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Office 2010: Match the Ribbon to Your Style

Debbi Landshoff

If your organization uses the Microsoft Office 2007 or 2010 suite of office productivity applications, you have no doubt encountered the Ribbon.

Introduced in the 2007, the Ribbon interface took the menus and toolbars of the top page navigation and reorganized them into tabs organized by activity types. This reorganization meant that you could have more of the commands and tools at your fingertips quicker, but it also meant having to learn where things live now. This article will discuss techniques for making the Ribbon more effective for your work.


Why Customize the Ribbon

If you’re finding commands hard to find in the Ribbon – or missing altogether – or tend to click back and forth between Ribbon tabs more often than you'd like, then this article is here to help.

Be a bit adventurous! Customize your Ribbon and the Quick Access Toolbar so they suit the way you work. Investing a little time now will not only save you a lot of time later, but you'll find your Office applications easier to use.

In this piece, we’ll guide you through an example of how to customize your Ribbon, based on common commands I use every day. These will vary from person-to-person, but the process for customizing the Ribbon is largely the same for different commands.

This article explains the customization process by showing the tasks performed to:

  • Create a tab for Outlook 2010 with commands used in my day-to-day work. I called this tab Debbi's Faves.
  • Add a few frequently-used commands to the Quick Access Toolbar.

Each task in this article builds on the one before. If you want to start with a simpler project, look for the tips that tell you how.

These examples are for Outlook 2010, but the techniques are similar for every Office 2010 application and many techniques can also be applied to Office 2007.

Help from Microsoft

We will take you through steps for our examples of how to customize the Ribbon, but also know that excellent Ribbon help is available directly from Microsoft in case you don’t find what you need here.

  • Video: Customize the Ribbon is a series of five videos that show you how to customize the Ribbon. Total run time is just under 10 minutes. Your browser needs Silverlight to show the videos.


Display the Window for Customizing the Ribbon

Right-click in a blank section of the Ribbon and choose Customize the Ribbon.

The Customize the Ribbon window opens. The tab selected (highlighted) in the right column is the one that is currently active in your application:



Experiment Safely With Import/Export and Reset

You can back up and restore your customizations or go back to the application's default settings with the Import/Export and Reset buttons at the bottom of the Customize the Ribbon Window:


Back Up Your Work

At any time, you can create a backup of the Ribbon and Quick Access Toolbar. Then, if you make some changes you don’t like, you can restore them to the state they were in when you made the backup. If you save each customization with a different file name, you can go back to any previous status.

  1. In the Customize the Ribbon window, click Import/Export and select Export all customizations.
  2. In the File Save dialog box, navigate to a folder where you want to keep all these customizations. Enter a file name that distinguishes this particular backup, and click Save.

Restore from a Backup

  1. Click Import/Export and select Import customization file.
  2. In the File Open dialog box, navigate to your customizations folder, select your file, and click Open.
  3. A confirmation dialog box appears with this message: Replace all existing Ribbon and Quick Access Toolbar customizations for this program? Click Yes.

Reset the Ribbon and Quick Access Toolbar to the Application's Default

  1. Click Reset and select Reset all customizations.
  2. When prompted to confirm, click Yes.

Reset a Single Changed Tab

  1. Select the tab.
  2. Click Reset and select Reset only selected Ribbon tab.
  3. When prompted to confirm, click Yes.


Create a New Tab

The buttons for creating tabs and groups are just below the tabs list, near the bottom of the Customize the Ribbon Window:


  1. In the tabs list, select the topmost tab, in this case Home (Mail).
  2. Click New Tab. A new tab and its first group appear below the selected tab:


    Tip: If you'd prefer to start with a simpler project, you can add the new group to an existing tab instead. Select the existing tab in the tabs list and click New Group. Skip steps 3 and 4 and then go on to Add Commands.
  3. Right-click the tab and click Rename. Type the new name in the Rename dialog box and click OK.
  4. The tab at the top of the list is the active tab whenever Outlook starts. To move Debbi's Faves to that position, select it and click the up arrow button at the right of the list.

Add Commands

In this task, you add commands to the new group without sorting or organizing. The number of commands you want to end up with depends on the width of your Outlook window, how many groups you have, the resolution of your screen, and whether it is okay with you that commands become a cluster of small icons when there isn't much room to display them. A good number to start with might be 15–25 commands.

