GWKB1075 : Understanding the Microsoft Office 2007 Ribbon

Product: Microsoft Word
Author: Aaron Smith
Date Added: 06/21/2007
Last Modified: 06/21/2007

Beginning with Office 2007, Microsoft has implemented a new method of accessing commonly used tasks called the Ribbon. The ribbon is much like a tab control, and replaces the menu bar in applications such as Word 2007, Excel 2007, and when composing new messages in Outlook 2007.

Microsoft defines the ribbon as "a device that presents commands organized into a set of tabs. The tabs on the Ribbon display the commands that are most relevant for each of the task areas in the applications. For example, in Office Word 2007, the tabs group commands for activities such as inserting objects like pictures and tables, doing page layout, working with references, doing mailings, and reviewing. The Home tab provides easy access to the most frequently used commands. Office Excel 2007 has a similar set of tabs that make sense for spreadsheet work including tabs for working with formulas, managing data, and reviewing. These tabs simplify accessing application features because they organize the commands in a way that corresponds directly to the tasks people perform in these applications."

Ribbon Tabs

By default, when you open a new Microsoft Word 2007 document, the available ribbon tabs are: Home, Insert, Page Layout, References, Mailings, Review, and View. You can place focus on the first tab, Home, or the last selected tab simply by pressing the ALT key by itself. Once a ribbon tab has focus, you can use your LEFT and RIGHT ARROW keys to move between each individual tab item.

Ribbon Groups

As mentioned in the Microsoft explanation, tabs contain groups of commands that are related to each other. For example, one of the several command groups in the Home tab contains a group of commands that deal with using the clipboard (such as cut, copy, and paste). This group is appropriately named, "Clipboard." Once a ribbon tab has focus, you can press the TAB key to enter the first group in the selected TAB. When the Home tab has focus, pressing the TAB key moves you to the Clipboard group. Once you have accessed a command group, repeated presses of the TAB key will move you through the individual command buttons (again, in the Clipboard group, the individual command buttons would be Cut, Copy, Paste, etc.). You can easily move between the various command groups in the selected ribbon tab by using SHIFT-LEFT and SHIFT-RIGHT ARROW keys to move backward and forward respectively.

For example, in the Home tab, the command group located after the Clipboard command group is called Font, and contains various commands like font name, font size, bold, italic, underline, color, etc. Pressing SHIFT-RIGHT ARROW in the Clipboard command group will move you to the Font command group. Once in the Font command group, you could press the TAB key to move between the various commands. Pressing SHIFT-RIGHT ARROW again would take you to the next command group (in this example, Paragraph, which contains commands such as left/center/right justify, bullets and numbering, etc.). Pressing SHIFT-LEFT ARROW in the Font command group would move you back to the Clipboard command group.

Hot Keys

Both ribbon tabs and commands have quick keyboard methods that make executing common tasks a breeze. For example, say you have the common task of inserting citations into documents. Accessing the Insert Citation command the long way involves the following keystrokes: ALT (to focus the ribbon tabs), RIGHT ARROW four times (to select the References tab), TAB once (to focus the first command group), LEFT ARROW twice (to focus the Insert Citation button), SPACE BAR to access the Insert Citation menu, and then S for Add New Source. If you listen to Window-Eyes as you do those manual steps, however, you'll note the following when you focus the Insert Citation button: "Insert Citation, ALT-S, C, list drop down button." Now you know, in the future, regardless of where you're at in a document, you can press ALT-S, C to quickly access the citation list.

Getting More Command Information

Microsoft included comprehensive information about controls in what are commonly referred to as "super" tooltips. Window-Eyes will read all the information in a super tooltip when you press the Speak Summary hot key (CTRL-SHIFT-S by default). Using the Insert Citation example, rather than just hearing the words "Insert Citation" when you press Speak Summary, you will instead hear: "Citations & Bibliography group, Insert Citation, ALT-S, C, Cite a book, journal article, or other periodical as the source for a piece of information in the document. Choose from the list of sources you have created or enter information for a new source. Word formats the citation according to the style you have selected. Press F1 for more help."

Learning More about the Ribbon

Microsoft provides an excellent quick reference describing all of the additional components that make up the new ribbon user interface. For more information, visit the Microsoft Office Fluent user interface overview.