Office 2016 has been around for a while now, but lots of users are still trudging their way through out-of-the-box settings that don’t work for them. The suite is good, but it’ll be even better once you configure it to complement the way you work–instead of letting it create more work for you. In this article, I’ll show you 10 simple tweaks that will help you be more productive with Office 2016.

I’m using Office 2016 on a Windows 10 64-bit system. Most of these defaults are valid in older versions of Office, but the step-by-step instructions might vary a bit.

Note: This article is also available in the free PDF Make Office 2016 work your way by changing these default settings.

1: The Start screen

When you launch an Office app, it displays a list of templates and recent files called the Start screen. If you usually start with a blank document, you can bypass this screen as follows:

  1. Click the File tab and choose Options.
  2. Select General in the left pane.
  3. In the Start Up Options section, uncheck the Show The Start Screen When This Application Starts option (Figure A).
  4. Click OK.

Figure A

Bypass the Start screen.

Be sure to set this option in all the apps you frequently use–setting it in one won’t set it for all.

SEE: Build your Excel skills with these 10 power tips (free TechRepublic PDF)

2: OneDrive

If you’re using Office on a Windows 10 system, you might find the default to OneDrive annoying. The OneDrive app, built into Windows 10, synchronizes your files so they’re still available even if you’re not online. That means changing the default isn’t necessary to access files locally. However, if you’re not using OneDrive, you can disable it as follows:

  1. Right-click the OneDrive icon in the Notifications window (next to the clock in the task bar). If the icon isn’t visible, click the More arrow for additional icons.
  2. Choose Settings (Figure B).
  3. Click the Auto Save tab.
  4. In the Desktop, Documents And Pictures section, change OneDrive to This PC Only for the appropriate dropdowns, which is probably all three.
  5. Click OK.

Figure B

Disable OneDrive if you’re not using it.

Word and Excel also have a default file location that you can find via the Find tab. In the left pane, select Save and enter the path in the Default Local File Location control in the Save Documents section.

3: Comment font size

Most Office apps let you drop in comments, which can explain something or be collaborative in nature. However, Office doesn’t determine the font size for comments–Windows does. If you’d like to change the font size for comments, do the following:

  1. Type Control Panel into Cortana and click Control Panel (Desktop App) in the results.
  2. Click the Appearance And Personalization link.
  3. Click the Make Text And Other Items Larger Or Smaller link under Display.
  4. From the Change Only The Text Size dropdown, choose ToolTips and then choose a font size from the dropdown to the right (Figure C). You can also make the comment text bold.
  5. Click Apply and then close the dialog when Windows completes the change.

Figure C

Change the comment font size.

If you’re using an earlier version of Windows, look for this setting (Item) in the Advanced Appearance Settings via the Control Panel. Note that this change will be apparent in other ways, not just Office comments.

SEE: Windows 10 power tips: Secret shortcuts to your favorite settings (Tech Pro Research)

4: Default color scheme

As often as the color scheme changes, you’d think it wasn’t terribly important. But from the user side of things, it can be very important. The good news is, if you don’t like the default color scheme, you can change it–although there aren’t many choices. You can use any Office app to change this default:

  1. Click the File tab and choose Options in the left pane.
  2. Select General in the left pane.
  3. From the Color Scheme dropdown, choose the setting that suits you (Figure D).
  4. Click OK.

Figure D

Change the default color for Office apps.

This feature isn’t new, but there have been a few changes:

  • Light gray is gone.
  • Dark gray is different.
  • A new black theme is available to Office 365 subscribers.

You can also change the background by choosing an option from the Office Background dropdown.

5: Quick Access Toolbar

The Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) showed up with the Ribbon. It’s a quick one-click route to often-used features: saving a file, creating a new document, opening an existing document, accessing print preview, and so on. By default, it’s at the top-left of your screen. If you like, you can move it–at least a bit. From the QAT dropdown, choose Show Below The Ribbon. It’s a small change, but you might prefer the new location.

Along with the default options, you can add your own, in the form of macros. After writing a macro (sub procedure), select More Commands from the QAT dropdown. In the resulting dialog, choose Macros from the Choose Commands From dropdown, as shown in Figure E. Doing so will display all sub procedures in the list below. Select the macro in this list and click Add to move it to the QAT. Now, your macro is one click away. The QAT is unique to each app, but you’ll customize it the same way in each one.

