Ribbon customization in Office 2010

A first in-depth look at ribbon ‘hand weaving’ in the next Office.

Microsoft’s second attempt at the ribbon interface is coming in Office 2010 and this time we’ll not be stuck with Microsoft’s ribbon – you can weave your own.

Office 2007 gave us the ribbon interface but no practical way to change it. There is a complex way to alter the ribbon using XML tools but nothing for the regular customer. The result is that paying customers are stuck with a ribbon configuration that Microsoft’s thinks best.

Office 2010 gives us ribbon configuration and, at first look, they’ve done a good job. You can alter existing ribbons, add new ribbons and generally rearrange things.

The ribbon interface has been extended in Office 2010 to all the main programs, Word 2010, Excel 2010, PowerPoint 2010 and also Outlook 2010, Access 2010 and OneNote 2010. The same customization tools are available in all programs.

The examples we have are from Office 2010 Technical Preview which could change before final release though that is unlikely.


Starting off

Click on the trimmed down Office button then options and then Customize Ribbon.

Office 2010 - Customise Ribbon main dialog.jpg image from Ribbon customization in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

All the ribbons can be changed both the ‘Main Ribbons’ that always appear and the ‘Tool Ribbons’ that show up as required (ie Drawing, Picture and PivotTable ribbons).


Drilling down

On the right side you can see the groups and icons for each tab on the ribbon, drilling down to details like the options beneath the underline button.

Office 2010 - Customize Ribbon - detail.jpg image from Ribbon customization in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

However these pre-supplied groups can’t be altered – notice that the Add and Remove buttons on the left are greyed out.


Hide a tab

You don’t need to delete a tab you don’t want to see. The check boxes next to each tab will hide or show that tab.


Moving around

Office 2010 lets you select a tab or group (but not icons etc within a group) and move it with the arrow buttons on right.

Sometimes it’s not the makeup of a ribbon that annoys as much as the choice of position. The prominent left-hand place isn’t always to a customer’s liking.

We’ve long complained about the prominence of the clipboard element on the left side of the main ribbon. Like most people we’ve learnt to use the keyboard shortcuts for cut/copy/paste so, despite what Microsoft surveys say , the left hand position is better held by another part of the ribbon.

Here’s how to fix that:

Find the group you want to move, click on it then use the up and down arrow buttons on the right:

Office 2010 - moving Clipboard group on ribbon.jpg image from Ribbon customization in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

You can move it to another place on that tab or onto another tab entirely.

It’s also possible to remove the group entirely however that’s probably not a good idea, you never know when you’ll need the previous ‘useless’ group. Either move the group ‘out of the way’ to the right or to another tab.


Adding a ribbon

Wanna really ‘pimp’ your Office ‘ride’? Add a ribbon .

Click on the New Tab button and a new tab plus initial group will be added to the ribbon. Right-click on each to rename them.

Office 2010 - Customize Ribbon - new tab and renaming.jpg image from Ribbon customization in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

(notice also that you can rename an in-built tab too)

You can position your ribbon anywhere along the strip.


Adding a group

You can add a group to any tab, custom or supplied. Here’s a simple group of style related icons:

Office 2010 - Customize Ribbon - new grouo on Home tab.jpg image from Ribbon customization in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

which looks like this on the Word 2010 ribbon. You can see a new tab, renamed Home tab and new group on the Home tab. The Apply Heading buttons could be better and different but this is beta software after all.

Office 2010 - Word ribbon with changes.jpg image from Ribbon customization in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com


Rename and more

Hiding under the Rename option for any command is the ability to change the icon too.

Office 2010 - Customize Ribbon - rename command also changes icon.jpg image from Ribbon customization in Office 2010 at Office-Watch.com

It’s nice to have a wider range of options than in Office 2007 though sadly there’s no obvious way to add more icons.


Reset

As you’d expect there are ‘reset’ options to return the ribbon to its ‘out of the box’ look. You can reset a single tab or the entire ribbon and Quick Access Toolbar.


Export / Import

Finally a most welcome addition are options to export your custom ribbons and later import them into another Office 2010 setup.

Not only can you easily copy your personalization to other computers you use, you can share them with others. Of course, once imported into Office 2010, people can tinker with it themselves.

At first look it seems like the export function will only export the entire ribbon and QAT, not just parts of it. However when you dig into the exported file you’ll see that it is an XML text file (which isn’t a surprise) that only lists the customizations. A copy of a ‘Word Customizations.ExportedUI’ file is below.

With an easy to read XML file available, we expect plenty of Office nerds to have fun sharing special Office 2010 customizations after some manual changes of the XML.

It should also be possible to edit the XML to leave only some customizations (eg Quick Access Toolbar only or a single tab).