Most Word users need only a handful of fonts for their everyday documents, but they still have to scroll through dozens of entries on Word’s Font drop-down list to manually change fonts. One simple way to sidestep this tedious process is to create a custom toolbar with buttons for applying the regularly used fonts. You can show your students how to do this in a matter of minutes—and they’ll take home a timesaving trick as well as an understanding of Word’s toolbar customization features. To demonstrate the process, let’s set up a custom toolbar with buttons for applying three fonts: Arial, Impact, and Times New Roman.

Build the toolbar
Start by using the Customize dialog box to create a new toolbar:

  • Choose Customize from the Tools menu and click the Toolbars tab, if it isn’t already selected.
  • Click the New button. When Word presents the New Toolbar dialog box, type a name for the toolbar—let’s say Quick Fonts—in the Toolbar Name text box. We want this toolbar to be available to all documents, so leave the Make Toolbar Available text box set to (the global template).
  • Click OK and Word will create a tiny, empty toolbar. You may need to drag the toolbar to the side so that it doesn’t obscure the Customize dialog box as you work.

The New button in the Customize dialog box lets you insert a new toolbar.

Add the fonts
Once you’ve created the toolbar, you can add any desired fonts to it. In this case, you need to create buttons for Arial, Impact, and Times New Roman:

  • Click the Commands tab in the Customize dialog box.
  • Select Fonts from the Categories list box (it’s near the bottom).
  • Click on Arial in the Commands list box and drag that font name onto your new toolbar. Word will create a button called Arial and expand the toolbar to accommodate it.
  • Select Impact from the Commands list box and drag it to the toolbar, then select Times New Roman and drag it to the toolbar as well.

As you select fonts to place on your toolbar, you may want to show the class this tip: To quickly locate a font in the list, type the first letter of its name. Word will scroll to the first font whose name begins with that letter.

Let ’er rip
When you’ve dragged the fonts onto the toolbar, click Close to exit the Customize dialog box. The new toolbar will act just like one of Word’s built-in toolbars, and you can display it, hide it, and position it wherever you want. To try out the new buttons, select a portion of text and click each button on your toolbar to apply the corresponding fonts.

The custom toolbar works exactly like a built-in toolbar; just click a button to format selected text.

Office provides enough customization rope for novice users to truly hang themselves. They may inadvertently disable standard features, change the behavior of familiar keyboard shortcuts, or remove screen elements with no idea how to restore the original interface. How do you teach students to take advantage of Office’s flexibility without getting in over their heads? Send us an e-mail message and share your insights.