  1. In list on the right side of the the Customize the Ribbon window, select New Group (Custom).
  2. In the left side of the window, choose Main Tabs from the Choose commands from drop-down list.

  3. The list of the left side now displays the tabs that are not contextual. Most commands you want for a custom tab are in this group. (Contextual or tool tabs appear only when they can be used. For example, Outlook's Meeting tab appears when a calendar item is selected.)
    In the list, click the plus sign next to each tab to show the groups in that tab. Then click the plus sign next to each group to show the commands in that group.
    Here is the Main Tabs view of the command list, with the New group expanded to show its commands:
  4. When you find a command you want, select it and click the Add>> button. The command shows up in New Group (Custom).
  5. Try other options in the Choose command from list. In these lists you might find commands that you weren't aware of, such as Translate Document, but might want to have available.
    Tip: At any time, you can click OK to close the Customize the Ribbon window and take a look at the new tab. Then you can reopen the window, select New Group (Custom), and continue adding commands. Don't try to clean up too much at this point (we'll get to that in the next task), but you can also remove unneeded commands by selecting them and clicking <<Remove.
  6. When you're done, click OK to save your changes.

Below is the list of commands I added to New Group (Custom) for this example.


Remember: I chose these commands because I frequently use them or they're tricky to find. Your list of favorite commands would be different.

This is the way the group shown above looks in the Ribbon:


The Office Fluid User Interface displays these commands as small icons without names. This is because there isn't enough room available in the space set aside for this group. The next two tasks will deal with this problem by moving some commands out of the Ribbon and into the Quick Access Toolbar and organizing the remaining commands into separate groups.


Move Commands to the Quick Access Toolbar

The Quick Access Toolbar is a single row of icons. Its default position is just above the Ribbon, next to the application icon:


Move Commands into the Quick Access Toolbar

  1. Right-click in the Quick Access Toolbar or a blank section of the Ribbon and choose Customize Quick Access Toolbar.
    The Customize the Quick Access Toolbar window opens. This window functions much like the Customize the Ribbon window.
  2. Choose the new custom tab (Debbi's Faves) from the Choose commands from drop-down. The left-hand list now contains a visual separator and all the commands from Debbi's Faves, in alphabetic order.
    Note: This list contains more commands than just those that were added to Debbi's Faves. That's because the Quick Steps and Move commands can be expanded to show commands like the Automatic Replies and Categorize & Move commands in the picture below.
  3. Select the commands you want to move, and click Add>>.
  4. To organize the commands, select commands and move them up or down by clicking the arrows at the right side of the list. You can also add a few separators, to create a visual separation within the Quick Access Toolbar.
  5. To ensure that there is enough room for the icons, move the Quick Access Toolbar to a position below the Ribbon. To do this, check Show Quick Access Toolbar below the Ribbon.
  6. Click OK. The new commands now appear in the Quick Access Toolbar and the toolbar appears below the Ribbon.

Tip: If you don't care what order the commands are in and don't want separators, you don't need to use the Customize the Quick Access Toolbar window. You can simply right-click the commands in the Ribbon bar and select Add to Quick Access Toolbar.

Move Commands Out of the Ribbon

  1. Open the Customize the Ribbon window and display the commands in New Group (Custom).
  2. Select each of the commands you added to the Quick Access Toolbar and click <<Remove.
  3. Click OK to save your changes.


Organize the Commands into Groups

There are still too many commands in this one group, so the next task is to organize them into several groups.

  1. In the Customize the Ribbon window, expand New Group (Custom) so you can see its commands.
  2. Right-click New Group (Custom) and select Rename.
  3. In the Rename dialog box, type a name that is appropriate for the largest group in this tab. Then, select the symbol that will appear if the window becomes so small that there is no room in the Ribbon to display this group, and click OK.
  4. For each additional group, click the New Group button, select the commands you want in this group, and click the up or down arrows to move them in the new group. Then, right click the new group and rename it.
  5. Establish the order of groups within the Ribbon by selecting them and clicking the up or down buttons.
  6. Establish the order of commands within groups by selecting them and clicking the up or down buttons. Below is the result:
  7. When you're done, click OK.

This is the Ribbon in place:



Next Steps

Once you start working with your custom tab, you will probably think of additional changes you want to make. For example, I added the Clear Flag command to the Open Items group, to simplify turning off reminders. As you go along, just remember to save your work so you can go back if you change your mind.