June 06, 2011

Quick Access Toolbar: Increase Productivity

Stephen Stine

Microsoft Word 2007 and several other Office 2007 programs feature a tabbed interface called the “Ribbon” that replaces the various toolbars that are available in earlier versions of Office programs such as Word 2003.

Multiple toolbars with different sets of menu commands are made visible on the screen simultaneously in Word 2003 by selecting them in the “View” menu. In Word 2007, only one Ribbon tab of menu commands can be visible at a time, which can result in a time-consuming process of searching and clicking through multiple Ribbon tabs and other menus to access commonly used commands. Several commands are in new locations: the font-and paragraph-formatting commands are on the “Home” tab; the “Hyperlink” command is now found on the “Insert” tab; the “Spelling & Grammar,”“New Comment,” and “Track Changes” commands are located under the “Review” tab; and the “New Document,”“Open,” and “Save As” commands are located on the menu that appears after clicking on the Office Button.

Another limitation to the Ribbon feature in Word 2007: Unlike the toolbars in previous versions, they are not customizable without using a third party add-in. Such add-ins include the Ribbon Customizer and ToolbarToggle, which creates customizable replicas of Office 2003 menus and toolbars for Office 2007 programs.

As an alternative to using a third-party add-in, users can customize the “Quick Access” toolbar, which is located to the right of the Office Button at the top of the Word 2007 window. By default, the Quick Access toolbar contains the “Save,”“Redo,” and “Undo” menu commands. Users can add other commands to the toolbar to enable quick access without searching multiple menus.

There are several ways to add menu commands to the Quick Access toolbar. Clicking on the downward arrow located on the right side of the toolbar reveals a menu that lists several commands that can be added to the toolbar. On that menu, click on the "More Commands" option, which opens a window, "Customize the Quick Access Toolbar and Keyboards Shortcuts," where users can add commands.

A second way of getting to this customization window is by clicking on the Office Button, then clicking on the "Word Options" button; from there, click on the "Customize" option. A third way of reaching the customization window is to right-click on the Ribbon and select the "Customize Quick Access Toolbar" option.

The "Customize the Quick Access Toolbar and Keyboards Shortcuts" window lists commands that are organized into categories. To add commands to the Quick Access toolbar, double-click on any of the commands in the left column, or highlight commands with the cursor and press the “Add” button. Users can remove items from their toolbar by double-clicking on commands in the right column or by selecting commands with their cursor and pressing the “Remove” button. If users want to remove all the commands they have added to the toolbar, they can press the “Reset” button.

Alternately, users can bypass the "Customize the Quick Access Toolbar and Keyboards Shortcuts" window altogether. Commands can also be added to the Quick Access toolbar by right-clicking on most any icon, button or menu option, and selecting the "Add to Quick Access Toolbar" option, if it‘s listed in the right-click menu.

Some commonly used commands to consider adding to the Quick Access toolbar include the “New,”“Open,”“Save As,”“Print,”“Insert Hyperlink,”“Spelling and Grammar,” “New Comment,”“Track Changes,” and “Compare Documents” commands. “Inspect Document” is another helpful command to add. That command is located on the “Prepare” submenu of the Office Button menu. For those not in the know, “Inspect Document” finds and deletes hidden metadata in documents.

By default, the Quick Access toolbar is located on the screen, above the Ribbon, on the same line as the document title display. As more commands are added to the Quick Access toolbar, less space is allotted to displaying document titles, making some document titles hard to read. To avoid this, right-click anywhere on the Ribbon and select “Show Quick Access Toolbar Below the Ribbon,” which will place the toolbar in its own row below the Ribbon, freeing up space for document titles to display in full at the top of the screen.

Besides using a customized Quick Access toolbar, users can access a limited number of pre-determined font-and paragraph-formatting commands via Word 2007’s non­customizable Mini Toolbar. The Mini Toolbar appears onscreen every time users right-click on the page area or when selecting text and moving the mouse, which some users may find distracting. You can partially disable the Mini Toolbar by clicking on the Office Button, then on the Word Options Button, and then unchecking the "Show Mini Toolbar on Selection" checkbox in the "Popular" commands category. The Mini Toolbar subsequently will not appear every time you select text—however, it will continue to appear whenever you right-click on a Word document page area.

This article first appeared in YourABA e-newsletter, a monthly publication distributed via email to all ABA members.  Learn more about the benefits of belonging to the American Bar Association.

Stephen Stine