July's mailbag: Microsoft Office upgrade angst

Susan Sales Harkins helps a couple of readers find features they thought they'd lost after upgrading Microsoft Office.

Upgrading is a nuisance, even if you're excited about the new features you're getting. Skipping a version makes it worse because doing so often exposes problems that users can't unravel on their own. Usually, it's a loss of a favorite feature or a macro that no longer works. However, issues often arise even if you don't skip a versions - it's seldom an easy change. Here are two upgrade snafus from a couple of readers and their corresponding solutions.

How to use KeyTips

Rachel skipped Office 2007 and upgraded from 2003 to 2010. Many organizations did that. In Word 2003, she pressed [Alt]+i+c+b to quickly insert a column break. That combo no longer works in Word's ribbon versions and discerning the new combo isn't exactly intuitive. Fortunately, helping Rachel gives me the opportunity to share a quick tip with all of you: how to follow an interface-based keystroke shortcut in ribbon versions. It's the same as before - following the commands - but if you don't know how to get started, you're lost.

To get started, hold down the [Alt] key. That's what's missing for most users. They're used to holding down [Alt] while pressing a second key. During the discovery process in the ribbon versions of Office, hold down [Alt] without pressing any other keys, and Word, for example, will display a set of KeyTips.


KeyTips are alphanumeric characters that represent the key needed to execute a specific command. The row of numbers along the top represents the QAT tasks. For example, you could open a new document by pressing [Alt]+3. The row of alphabet characters represents the ribbon menus: F for File, H for Home, N for Insert, and so on. In Rachel's case, she needs the Page Layout tab, so she would press P. Doing so displays the Page Layout tab and that tab's KeyTips.


Rachel wants to insert a column break, so pressing B for Breaks is her next step. At this point, she can use the mouse to click Column, or press C. Similar to earlier versions, the underscore in the command name indicates that command's shortcut key.


Rachel's new keystroke combo for the ribbon versions of Word is [Alt]+p+b+c. If you keep your eye on the KeyTips after pressing [Alt], you'll have a trail of breadcrumbs to follow. You can't get lost! In addition, it isn't necessary to continue holding [Alt] - just press it. Once Word engages the KeyTips, press the appropriate keys to continue.

Lost AutoFilter

After upgrading to 2010 from 2007 (no version skipping) Kersey couldn't filter by selection anymore. To filter by selection, you select data, click a button, and Excel displays only those records that match the selected value. This problem had me scratching my head because Excel doesn't offer this type of filtering.

What had Kersey lost in the upgrade? He lost a customization, not a built-in feature. Excel will filter by selection, but you'll have to add the feature to the ribbon. To learn how to add AutoFilter to Excel's 2003, 2007, and 2010 interface read Add AutoFilter to Excel and filter data by selection. The steps for 2013 follow (they're the same as 2010):

  1. Click the File tab and then choose Options.
  2. In the left pane, choose Customize ribbon.
  3. Choose All Commands from the Choose Commands From dropdown.
  4. Select AutoFilter in the resulting list.
  5. To the right, click the Data tab and then click New Group.
  6. Click Move Up to position the new group right after the Sort & Filter group.
  7. With the new group selected, click Add.
  8. Click OK and Excel adds a custom group with the AutoFilter option.

Whether you're upgrading faithfully or skipping a version or two, you might meet a few challenges. Usually, features aren't really gone; the route is just different or as in Kersey's case, it wasn't a built-in feature at all.

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