Figure E

Add a macro to the QAT.

6: The Ribbon

As with the QAT, you can easily customize the Ribbon. To do so, right-click anywhere in the Ribbon and choose Customize Ribbon from the submenu. Doing so will display a dialog similar to the one in Figure E, but as you can see in Figure F, it’s specific to the Ribbon. With this dialog, you can remove commands you never use or group them differently to suit the way you work. You can create a new tab and add the commands you use most frequently. You can also add a group for macros. To learn how to customize the Ribbon, read Two easy ways to customize the Ribbon interface. The Ribbon is unique to each app, as the QAT is–but like the QAT, you’ll use the same route to customize the Ribbon in each app.

Figure F

Customize the Ribbon.

7: Office file formats

It shouldn’t happen, but it does–your system no longer recognizes your Office file formats. When you click on a file to open it, Windows complains that it’s an unknown program. Fortunately, the fix is easy:

  1. Enter Control Panel in Cortana and select Control Panel in the resulting list.
  2. Click the Programs link, then click Programs And Features.
  3. In the resulting list, select Microsoft Office 2016 or Microsoft Office 365.
  4. Click Change in the title bar. If prompted for an admin password, enter it and click Yes.
  5. In the resulting dialog, choose a repair option–Quick Repair should do–and click Repair (Figure G).

Figure G

Reset file format defaults if necessary.

8: Account settings

Recent Office packages list My Account settings via the File tab. You can quickly see your account settings, and there are a few you can change. Simply click the File tab and select Account in the left pane.

SEE: Windows 10 defenses open to 17-year-old Office bug, but Microsoft’s just fixed it (ZDNet)

The right side displays specific information, such as your Office versions, 365 information, your account email, and so on. The left side offers settings you can change, including the Office Background and the Office Theme, as you can see in Figure H. You can also upload a photo, enter information about yourself, or switch to another account. It’s so simple you might not realize its worth until you’ve tried it.

Figure H

Depending on your color theme, the default background might not be distinct.

The Account link at the top-right of the title bar also provides quick access. If you’re signed in, you’ll see the account name to the left of the minimize icon. If you’re not signed in, you should see a Sign In link. If you don’t see the selected background or the setting, you probably aren’t signed into your Microsoft account.

9: Live Preview

You love it or you hate it. I love it–I can see my choices without implementing them. What’s not to like? Apparently, it’s not a big favorite for some users. If you’re in that camp, you can disable it as follows:

  1. Click the File tab and choose Options.
  2. In the left pane, choose General.
  3. In the User Interface Options section, uncheck (or check) Enable Live Preview (Figure I).
  4. Click OK.

Figure I

Enable or disable Live Preview.

You’ll have to make this change in each of the apps you use, but you’ll make the change the same way in each one.

10: Language preference

It’s a small world, and our universities and organizations often need to support more than one language. Now, we all know that Windows regional and language settings determine how the interface communicates with us. But Office recognizes that these options won’t always be enough. Using the Office language preference settings, you can create content in a language other than the one you ordinarily use. This flexible feature lets you set different languages for editing (dictionaries and grammar checking), display, and help content. To find these options, click the File tab and choose Options. Then, choose Language in the left pane (Figure J).

Figure J

Out of the box, your language settings will match your Windows settings.

To change your default language options, add a new language using the Add Additional Editing Languages dropdown and click Add. Click Set As Default and reboot your system. To obtain display and help alternates, you might need to install a language accessory pack. Click the link below these options for more information. There’s a lot to offer.

Office your way

Office does a good job of anticipating the way the average user works, but there’s bound to be a tweak or two that will make you more productive. Don’t stop with these; if something is inefficient or annoys you, you may be able to find an option and change it.

Send me your question about Office

I answer readers’ questions when I can, but there’s no guarantee. Don’t send files unless requested; initial requests for help that arrive with attached files will be deleted unread. You can send screenshots of your data to help clarify your question. When contacting me, be as specific as possible. For example, “Please troubleshoot my workbook and fix what’s wrong” probably won’t get a response, but “Can you tell me why this formula isn’t returning the expected results?” might. Please mention the app and version that you’re using. I’m not reimbursed by TechRepublic for my time or expertise when helping readers, nor do I ask for a fee from readers I help. You can contact me at

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