Customize the Office Quick Access Toolbar for specific files

Use this technique to offer specific commands and options that match a file's purpose.

Image: FlamingoImages, Getty Images/iStockphoto

When users require quick access to commands and options in a specific file, you can add them to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) for that document only. The result is a much friendlier document that supplies one-click access to the tools and commands users need the most. In this article, I'll show you how to customize the QAT for a specific document without altering the default QAT.

I'm using Office 365 Word 2016 (desktop) on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but this will work with all ribbon versions (although the instructions might be a bit different). All Office 365 desktop apps support the QAT, so you can apply this to Excel, PowerPoint, and so on. However, the QAT isn't relevant to the browser editions. There's no demonstration file, you won't need one.

SEE: Cost comparison calculator: G Suite vs. Office 365 (Tech Pro Research)

Out of the box

Before we start customizing the QAT, let's review it out of the box. As you can see in Figure A, the basic QAT offers only a few items: AutoSave, Save, Undo Typing, and Repeat Typing. AutoSave is specific to Office 365 subscribers. This feature is enabled when a file is stored on OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint Online. It automatically saves your work in the cloud as you work. It's disabled because the current file isn't saved in the cloud.

Figure A

The QAT has only a few options out of the box.

To add a command to the QAT, do the following:

  1. Click the dropdown arrow at the far right of the QAT and choose More Commands from the resulting submenu. The Word Options dialog (Figure B) defaults to the current settings.
  2. Use the Choose commands from dropdown to filter the commands visible in the list below.
  3. Select an item in the list (on the left) and then click Add to add that item to the QAT.
  4. To remove an item, select it in the list on the left and click Remove.

Figure B

The list on the list displays all the options available; the list of the right displays options on the QAT.

Notice the dropdown to the right—above the list of options that are on the QAT. The default is For all documents (default). That means the changes you make to the QAT will be seen in all documents, existing and new. However, the QAT is specific to the software; you can change it for Word without changing it for Excel, which makes sense. The two apps have very different commands and options. What's not apparent, is that control offers an option that lets you save changes to the QAT to the current document, and only the current document.

Modify the QAT for a single document

When you modify the QAT, you update it for all documents by default. By choosing another option, you can save additions to the QAT to only the current document. In this way, you can offer specialized macros and the built-in options that the users will need—you get to customize the tools to the document's purpose. There's an important distinction here though. Notice that I said additions. If you delete an item from the QAT, you delete it from the default QAT. You can add when customizing, but you can't delete to customize.

Now, let's add a few tools to a specific document as follows:

  1. Open a blank document and name it Formatting Guidelines. It doesn't really matter what you name it, but you'll want to note its name. It'll be important in step 3.
  2. Click the dropdown to the far-right of the QAT and choose More Commands.
  3. In the resulting dialog, choose For Formatting Guidelines.docx (Figure C). This is the file you saved in step 1. Doing so will remove all items from the list below. The original items will still be in the QAT though. Remember, you're working with commands that are specific to only the current document.
  4. From the list to the left, choose the commands that are most helpful for the current document's purpose and click Add to move them to the list on the right. For our purposes, it doesn't matter which commands you choose—simply move a few over.
  5. Click OK.

Figure C

Choose the current document and add a few items for the current document's custom QAT.

The resulting QAT, shown in Figure D contains two new commands, when Formatting Guidelines.docx is the current document. If you open a new blank document or an existing document, the QAT displays only the default items—the two commands you added above aren't available on the default QAT.

Figure D

The selected commands are now on the QAT for the current document only.

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

See also

About Susan Harkins

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.

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