Avoid Repetition: Customize Toolbars and Keyboard Shortcuts

contributed by Daiya Mitchell

If you find yourself constantly repeating the same menu actions, chances are there is a command you can move to on a menu or toolbar, or assign a keyboard shortcut, for easy access. Word nearly always offers multiple ways to do what you want, and there are far more predefined commands than just the ones on obvious menus or toolbars, including specific fonts, AutoText, and styles (and macros in versions before Word 2008, although Word 2008 does not let you control AppleScripts through the Customize dialogs).

In addition, if you don't like the Word 2008 toolbar setup, using custom toolbars can let you work around some inconveniences, such as that the Reviewing toolbar will only appear if Word thinks you need it for that document, and that the Standard toolbar cannot be undocked. But you can't turn off the Document Elements bar in Print Layout view, sorry.

Word 2008: to customize toolbars, use View>Customize Toolbars and Menus, or right-click the document toolbar. (If you have a one-button mouse, hold down control while clicking to right-click). To customize the keyboard, look under Tools>Customize Keyboard.

Word 2004 and earlier: both the keyboard and menu are available through Tools>Customize.

Protect Your Customizations!

By default, any changes to toolbars, menus, or keyboard shortcuts will be saved in the Normal template. Be sure to back up your Normal Template regularly if you are customizing these things. Location of the Normal Template.

In Word 2004 and earlier, you are advised to create a new custom toolbar rather than changing the existing ones, because new custom toolbars can be recovered from a corrupt Normal temple, but default toolbars that you changed cannot be recovered.

In Word 2008, this is still a good idea—but then you have to give up the ability to dock the toolbar in the document window. If you want to change a toolbar that can be docked, then be extra careful to back up the Normal template regularly.

Customizing a Toolbar

Simply drag any command from the Customize dialogs onto a toolbar.

A fake main menu bar (File, Edit, View, etc) will appear when you are in the Customize Toolbars dialog. You drag the commands onto this fake main menu bar, and the changes will show up in the real one when you close Customize Toolbars.

You can move commands from toolbar to toolbar—for instance, if you want to add the Reviewing features to another toolbar, hold down Option while dragging the command. This will create a copy on your new toolbar.

To change the appearance of a command on the toolbar, right-click the command and select Properties. The Customize Toolbars dialog must be open in order to select Properties. If using Word 2008, you will need to undock a built-in toolbar in order to access Properties. The change will persist when you re-dock the toolbar.

Finding the Right Command

In the Customize dialogs, the left column lists various categories, and the right column changes to show the commands under that category. Oddly, the All Commands category sometimes has commands that are not listed in any of the File, View, etc categories.

It can be quite difficult to figure out exactly what Word calls the thing you want to do, so the Customize dialogs requires some exploration and can be very frustrating. It’s often rewarding, however, and more you use it, the better you will be at guessing correctly, and the quicker it will become. Some versions have a space to show a description of the selected command, which is extremely helpful.

  1. You can get a complete list of commands by name by selecting Tools>Macro>Macros, where it says “Macros in”, select “Word Commands”, select the command called “ListCommands” and press “Run”.
  2. If you know the name of the command you are looking for, the alphabetical All Commands list is the best way to find it. You can navigate the long list by typing letters.
  3. If you are able to do what you want, but want to change the way you access it, the dropdown menu on the Undo toolbar icon will list Word’s name for a function, letting you find it in All Commands. Sometimes you may need to prefix that name with the appropriate category name (Insert, File, etc).
  4. If you know the keyboard shortcut but want to know the command name, pretend you are assigning any other function to that shortcut in Tools>Customize. Word will warn you that the shortcut is already assigned to “CommandNameYouWantedToKnow.”
  5. Use Help>Send Feedback in Word to request that MS add a search box to the Customize dialogs, in future versions.

More Information:


How to assign a Word command or macro to a hot-key

How to assign a Word command or macro to a toolbar or menu

Some Useful Keyboard Shortcuts


Word for Windows commands, and their descriptions, default shortcuts and menu assignments

Assigning custom button images to your toolbar and menu buttons

How to get a menu button that is assigned to a macro to display the keyboard shortcut on the menu

Mac users: Make Your Own Menu, from TidBits and TakeControl ebooks

Special Cases

How to stop the web toolbar from jumping up at you whenever you click on a page number in the table of contents

How to restore a command to a menu

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