Software

Two easy ways to customize the ribbon interface

If the ribbon doesn't provide easy access to the options you use the most, put them on the QAT or add a new group to the ribbon.

Most of us are acclimated to the ribbon (finally) but if the ribbon's still not working for you, you're not stuck. You can add options to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) or customize the ribbon (in 2010) for convenience or efficiency (or both).

For instance, one of the options Word users miss the most is the Styles control - that dropdown on Word 2003's toolbar that lets you apply styles with just a click or two. On the other hand, 2010's Styles gallery isn't quite as user-friendly. With that in mind, I'll show you two ways to add the Styles dropdown to the ribbon interface. We'll be working in Word, but you can use these same techniques in other Office applications.

Customize the QAT

The QAT resides in the top-left corner of the screen (or just below the ribbon). Add options that are hard to find, that you use often, or that aren't on the ribbon at all, such as the 2003 Style control. To add the 2003-version Style control to the QAT, do the following:

  1. Choose More Commands from the QAT's dropdown list.
  2. In the resulting dialog, select Commands Not In The Ribbon from the Choose Commands From dropdown.
  3. Find and select Style in the resulting list.
  4. Click Add (between the two lists).
  5. Click OK to return to Word, where you'll find the Style control on the QAT.

Create a custom tab

Another alternative is to create a custom group (or tab) if you're using Office 2010 (you can't easily customize the 2007 ribbon). It makes sense to add the Style dropdown to the Font tab by adding a new group, rather than creating a new tab. You can accomplish that task as follows:

  1. Click the File tab and choose Options. In the left pane, select Customize Ribbon. Or, use the QAT's dropdown, choose More Commands and then select Customize Ribbon.
  2. In the resulting dialog box, select Font under the Home tab in the Main Tabs list.
  3. Click New Group (at the bottom of the list). You can rename the new group if you like by right-clicking it, but we won't do that now.
  4. To add Style to the new group, choose Not In The Ribbon from the Choose Commands From dropdown.
  5. Find and select Style in the resulting list.
  6. With the new group in the Main Tabs list (still) selected, click Add. Doing so will add Style to that group's list.
  7. Click OK to return to Word, where you'll find the Style control in a new group on the Font tab.

In step 3, we added a new group to an existing tab. You could just as easily create a custom tab and add options using the same method described above. In addition, we didn't give the new group a name - that's something you might want to do. Simply right-click New Group in the Main Tabs list, choose Rename, and enter a meaningful name.

Adding a custom group (or tab) will impact the ribbon a bit, so be prepared. You might not like the result. You can also use the arrows to the right of the Main Tabs list to move the new group within the tab or to move the new tab on the ribbon.

You can use both methods to group your favorite options or to gain quick access to 2003 options that are no longer available via the interface. Deciding between the QAT and a new tab will be more difficult than making either happen!

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

12 comments
flhenry
flhenry

Move the QAT so it appears below the Ribbon. Then minimize the Ribbon which gives you back the real estate the ribbon occupies except for the Tabs. Then put the tools you use on a regular basis on the QAT. Let the QAT stretch all the way across your screen if it needs to. I think the Ribbon and the QAT are the best, easiest to use "toolbars" ever. It may take you a few minutes to set them exactly the way you want them to be but at least you have the complete flexibility to customize it for your work. Menus? You can have them!

hometoy
hometoy

I use LibreOffice, OpenOffice and Microsoft Office (2010) on Windows and Linux. Compatibility *is* an issue and not with "far-out" stuff either. If you are making fairly basic files it is fine, but once you get into any advanced features or some layout controls it is hit-or-miss. Don't get me wrong, I am happy there is competition that some people can use, and even Google Docs is an alternative depending on what you are doing with it. I use it frequently. There are features, though, in MS Office that the free (as in "freedom") do not offer that Microsoft does. In 2-3 clicks I can take any screenshot or clipping of a screenshot (website, image, programs, etc.) and place it into a Microsoft Office file plus edit (crop, overlay drawing shapes, boarder effects, etc.) while with Open/LibreOffice I have to go into a separate program to grab the snapshot. and the flexibility within the program is lacking and clunky. Would I like it if LibreOffice was more powerful and Microsoft Office-like? Yes. Would I pay for Microsoft Office on Linux? Yes. But until either happens, I'll prefer Microsoft Office 2010 at this point.

