How to customize the Ribbon in Microsoft Office

Learn how to tweak the Ribbon in Microsoft Office to organize and arrange it with your preferred icons and commands.

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Image: Hans Engbers

The Ribbon is the key way you work in Microsoft Office. Depending on what you're trying to do, the Ribbon will change to offer all the accessible commands for your current task or screen. But you're not stuck with the Ribbon as it is. You can customize it. You can add and remove groups and individual icons to and from the Ribbon. You can rearrange the icons in the Ribbon. You can also export your Ribbon customizations and import them to Office on another computer.

For this article, I'm using Office 365 and will use Word as the test subject. The process for customizing the Ribbon works the same with the past few versions of Office and across any Office application from Word to Excel to PowerPoint to Outlook.

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First, let's cover how the Ribbon works. Each Office application offers different sets of Ribbons depending on what you're trying do. A Home Ribbon offers general commands and features, a View Ribbon provides icons for changing the view of your screen or document, and an Insert Ribbon includes icons for inserting different objects and items. Each Ribbon contains a unique set of groups and commands for specific functions. Ribbons are also known as tabs since you click on the tab at the top of the screen to display a certain Ribbon.

Each Ribbon is arranged into sections known as groups to organize similar icons. One group may contain icons devoted to fonts, a second group with icons devoted to page setup, a third group with icons for styles, and a fourth group with icons for themes. When you customize your Ribbons, you typically want to keep icons with similar functions in the same group.

Open Word with a blank document. To reach the Customize Ribbon window, right-click anywhere on the Ribbon and select Customize The Ribbon. The right pane of the Customize Ribbon window displays all the current Ribbon Tabs for that application. Click the plus sign for a specific tab to see all the groups for that Ribbon. Click the plus sign for a specific group to see all the commands in that group (Figure A).

Figure A

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The left pane displays all the available commands you can add to a Ribbon group; by default, the window shows you all the popular commands you can add. Click the dropdown menu at the top of the left pane, and you can change the selection to Commands Not In The Ribbon, All Commands, Macros, and other items. To see the full array of features, change it to All Commands (Figure B).

Figure B

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One task you can perform is to turn off the display of a specific tab or Ribbon. Let's say you never use the Developer tab—just uncheck it in the right pane of the window, click OK, and that Ribbon is no longer visible. You can also change the order of Ribbons. Select a specific tab in the Customize Ribbon window and click the Move Up or Move Down window. Continue to do this with various ribbons to adjust their order (Figure C).

Figure C

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Next, let's play with a specific Ribbon, such as the Home Ribbon. Click the plus button for the Home Ribbon to see all its individual groups. That group for Styles takes up a lot of space and perhaps is something you never or rarely use. Click the entry for Styles and then click the Remove button to remove it from the Home Ribbon (Figure D). Click OK, and now the Home Ribbon has plenty of extra room for other groups and icons.

Figure D

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Return to the Customize Ribbon window. Let's create a new group to use some of that extra real estate we now have on the Home Ribbon. Perhaps you frequently work with different views of your document and would like to have a group for View commands on the Home Ribbon. Select the entry for Home in the right pane and then click the button at the bottom of the list for New Group. Click the entry for New Group (Custom), and click the Rename button. At the Rename window, type a new name and select a specific icon for your new group (Figure E). Click OK.

Figure E

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Make sure the View Group is selected in the right pane. Change the dropdown menu in the left pane to display All Commands. Scroll down the list, select the command for View Whole Page, and then click the button to Add. Select other View commands in the left pane, such as View Side By Side, View Zoom200, and View Zoom75. Add each one to your new Views group (Figure F). Click OK.

Figure F

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Make sure the Home Ribbon is selected, and you'll see your new View group with the icons you added (Figure G).

Figure G

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There are two more tasks you can perform based on whether you like your new Ribbon design. Return to the Customize Ribbon window. If you aren't happy with your changes and would like to undo them, click the Reset Button and choose to reset only your currently selected Ribbon or all the customizations you've made (Figure H).

Figure H

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If you're happy with the changes and would like to apply them to the Office application on another computer, click the Import/Export button and select Export Customization File. You can change the file name of the export file or keep the default name. Save it on a network or other spot accessible to the computer to which you want to apply the customizations (Figure I).

Figure I

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Launch Word on the other computer. Open the Ribbon Customization window, click the Import/Export button, select Import Customization File, and select the file you just created to apply your changes (Figure J).

Figure J

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