In Office 2007, Microsoft debuted the Ribbon, a collection of icons at the top of the screen
that replaced the traditional menus and toolbars. The words above the icons are known as
tabs: the Home tab, the Insert tab, and so on. Most users find that the Ribbon is easier to
use than the old menu system; it can also be customized to make it even easier to use.
The Ribbon can be either hidden or visible—it’s your choice. To toggle the Ribbon’s visibil-
ity, press Ctrl+F1 (or double-click a tab at the top). If the Ribbon is hidden, it temporarily
appears when you click a tab and hides itself when you click in the worksheet. The title bar
has a control named Ribbon Display Options (next to the Minimize button). Click the con-
trol, and choose one of three Ribbon options: Auto-Hide Ribbon, Show Tabs, or Show Tabs
Ribbon Tabs –
The commands available in the Ribbon vary, depending upon which tab is selected. The
Ribbon is arranged into groups of related commands. Here’s a quick overview of Excel’s tabs:
Home – You’ll probably spend most of your time with the Home tab selected. This tab con-
tains the basic Clipboard commands, formatting commands, style commands, commands to
insert and delete rows or columns, plus an assortment of worksheet editing commands.
Insert – Select this tab when you need to insert something into a worksheet—a table, a
diagram, a chart, a symbol, and so on.
Page Layout – This tab contains commands that affect the overall appearance of your
worksheet, including some settings that deal with printing.
Formulas – Use this tab to insert a formula, name a cell or a range, access the formula
auditing tools, or control the way Excel performs calculations.
Data – Excel’s data-related commands are on this tab, including data validation commands.
Review – This tab contains tools to check spelling, translate words, add comments, or pro-
View – The View tab contains commands that control various aspects of how a sheet is
viewed. Some commands on this tab are also available in the status bar.
Developer – This tab isn’t visible by default. It contains commands that are useful for pro-
grammers. To display the Developer tab, choose File ➪ Options and then select Customize Ribbon. In the Customize the Ribbon section on the right, make sure that Main Tabs is
selected in the drop-down control and place a check mark next to Developer.
Help – This tab provides ways to get help, make suggestions, and access other aspects of
Add-Ins – This tab is visible only if you loaded an older workbook or add-in that customizes
the menu or toolbars. Because menus and toolbars are no longer available in Excel 2019,
these user interface customization appear on the Add-Ins tab.
The preceding list contains the standard Ribbon tabs. Excel may display additional Ribbon
tabs based on what’s selected or resulting from add-ins that are installed.
The appearance of the commands on the Ribbon varies, depending on the width of the
Excel window. When the Excel window is too narrow to display everything, the commands
adapt; some of them might seem to be missing, but the commands are still available.
Figure 1 shows the Home tab of the Ribbon with all controls fully visible. Figure 2 shows
the Ribbon when Excel’s window is made narrower. Notice that some of the descriptive text
is gone, but the icons remain. Figure 3 shows the extreme case when the window is made
very narrow. Some groups display a single icon; however, if you click the icon, all the group
commands are available to you.
Contextual tabs –
In addition to the standard tabs, Excel includes contextual tabs. Whenever an object (such
as a chart, a table, or a SmartArt diagram) is selected, specific tools for working with that
object are made available in the Ribbon.
Figure 4 below shows the contextual tabs that appear when a chart is selected. In this case,
it has two contextual tabs: Design and Format. Notice that the contextual tabs contain
a description (Chart Tools) in Excel’s title bar. When contextual tabs appear, you can, of
course, continue to use all of the other tabs.
Types of commands on the Ribbon –
When you hover your mouse pointer over a Ribbon command, you’ll see a ScreenTip that
contains the command’s name and a brief description. For the most part, the commands in the Ribbon work just as you would expect. You’ll find several different styles of commands
on the Ribbon.
Simple buttons – Click the button, and it does its thing. An example of a simple button is
the Increase Font Size button in the Font group of the Home tab. Some buttons perform the
action immediately; others display a dialog box so that you can enter additional informa-
tion. Button controls may or may not be accompanied by a descriptive label.
Toggle buttons – A toggle button is clickable and conveys some type of information by dis-
playing two different colors. An example is the Bold button in the Font group of the Home
tab. If the active cell isn’t bold, the Bold button displays in its normal color. If the active
cell is already bold, the Bold button displays a different background color. If you click the
Bold button, it toggles the Bold attribute for the selection.
Simple drop-downs – If the Ribbon command has a small down arrow, the command is
a drop-down. Click it, and additional commands appear below it. An example of a simple
drop-down is the Conditional Formatting command in the Styles group of the Home tab.
When you click this control, you see several options related to conditional formatting.
Split buttons – A split button control combines a one-click button with a drop-down. If you
click the button part, the command is executed. If you click the drop-down part (a down
arrow), you choose from a list of related commands. An example of a split button is the
Merge & Center command in the Alignment group of the Home tab (see Figure 5 below). Clicking the left part of this control merges and centers text in the selected cells. If you click the arrow part of the control (on the right), you get a list of commands related to merging cells.
Check boxes – A check box control turns something on or off. An example is the Gridlines
control in the Show group of the View tab. When the Gridlines check box is checked, the
sheet displays gridlines. When the control isn’t checked, the gridlines don’t appear.
Spin buttons – Excel’s Ribbon has only one spin button control: the Scale To Fit group of
the Page Layout tab. Click the top part of the spin button to increase the value; click the
bottom part of the spin button to decrease the value.
Some of the Ribbon groups contain a small icon in the bottom-right corner, known as a dia-
log box launcher. For example, if you examine the groups in the Home tab, you find dialog
box launchers for the Clipboard, Font, Alignment, and Number groups—but not the Styles,
Cells, and Editing groups. Click the icon, and Excel displays a dialog box or task pane. The
dialog box launchers often provide options that aren’t available in the Ribbon.
Accessing the Ribbon by using your keyboard –
At first glance, you may think that the Ribbon is completely mouse centric. After all, the
commands don’t display the traditional underlined letter to indicate the Alt+keystrokes.
But in fact, the Ribbon is very keyboard friendly. The trick is to press the Alt key to display
the pop-up keytips. Each Ribbon control has a letter (or series of letters) that you type to
issue the command.
Figure 6 below shows how the Home tab looks after you press the Alt key to display the keytips and then the H key to display the keytips for the Home tab. If you press one of the keytips, the screen then displays more keytips. For example, to use the keyboard to align the cell contents to the left, press Alt, followed by H (for Home), and then AL (for Align Left).
Nobody will memorize all of these keys, but if you’re a keyboard fan, it takes just a few
times before you memorize the keystrokes required for commands that you use frequently.
After you press Alt, you can also use the left- and right-arrow keys to scroll through the
tabs. When you reach the proper tab, press the down arrow to enter the Ribbon. Then use
left- and right-arrow keys to scroll through the Ribbon commands. When you reach the
command you need, press Enter to execute it. This method isn’t as efficient as using the
keytips, but it’s a quick way to take a look at the commands available.