BRS
BRS

I have always hated the ribbon and was exceedingly grateful for Classic Menu and Classic menu helper to return to office 2003 a clip from their web site shows below. I guess I qualify as a 70 year old Luddite Shows classic menus and tool bars on ribbon of Microsoft Office 2010 and 2013. You won't need training after upgrading to Office 2010/2013. Save training costs. All new commands of Office 2010 and 2013 have been added into the classic user interface. It is easy to deploy in your enterprise or organization. Supports 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Office 2010 and 2013. Supports all languages that supported by Microsoft Office 2010 and 2013.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

since I've found the MS Office (MSO) ribbon uses more actions to use than the old style menu I don't use MSO but use Libre Office as it has the same look and feel of the old MSO and is free to boot. Also, unlike MSO, it even opens all the older .doc formats without screwing them over.

Ron_007
Ron_007

In 2010 you can't copy whole groups. If you copy individual commands you cannot recreate the original layout. I've seen a related tip about 2013. To get rid of the 1960 design, mainframe style UPPER CASE tab names you can create custom tabs. I just found that 2013 DOES allow you to copy whole groups from existing tabs. YAY!

blarman
blarman

I'd gladly pay for it.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Rather early in the discussion to be switching the topic, isn't it?

Ron_007
Ron_007

I re-read the tip and found a better way. Right click on the default tab name, select "Rename", and append a blank space to the end of the current (lowercase in the editor) name. When you return to the app you don't see the space and name reverts to upper and lower case! Yay again!

blarman
blarman

It's not for everyone - not many businesses I know use it - but you can't complain about the price. I highly recommend it for home users - it will do anything a typical home user needs to and it's free. No need to shell out $250+ for a program that eats your hard drive and can't function unless attached to the Internet. I use MS Office every day. It is the standard. But I REALLY don't care for the ribbon. I spend more time switching tabs on the ribbon than I used to spend using the drop-down menus. And it takes up less screen real estate (which on a 14" laptop is a big deal). Give me back the old menu, PLEASE!

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

the few format areas it's incompatible are less than the amount of incompatibility that exists between several versions of Microsoft Office. Even so, the only time the incompatibility shows is minor formatting when you send a file from one to the other without saving it in the specified MS Office variant the other person uses - and then you get the exact same format problems between MS Office versions anyway. For the majority of organisations if they used Libre Office within their organisation as a whole there would be no significant compatibility issues to worry about as they would only come when sending a file electronically out of the organisation as a MS Word document. Not everyone is aware there are options outside MS Office due the MS advertising. Also, bot everyone wants the ribbon and have significant issue with moving to the ribbon based versions of office. I know of two large worldwide organisations that have dumped MS Office simply because it was causing way too much trouble for the staff. They switched to Open Office and then Libre Office and have had no compatibility issues at all. In fact, the one area they expected problems has not occurred due to the fact they switched and now use the Open Document formats as their default as many European organisations now use the Open Document formats as default and MS Office has evidenced issues in that area.

billfranke
billfranke

Libre Office isn't MS Office, that's why. And not everyone likes Libre Office or Open Office or other brands of office suites simply because they're incompatible with MS Office. Regardless of how I feel about MS Office, I have no choice but to use it: all my clients use it and I need to be able to edit their MS Office docs without screwing up the formatting, which cannot be done when using other office suites to edit MS Word files. Irrelevant posts about topics other than MS Office aren't welcome and aren't helpful. They just demonstrate that you're a cheap troll.

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