The Microsoft Office Ribbon

The Microsoft Office Ribbon collects the tools used in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.  The tools you often use are located at the top of the screen. These tools are grouped into tabs, and each tab has a ribbon associated with it. In addition, at the very top is a toolbar known as the Quick Access toolbar. Depending on what you have selected, there may also be a context sensitive tab present. Each of these is labeled in the image below.

Within the ribbon, tools or commands are collected in groups. For example, the Clipboard group is to the far left, with the Font group and others following to the right.  Groups are separated by thin horizontal lines.

Shortfalls of the Microsoft Office Ribbon

The ribbon system is convenient. However, it can be confusing at times, because it will change appearance based on how wide the window is. If you have one of the Office programs open, try it and see. Another problem is that the ribbon might not even be visible. Look to the right hand side of the ribbon. In the image above, there is a small caret ^ symbol in the lower right hand corner. If you click on this, the ribbon will disappear. This saves some screen real estate if you are on a small screen. The ribbon will reappear when you click on a tab. To make it stay, click on the small thumbtack that appears in the lower right corner of the ribbon.

The ribbon system is also less than ideal because the tools you use the most often might be located on different tabs. For example, I often add page or column breaks when I am creating documents, so I need to jump back and forth to the Page Layout tab’s ribbon. Another annoyance is the fact that some tools are on multiple tabs. The page break tab, for example can be found under both the Insert tab and the Page Layout tab.

Microsoft has provided an option called “Customize the Ribbon…” that can help alleviate some of these problems. It isn’t perfect though, because the programs want to default to the Home tab. Let’s walk through the process and create a new tab with our most used tools.