When Microsoft first introduced the ribbon on their Office space, it caused quite a bit of division among those who spent all day working on productivity software. Some people loved it and others preferred the classic menu system which is as old as the graphical user interface itself.
In the end, the ribbon won the war and seems to be here to stay. Fortunately, even if you’re not a fan, you can customize the Microsoft Office ribbon to suit your workflow and needs.
Which versions do we use?
We use Office 365 as part of Microsoft 365. This means that the version on which these instructions are based is at the time of writing for the latest version of Office. There should be little (if any) differences in the way ribbon customization works, as all versions of Office are now essentially unified.
There is, however, one important exception to this. The Office Live version of the service offers no ribbon customization or even no ribbon at all. Like the Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides web applications, Office Live is a very condensed version of the desktop apps. Therefore, the instructions and information below only apply to current desktop versions of Microsoft Office.
How ribbons work in general
Ribbons are intended to organize software functions according to their general type. So features that are commonly used in conjunction with each other all share the same ribbon. In an application like Microsoft Word, you’ll see a ribbon for design, layout, academic references, and so on.
By default, Microsoft has done a great job of providing ribbons and ribbon features that will satisfy most people. If you’re just creating simple spreadsheets or writing the occasional essay, there’s little reason to fix what isn’t broken.
However, if you perform the same, very specific task sequences every day, you can speed up your workflow by fine-tuning which Microsoft Office ribbons are at your fingertips.
Ribbons are further divided into groups of related commands. For example, the Home ribbon has a group called “Font”. This has the commands related to font formatting all in one place.
Customization of the Microsoft Office ribbon therefore has two main forms:
- Add and remove entire ribbons.
- Customize the groups and commands that appear on a particular ribbon.
We’ll show you how to do both easily in Microsoft Office, starting with adding or removing entire ribbons.
How to add or remove entire ribbon tabs in Microsoft Office?
By default, Office doesn’t put all the ribbons on your screen in every application. There are actually entire ribbon tabs that you may not know are just a few clicks away.
To access the ribbon customization interface, all you need to do is right-click on an empty area of the ribbon and then select: Customize the ribbon† You see this window:
Here you see two columns. On the left we have the commands that can be added to ribbon tabs and groups.
These are not relevant at the moment, so let’s turn our attention to the right column below Customize the ribbon†
The drop-down list under the name of this column can be used to see all tabs, only main tabs, or only tool tabs. For now let’s just leave it alone Main tabs† As you can see, there is an entry for each of the tabs that you can see on the main screen of the Office app you are using.
Here we use Word, so a good example is the Review tab. If you uncheck the box to the left of the item and then . select Okaythe rating ribbon will disappear from the main Word window.
Go ahead and check or uncheck the boxes you want. Then select Okay when you’re done, your app will have only the tabs you really need.
Customize individual ribbon tabs
Now that you know how to delete tabs, it’s time to dive into the contents of each individual tab. First right-click on an empty part of the ribbon and then select Customize the ribbon†
Now let’s choose a tab to customize. In this case, that tab becomes House† Select the little plus sign to the left of Home. That will expand the list of groups within that tab.
Now select a group. In this case we select clipboard† Once selected, select the remove button between the two columns. Clipboard is removed from the Home tab.
You can also add groups to tabs. First make sure that the Choose commands from the drop-down list Gets up Main tabs† This is optional, but it does make it easier to figure out which groups and commands belong where.
Let’s get the . to expand Draw tab in the left column. Select Drawing tools then select To add†
The drawing tools are now added to the Home tab.
It is also possible to add individual commands, but they will have to be added to custom groups, so let’s see how those are created next.
Add custom tabs and groups
The last basic customization we are going to do is to create a custom tab and groups. Go back to the Customize ribbon window†
Select now New tab† You will see a new tab appear with a new group below it.
Select rename to give your tab and group a custom name.
Now you can use the instructions in the sections above to add groups to this tab. Of course, you can also add custom groups to existing tabs. You can also add individual commands to your custom groups from the left column of the commands listed.
This way you build a completely custom interface for your Office app of choice.
Import and export ribbon customizations
It would be pretty unlucky to spend a long time fine-tuning your ribbon, only to lose those settings. Whether it’s a hard drive failure, owning more than one computer, or buying a new one, you can easily export and import your customizations.
On the Customize the ribbon window, select the Import/Export drop-down list and save your current adjustment or load a previously saved adjustment.
It’s that simple.
Reset your adjustments
It’s great that you can change just about every aspect of the Office ribbon, but it’s also a little too easy to completely mess things up. The good news is that it’s easy to get your default customizations back. If you had the foresight to save your configuration, you can simply reload that customization file.
If, on the other hand, you just want to go back to how it was out of the box, select the reset drop-down in the customization window. Then choose to reset only the selected tab or all of them.
Now you know all the basics about customizing Microsoft Office ribbons. Go and make it your own.