Whether you are new to using Microsoft Office 2007 or an expert, for some, learning to love the Ribbon is a bit like learning to love a trip to the dentist. At first you probably want to postpone the experience, but once you sit back and realise how painless it is, you'll wish you'd done it sooner. If using the Ribbon seems just too cumbersome and scary to contemplate, ask yourself if it's only the fear of the unknown rather than embracing a new experience that's putting you off.

The Ribbon is a fixed feature across the entire suite of Microsoft Office 2007 programs - so whether you're working with a spreadsheet in Excel, or a presentation in PowerPoint, it is easy to find commands in the same location - in the Ribbon at the top of each document.

In Office Word 2007, for example, the tabs group the commands together in one place for activities including inserting pictures and tables, etc. The Home tab provides easy access to the most frequently used commands. Office Excel 2007 has a similar set of tabs that make sense for spreadsheet work including tabs for working with formulas, managing data and reviewing. These tabs simplify accessing application features because they organise the commands in a way that corresponds directly to the tasks people perform in these applications.

The Ribbon, which is part of the Microsoft Office Fluent user interface, has been designed so that you can find a command quickly and easily. Commands are arranged in groups that are further grouped together under tabs. Each tab relates to a type of activity, such as editing or selecting a page layout. To reduce screen clutter, some tabs are shown only when they are needed.

Unlike toolbars and menus from earlier versions of Microsoft Office, you cannot delete or replace the Ribbon. It's a bit like having veneers that can never be removed. However, if you prefer to work on your document without seeing the commands and options on screen, it is possible to minimise the Ribbon and create more space.

To work without the full Ribbon view, you can keep the Ribbon minimised. To do this, click on the Quick Access Toolbar. The Quick Access Toolbar is located in the upper-left corner next to the Microsoft Office Button, or below the Ribbon. (You can choose to have the Quick Access Toolbar below or above the Ribbon.) Now, simply select the Minimize the Ribbon option, by doing this only the tabs relating to each group of commands will appear at the top of your document.

It's a useful exercise to gauge just how much you actually use the commands on the Ribbon by working in the minimised mode. Once the Ribbon is minimised, monitor how often you try to look for a quick, optical reminder of what you need to do.

To use the Office Fluent Ribbon while it is minimised, click the tab you need to use and then click the option or command within that tab. For example, with the Ribbon minimised, you can select text in your Microsoft Office Word document, click the Home tab and then in the Font group, click the size of the text you want. After you click the text size you want, the Ribbon goes back to being minimised.

To quickly minimise the Ribbon, double-click the name of the active tab, then double-click a tab again to restore the Ribbon. If you prefer to use keyboard commands, the keyboard shortcut to minimise or restore the Ribbon, is CTRL+F1. Another way to restore the Ribbon, is to again click Customize Quick Access Toolbar and select Minimize the Ribbon. Remember, you can still use the keyboard shortcuts while the Ribbon is minimised.

It's only a matter of time before the role of the Ribbon and the logic behind the layout leads to its acceptance. And when you learn to love it, you'll learn to smile at how little it hurt to use it.