How To Customize the Office 2013 Ribbon


The Ribbon was introduced into Microsoft Office applications in 2007, and since then has grown to be an incredibly useful tool for getting things done in the Office Suite. With the release of Microsoft Office 2013, the Ribbon is more powerful than ever.

One of the major complaints about the Ribbon in the past was the lack of customization allowed. While the Ribbon could be customized to an extent, most of the items in the Ribbon were there to stay. The new Office Suite now gives you total control, allowing you to move items, hide items, and even give yourself extra tabs that can hold anything you want. In this post, we’re going to look at doing just that. Let’s dive into the new Office 2013 Ribbon and see what can be done to make it perfect for you.

Office 2013 Ribbon Basics

To edit the Ribbon in any Office application, all you need to do is right-click anywhere in the Ribbon and select Customize the Ribbon. Using Outlook 2013 as an example, this action brings up the following screen:


Here, all the features of the Ribbon can be organized and set to fit exactly how you want. As you can see, there are two main columns. Let’s check out what they do.


The Commands column is where all of the commands in each tab of the Ribbon live. Choose the type of command you wish to add to the ribbon, then choose where the commands will go.



The column on the right of the Commands window shows the different tabs available in the Office application you are using. You can expand the various tabs to see which commands are in each.


The default tabs can be hidden by un-checking the box next to each one. When you drill down into each specific tab’s contents, you will notice that you cannot remove default commands. This is so you don’t remove a vital function of the application.


Note the greyed out items. You can hide the entire tab as well as add new commands, but you can’t remove the existing default commands.

Adding New Tabs and Groups

One great feature for customization here is adding new groups to existing tabs and even adding new tabs. If you commonly use commands from 2 or 3 different tabs and hate clicking back and forth, just make yourself a new tab and put all the commands you use most frequently there.

To do this, just click the New Tab button at the bottom of the window and give it a name. Wherever in the list you are, the tab will be added. You can move the new tab up or down with the arrows on the side.


Now you can add all the commands you commonly use.


Click OK to see your new tab in the Ribbon.


As you can see, all my new items I just added are here. You can open up the Ribbon options and change the order, add new items, or delete ones you don’t want. It’s really that easy. This is a huge feature for me, since having everything I commonly do in one tab saves me a lot of searching. You could even make a tab with rarely used commands; the ones you use once a month and always forget where they hide when you need them!

Saving and Exporting the Ribbon

The saying goes “save well, save often,” and this is true for customizing the Office 2013 Ribbon as well. Once you get this all set up and ready to go you can save what you just did so if you ever re-install Office you have your Ribbon ready to go. This is also great if you’re using multiple machines. You can save the Ribbon and import it on other machines. Heck, you could make one for your parents with all their commands while at your place, email it to them, and let them import it!

To export your Ribbon, click the Import/Export button at the bottom of the Customize the Ribbon window and select Export All Customizations.


Type in a good name and click Save.


Now you have your settings saved. To import settings, just select Import customization file from the same drop-down menu.

If you totally fouled things up and need the Ribbon to go back the way it was, just click the Reset button and choose Reset all customizations to bring your Ribbon back to stock. So don’t worry about making mistakes. If you don’t like it, reset it!

A Few Office Ribbon Facts

Before we wrap this up, here are a few interesting facts about the Office Ribbon

  • Mother of the Ribbon – Love or hate the Ribbon, you have Julie Larson-Green to thank for it. Larson-Green joined Microsoft in 1993 and was an advocate for the Ribbon which was introduced in Office 2007. She wanted the Ribbon because she felt people did not use the software to its fullest because they could not find what they were looking for. I imagine the newest iteration in Office 2013 makes her very happy!
  • The Original Ribbon – As I mentioned above, the Ribbon came into place in the Office 2007 release for Windows, and the 2008 Release for the Mac.
  • The Secret of the Ribbon – There have been many talks and presentations on the Ribbon, but here is a great one from a Microsoft employee that talks aboutthe process used to come up with it.

Wrapping It Up

The more you use your Office applications, the more you will figure out what you need and don’t need in the Ribbon. Any time you have to search for a command, remember that and add it to your custom tab so you find it later.

There really is no wrong way to go about this. You bought the software, so make it your own! Play with it and fine-tune it to fit your personality and workflow.

The Ribbon is one of the most powerful additions to the Office Suite since its inception, so make the most of it and make your life a little easier!


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