Navigating an Office Application’s Interface

By Faithe Wempen

The Office 2013 interface in each program consists of a tabbed Ribbon, a File menu, a status bar at the bottom, window controls, and other common features. Microsoft Word is used as the example here, but keep in mind that these elements are all basically the same in every Office application.

The Start screen

New in Office 2013, a Start screen appears when you start an application. To bypass it and go to a new blank document, you can press Esc. Alternatively, you can choose to open an existing document or click one of the templates that appears to start a new document based on a template.

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Ribbon and tabs

All Office 2013 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. You click different tabs to access different sets of buttons and features. Within a tab, the buttons are organized into groups. The group name appears below the buttons.

When you point at a button, a ScreenTip appears, telling you the button’s name and purpose and showing a keyboard shortcut (Ctrl+L) that you can optionally use to select that command.

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Certain tabs and groups of tabs appear only when you are performing specific actions or working with certain types of content. These are called contextual tabs. For example, when you are working with a table, a group of tabs called Table Tools becomes available. There are two tabs in that group: Design and Layout. The Table Tools Design tab is shown here.

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The Quick Access Toolbar is the row of buttons above the Ribbon. It contains shortcuts to a few commonly used commands, and you can add your own shortcuts to it as well. You can right-click any command on the Ribbon and choose Add to Quick Access Toolbar.

One useful command that’s only available on the Quick Access Toolbar is Undo, which reverses the last action performed. Its keyboard shortcut is Ctrl+Z in all Office applications.

The File menu

In each Office application, clicking the File tab opens the File menu, also known as Backstage view. Backstage view provides access to commands that have to do with the data file you’re working with — commands such as saving, opening, printing, mailing, and checking its properties.

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The File tab is a different color in each application. In Word, for example, it’s blue. To leave Backstage view, press the Esc key or click the left-pointing arrow button in the upper-left corner. After opening the File menu, you can click a category on the left to see a different page of commands.

Moving around in an application

As you work in one of the Office applications, you may add so much content that you can’t see it all onscreen at once. You might need to scroll through the document to view different parts of it. The simplest way to scroll through a document is by using the scroll bars with your mouse.

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Scrolling through a document with the scroll bars doesn’t move the insertion point, so what you type or insert doesn’t necessarily appear in the location that shows onscreen.

You can also get around by moving the insertion point. When you do so, the document view scrolls automatically so you can see the newly selected location. You can move the insertion point either by clicking where you want it or by using keyboard shortcuts.

Here’s a summary of how to move in a document using the scroll bar. These are geared toward Word, but it’s similar in Excel and PowerPoint:

  • Click a scroll arrow to scroll a small amount in that direction. In Excel, that’s one row or column; in other applications, the exact amount varies per click.

  • Hold down the left mouse button as you point to the scroll arrow to scroll continuously in that direction until you release the mouse button.

  • Click above or below the scroll box to scroll one full screen in that direction if the document is tall/wide enough that there’s undisplayed content in that direction.

  • Drag the scroll box to scroll quickly in the direction you’re dragging.

And, here’s a summary of the ways you can move around in a document by using the keyboard:

  • Press an arrow key to move the insertion point or cell cursor in the direction of the arrow. The exact amount of movement depends on the application; for example, in Excel, one arrow click moves the cursor by one cell. In Word, the up and down arrows move the cursor by one line, and the right and left arrows move it by one character.

  • Press Page Up or Page Down to scroll one full screen in that direction.

  • Press Home to move to the left side of the current row or line.

  • Press End to move to the right side of the current row or line.

  • Press Ctrl+Home to move to the upper-left corner of the document.

  • Press Ctrl+End to move to the lower-right corner of the document.

Changing the zoom and the view

All Office applications have Zoom commands that can make the data appear larger or smaller onscreen. In addition, depending on what you’re doing to the data in a particular application, you may find that changing the view is useful. Some applications have multiple viewing modes you can switch among; for example, PowerPoint’s Normal view is suitable for slide editing, and its Slide Sorter view is suitable for rearranging the slides.

Zooming changes the magnification of the data shown on the screen. It doesn’t change the magnification of the application window itself (for example, the Ribbon), and it doesn’t change the size of the data on printouts. Zooming in increases the magnification, and zooming out decreases it.

Each application has its own views suited to working with the unique type of content it generates. You can choose a view from the View tab on the Ribbon, or you can click one of the View shortcut buttons near the lower right corner of the application window.

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