How to Customize the Office Ribbon

The Microsoft Office 2007 ribbon is customizable, but not nearly as much as the toolbars and menus in Office 2003.

PowerPoint ribbon with black skin
PowerPoint in Basic Black: Changing the skin in Word changes it in PowerPoint, too.

In this tutorial, I show you how to tweak the look and feel of your Office programs.

This is the third part of the Ribbon Series:

Now that you know how to use the ribbon, you may want to modify it to suit your own needs. Even though these changes are made in Microsoft Word 2007, they alter the look of most Office programs.

Customizing the Ribbon

There are not very many options available in Office 2007 for customization. This is probably one of the biggest complaints about the new format.

This article covers the customization options that are available within the Office programs. Advanced customization is only available using RibbonX, and XML-based Microsoft programming language.

The controls for customizing the ribbon are found on the Word Options menu, under the Office Button.

This first step explains how you can change the skin color in all of your Office programs.

How to change the color of the Office Ribbon

There are three Office 2007 ribbon colors available: blue, silver, and black:

The three Ribbon skin colors

Follow these steps to change the color of all of your Office 2007 programs:

  1. Click the Office Button.
  2. Click Word Options.
  3. On the Popular tab, under Color scheme, select the preferred color.Ribbon customization options

Remember, this changes the color scheme for all Microsoft Office 2007 programs, except Publisher.

The following customizations are also performed in the same Word Options window:

Showing the Mini Toolbar on selection

The Mini Toolbar is quite handy for formatting text on-the-fly. It appears as a faint image when you select text, then fully appears when you hover over it with the mouse.

The Mini Toolbar when activated

It takes a little time to get used the the Mini Toolbar but it is worth practicing. Once you get use to it, you can make simple formatting changes a lot faster than using the ribbon.

If you only use Word styles for formatting, turn off the Mini Toolbar so it doesn’t annoy you while you are working.

Enabling Live Preview

In my opinion, Live Preview is one of the best new features in Microsoft Office 2007. Live Preview enables you to see how formatting styles will look before selecting them.

I suggest you leave this option selected!

Showing the Developer tab in the Ribbon

For some reason, Microsoft engineers decided that macro and form controls should not be included in the ribbon by default. If you create or use Microsoft Word forms, macros, or custom templates, select to show the Developer tab in the ribbon.

Using ClearType

ClearType fonts are another change in Office 2007. Microsoft designed these fonts for viewing on a computer screen. ClearType fonts are crisper and cleaner, which is much easier on the eyes when you have to work at the computer all day.

image of same text with and without ClearType

The image shows text with ClearType and without. The text without ClearType looks a little blurry.

Changing the ScreenTip style

You have the option of not showing screen tips, showing screen tips without additional feature information, or showing full descriptions of features in screen tips. For beginners, I recommend you show the feature descriptions. Once you are proficient at using the ribbon, you can work faster by turning them off.

If you have ever had problems with the ribbon, you may want to check out the next part of the Office Ribbon Series: troubleshooting tips!

Go to Part 4 of the Ribbon Series: Office 2007 Ribbon Help »