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Custom toolbars in Microsoft Office

Get to the functions you use most with a single click

Microsoft Office's toolbars are a great idea - having single-click icons for the functions you use most frequently can save a great deal of time. But there's the rub: no two people use Office in quite the same way. The functions you want to have close at hand aren't necessarily the same ones that someone else might need.

Microsoft has done a pretty good job of anticipating what commands should go on the toolbars, and indeed what toolbars should be available. But if they're not quite right for you, the good news is that customising them is simple. And in all Microsoft Office programs you can set up one or more toolbars of your very own, providing quick access to the commands you use most frequently or those you don't want to have to hunt for.

It's easy to create a new toolbar. Click Tools | Customize, select the Toolbars tab, click New, and give your toolbar a name. Click OK and the new toolbar will appear.

You can now stock it with the commands you want. Assuming the Customize window is still open, click the Commands tab and find some commands that you want in your new toolbar. You can just drag a command from the right-hand pane (the one headed, helpfully, Commands) on to the new toolbar. Find the commands you want either by selecting the appropriate Category in the left pane, or by scrolling down the Categories list till you come to All Commands (which shows all the available commands in alphabetic order).

Once you've finished dragging and dropping, your toolbar is available for use. You can move it around the screen, and you can dock it with the other toolbars at the top of the screen. It should appear next time you start your Office program; it is doesn't, go to View | Toolbars and select it from the list there.

You'll find that when you add some commands to a toolbar, a name is displayed rather than an icon. That's simply because some commands don't have a preset icon. But there is a collection of usable icons that can be assigned to such commands if you want.

Locate the toolbar containing the text-only button you wish to change. Right click on it and select Customize. Now right-click on the button and choose Default Style; the label will disappear. Right click the now-blank button and choose Change Button Image. Take your pick from the selection on offer.

If you don't like any of the choices, click the Edit Button Image option instead to load a simple graphic editor. You can then design your own button from scratch. If you're not the artistic type, you might prefer to select one of the default images first, and then use the Edit Button Image option to tweak it).

The other useful option on this right-click list is Image and text, which will display both the icon and the text label for a command. This can be quite useful while you're getting used to your new toolbars (and your new icons) - you can always come back later to change your selections.

Just as you can create your own toolbar and include whatever commands you find most useful, you can also add, move and delete icons on any of the existing toolbars - including the standard Microsoft ones. Once the Customize box is on view, all the toolbars become customisable. You can:

Click and drag an icon to move it from one toolbar to another

Click and drag an icon into the document window to delete it from a toolbar

Click and drag an icon slightly to the right to create a divider between it and the icon to its left

Right-click an icon to change its looks and its name, or to attach a hyperlink to it

Click and drag to rearrange the grouping of its icons

A little time spent experimenting with customised toolbars could save you a lot of time in the future. So why not give it a go?

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What next?

We've produced a number of printed How to... guides, showing you how to do new things with Microsoft software. You can download or order them free of charge from our download centre.

The latest version of Micorosoft Office is packed full of useful features - and you can try it free. Find out more.

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