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For Seniors: How to Work with the Office 2010 Ribbon

All Office 2010 applications have a common system of navigation called the Ribbon, which is a tabbed bar across the top of the application window. Each tab is like a page of buttons. To work in the Ribbon, click the different tabs, which gives you access to sets of buttons and features. Within a tab, buttons are organized into groups.

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Each Office application has a set of tabs for the tasks it performs. For example, Word has a Mailings tab that holds the commands for doing mail merges. Excel has a Formulas tab that holds the commands for setting up calculations.

You may find tabs that were added by third-party (non-Microsoft) software. For example, if you have a program called Adobe Acrobat installed, you may have an Acrobat tab in each of the Office applications.

The buttons and controls on the tabs operate in different ways:

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  • On/off toggles: When the button is selected (it turns orange), the feature is on. Each time you click the button, it switches between on and off.

  • Command buttons: When you click the button, the command executes. If you click a command button again, the command repeats.

  • Connected button sets: In connected sets of buttons, selecting a button deselects (cancels) the previous selection in the set.

  • Menu buttons: Buttons with arrows on them open menus or color palettes.

You can hover the mouse pointer over a button to see a pop-up box, called a ScreenTip, that tells the button’s name and/or purpose.

With some buttons that contain arrows, you can click anywhere on the button face — directly on the arrow or not — to open the menu or palette. With others, the button face and the arrow are separate clickable areas. Clicking the arrow opens the menu, but clicking the button face applies whatever setting was most recently chosen from the menu.

To tell the difference between the two types of menu buttons, point the mouse at the button. If you see a thin line separating the arrow from the button face, it’s the type where you have to click directly on the arrow to get the menu. If there’s no separator line, you can click anywhere on the button.

In the bottom-right corner of many of the groups is a small square with an arrow. Clicking this button opens a dialog box related to that group. The dialog box contains controls for every button in that group plus more options not available on the Ribbon.

At the far right of the Ribbon is a question mark button, the Help button. You can click Help at any time to open the Help system for the application you have open.

When you resize the application’s window so that the window is narrower than normal, or when you run the application on a computer that has low-resolution video settings, the controls on the Ribbon compress. Some of the groups turn into single buttons with drop-down lists for accessing the individual controls within that group.

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Above the main part of the Ribbon is the Quick Access Toolbar. You can add buttons for frequently used commands here. To add a button, right-click any control from any tab and choose Add to Quick Access Toolbar. To change the position of the Quick Access Toolbar, right-click it and choose Show the Quick Access Toolbar Below the Ribbon (or Above, if it’s already below).

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