to do this).

Next, press and release the Alt key. The ribbon will now be annotated with the keys that you can press next:

Screenshot showing the ribbon annotated with keys

You can immediately see that:

  • Pressing the F key will choose the ribbon File menu.
  • Pressing the C key will choose the ribbon Text comparisons tab (think ‘C’ for ‘Comparison’).
  • Pressing 1, 2, 3 or 4 will create a new text, binary, image or folder comparison, respectively.
  • Pressing the Y key will bring up the online help.

Try pressing the C key to choose the Text comparisons tab. All of the controls in that tab are now annotated:

Screenshot showing the ribbon annotated with keys

Information If you press a wrong key, you can press Esc to take back that keystroke.

Some of the controls are annotated with two letters. Press B (for ‘Bookmarks’ – many of the keys are mnemonic). All of the two-letter controls starting with B are now highlighted:

Screenshot showing the ribbon annotated with keys

Press the T (for ‘Toggle’). The bookmark Toggle command is activated.

Information If you already know the first key (C, in this example) that you will press after Alt, you can also press it simultaneously with Alt. For example, you may press Alt+C (i.e. Alt and C at the same time), instead of Alt followed by C. You’d then need to release both Alt and C before typing the remaining keystrokes.

Ribbon adaptation to window width

Unlike a toolbar, the ribbon automatically adapts itself to the width of the Merge application window. If the window is wide, then all of the items on the ribbon are labelled, as in the screenshot at the top of this article. If you narrow the window somewhat, some of the labels will disappear:

Screenshot showing the ribbon in a medium-width window

Further narrowing the window will result in some of the ribbon groups turning into pop-up buttons:

Screenshot showing the ribbon in a narrow window

The ribbon on the Standard Edition of Merge

All of the screenshots in the Merge documentation show the ribbon of the Professional Edition of Merge. The ribbon of the Standard Edition is similar, except that the Merging group on the Text comparisons and Folder comparisons ribbon tabs does not contain the items relevant only to Merge Professional.