Microsoft Office: Quick Access Toolbar: Productivity benefits, how to customize it

July 15, 2014

Based on a Writing Tip I wrote for my work colleagues…


Bottom Line: Spend a few minutes setting up your Quick Access Toolbar to save time in the long run

One of the things that happened when Microsoft Office 2007 applications, such as Word, changed to the ‘ribbon’ interface was that users couldn’t easily find the things they knew well in earlier versions of Office. Even with all the functions of the ribbon, it’s still hard to remember where a feature lives, or it’s time-consuming (and thus unproductive) to go hunting for a feature you use regularly by switching to a different tab on the ribbon, finding the icon, switching to another tab, hunting for another icon etc., or clicking through several dialog boxes just to turn a check box on or off.

Microsoft must have realised that this ribbon ‘hunt and peck’ process was unproductive because they implemented something called the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT). Some people use it a lot, but I suspect that many don’t even realize it’s there or that it can be customized to suit the way you work. By adding your own icons to the QAT, you don’t have to go hunting for features you use regularly. (Of course, keyboard shortcuts are even more productive, but not every function has a keyboard command associated with it, though you can add one – see the list of resources at the end of this tip.)

So what is the QAT? It’s that skinny toolbar that sits above your ribbon in Word and other Office applications. Here’s the default QAT in Excel 2007 – notice that it sits above the ribbon and has just three icons – save, undo, and redo (only available after you’ve undone something):


And here’s my customized QAT in Word – yes, it’s big! (click on it to see it full size):


Note: Your QAT in Excel is different from your QAT in Word, so changing your settings in one application won’t affect the other.

I have my Word QAT positioned below the ribbon so I don’t have to move the mouse quite as far – another productivity saving if you’re a heavy mouse user.

Many of the icons I use when editing a document are on my QAT – things like certain macros, styles list, the highlighter tool, the page margin tool, the next and previous buttons for header/footer sections, the option to keep the selected paragraph with the next one and another to add a page break before the selected paragraph, turn on/off track changes, switch from ‘Show Markup’ to Final’ view, etc. etc. If I had to select the correct ribbon, then the icon for each of these it would take me much longer to edit a document. By having my commonly used functions sitting on the QAT, I don’t have to hunt them down. As an example, if I’m checking headers and footers for each landscape and portrait section, I need the next and previous section functions (both on the Review tab), but I also need the page margin tool, which is on the Page Layout tab. By putting those three icons next to each other on my QAT, I’ve got them immediately available as I’m checking the sections.

On your QAT, you can:

  • specify whether you want the QAT to sit above or below the ribbon (‘above’ is the default; I find ‘below’ saves time)
  • add icons for your commonly used actions.


  1. Click the tiny drop-down arrow at the far right of your QAT [(1) in the screen shot below).
  2. Select which of the most common actions you want to show on your QAT [(2) in the screen shot below).
  3. Select whether you want your QAT to sit below the ribbon [(3) in the screen shot below); ‘above’ is the default.
  1. To add other icons than the very common ones, select More Commands ([3] in the screen shot).
  2. On the Word Options window (below), select a command group [4], then a command [5], then click Add [6] to add it to your QAT [7].
  3. Repeat Step 5 for all other commands you want to add.
  4. Once you’ve added your commands, you can rearrange them using the up/down arrows on the right of your QAT list.
  5. When you’ve finished, click OK. You can always change this list by following Steps 1 and 4 to 7 at a later time.


Finally, if you change computers, or want to put the same QAT that you have on your computer onto your laptop, or share it with someone else, then follow these instructions for copying your QAT: http://wordribbon.tips.net/T009920_Copying_the_Quick_Access_Toolbar.html

Other resources:

[Links last checked July 2014]




  1. Nifty little trick. As a writer and blogger, I hate spending time trying to find little icons that are always evading me. I’d rather focus on the writing and spend as little time as possible trying to find action buttons in word. This quick access toolbar thing is just want I needed. Thanks!

  2. Good article on the QAT. I didn’t realize you could move it below the ribbon – that’s useful as it lets you add more items.

    You have a styles list in your QAT. Is it the drop-down that shows the styles in their actual format (which I find almost useless) or the old-style list of just the names (like you could get in Word 2003). If it’s the latter, how did you get it?

  3. Hi Keith

    It shows the styles in their actual format, not just the names. And I got it by adding ‘Style’ from the list of Popular Commands to my QAT list.


  4. Thanks, Rhonda.

    I was afraid you’d say that. I have the same list in my QAT but it’s almost useless. What I do now, since I have two monitors, is to click the Styles button in the Styles pane of the ribbon and display the list on my second monitor. It’s not as convenient as having the unstyled drop-down list of styles that I had in Word 2003. I suspect that somewhere in the Word code, there’s a switch that can be flipped to get that list back.

    If I had the time, I’d try to write a macro. I shouldn’t be that hard.

  5. I added a custom tab to my ribbon with similar effect. The extra space lets me include the larger controls to directly edit the dimensions of a table cell or a graphic. I also don’t bother including anything I have a keyboard shortcut for – I’ll never click if I can key instead.

  6. […] Word, and put onto it all the main tools I use when I’m editing. Yes, I’ve still kept my Quick Access Toolbar, but now I’ve got all those main tools in one place. How I did it is based on this excellent […]

  7. […] Of course, if you use the Quick Access Toolbar, you could always add the Draft icon to that (see: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/microsoft-office-quick-access-toolbar-productivity-benefi…) […]

  8. […] Quick Access Toolbar: Choose from Commands not in the Ribbon, then Organizer. Post on how to add a Quick Access Toolbar button: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/microsoft-office-quick-access-toolbar-productivity-benefi… […]

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