How to Use the Ribbon Toolbar in Microsoft Word

Explore the Ribbon and learn how to use it

The Ribbon is the toolbar that runs across the top of Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and other Microsoft 365/Office applications. The Ribbon consists of tabs that keep related tools organized and accessible no matter what kind of project or device you’re working on. The Ribbon can be hidden completely, shown in various capacities, or customized to meet your needs.

Instructions in this article apply to Word for Microsoft 365, Word 2019, Word 2016, Word 2013, and Word 2010.

Woman working on laptop.

Explore View Options for the Ribbon

Depending on your current settings, the Ribbon will be in one of three forms:

  • The Show Tabs setting displays the tabs (File, Home, Insert, Draw, Design, Layout, References, Mailings, Review, and View).
  • The Show Tabs and Commands setting displays the tabs and the command icons.
  • The Auto-Hide Ribbon setting hides the tabs and commands.

If the Ribbon is currently hidden, a three-dot icon displays in the upper-right corner of the Word window.

  1. Select the Ribbon Display Options icon (which is located in the upper-right corner and is a small box with an upward-pointing arrow inside).

    Ribbon Display Options button in Word
  2. Select Auto-Hide Ribbon to hide the ribbon. Select the bar located at the top of the window to display the ribbon.

    Auto-hide Ribbon option in Word
  3. Select Show Tabs to display ribbon tabs only. Choose a tab to display the related commands.

    Show Tabs option in Word
  4. Select Show Tabs and Ribbon to display ribbon tabs and commands at all times.

    Show Tabs option in Word

To collapse the Ribbon to see more of a document, double-click any ribbon tab or press CTRL+F1. To expand the Ribbon, double-click any ribbon tab or press CTRL+F1.

Using the Ribbon

Each tab on the Word Ribbon has commands and tools underneath it. Change the view to Show Tabs and Commands to see these commands. If the Ribbon is set to Show Tabs, select a tab to see the related commands.

To use a command, find the command you want, then select it. If you aren’t sure what an icon on the Ribbon stands for, hover the mouse over it to see a description of the command.

Here are a few examples:

  • To insert a picture into a Word document, select the Insert tab and choose Pictures. Browse to the picture you want to insert, then select Open.
  • To start a bulleted list, select the Home tab and choose the Bullets icon.
  • To start a numbered list, select the Home tab and choose the Numbering icon.
  • To choose a design for the entire document, select the Design tab and choose the design you want to use.
  • To check spelling and grammar, select the Review tab and choose Spelling & Grammar.

Many tools work differently when text or an object is selected. To select text, drag the mouse over it. When text is selected, any text-related tool (such as Bold, Italic, Underline, or Font Color) is applied only to the selected text. If no text is selected, those attributes are applied to the subsequent text you type.

Customize the Quick Access Toolbar

The Quick Access Toolbar is located above the Ribbon. By default, it contains shortcuts to the Save, Undo, and Redo commands. Save time and become more productive by adding shortcuts to the commands you use most. For example, make it easier to work with documents by adding shortcuts to the New, Print, and Email commands.

To add items to the Quick Access Toolbar:

  1. On the Quick Access Toolbar, select Customize Quick Access Toolbar (the down arrow icon located to the right of the last item).

    Quick Access menu in Word
  2. To add a command, choose any command that does not have a checkmark.

    Adding items to Quick Access Toolbar.
  3. To remove a command, choose any command that does have a checkmark beside it.

    Removing commands from the Quick Access Toolbar.
  4. To see more commands and add items, select More Commands to open the Word Options dialog box.

    More Commands in the Quick Access Menu in Word
  5. In the left pane, choose the command you want to add to the Quick Access Toolbar.

    Word Options
  6. Select Add.

    Word Options with the Add button highlighted
  7. Repeat these steps to add as many commands as you want, then choose OK.

    Word commands with the OK button highlighted

Customize the Ribbon

Add or remove tabs from the Ribbon and add or remove items on those tabs to customize the Ribbon to meet your needs. As a precaution, don't make too many changes until you are familiar with how the Ribbon is set up by default.

Advanced users might want to add the Developer tab and other tabs to streamline Word so that it only shows exactly what they use and need.

To access the options to customize the Ribbon:

  1. Select File, then choose Options to display the Word Options dialog box.

    Word with the Options button highlighted
  2. Choose Customize Ribbon.

    Word options with the Customize Ribbon section highlighted
  3. To remove a tab, go to the Main Tabs list and clear the checkbox next to the tab.

    To add a tab, select the check box next to the tab to put a checkmark in it.

    Word Options with the Customization checkbox highlighted
  4. To remove a command from a tab, go to the Main Tabs list and select the plus sign to expand the tab.

    Ribbon Customization screen in Word with the tab expander highlighted
  5. Select the command.

    You might have to expand a section again to find the command.

    Customize Ribbon options in Word
  6. Select Remove.

    To add a command, go to the left pane, choose the command, then select Add.

    Ribbon Customization screen with the Remove button highlighted
  7. Select OK to save the changes.

    Customize Ribbon screen in Word with the OK button highlighted
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