Where Are My Command Buttons?!

From the Office Guy mailbag:

A: You’re not the first person who has had issues with this, so let’s start with the short answer.

It’s not that you’re doing anything wrong but is has to with how you are using your mouse. Sometimes when you need to just click your mouse once you end up double-clicking instead. In the Office programs, double-clicking on a Command Tab (Home, Insert, etc.) is by design meant to hide the Ribbon that displays the command buttons. The Command Tabs remain visible and if you single click on any visible Tab the Ribbon of command buttons will re-appear. However, when you then click the desired command button to perform an action, the Ribbon will disappear again. This is not a flaw in the applications, it is there by design.

But before I address why this feature exists, let’s examine the easiest (not only) way to fix this. Simply point to your mouse to any visible Command tab and double-click again and voila! Your Ribbons will reappear and stay on display and won’t disappear after you use them.

Now, let’s take a moment to examine why this is a feature by design and other ways to control how your Ribbons and Tabs are displayed. It comes down to 2 things:

  • Screen “real estate”

  • Focus

Office applications can run on a variety of devices and so screen sizes can vary greatly. If you are working on a laptop or tablet with a small screen, the Ribbons take up a lot of your precious screen real estate, so hiding the ribbons give your more room on the screen to view and edit the actual document. But even if you are working on a very large monitor you may find all those buttons to be distracting. If all you are doing is typing into your document hiding them allows you to focus more on the task of entering and editing data.

However, it should be noted that double-clicking the Tabs is not the only way to regulate the appearance of the Tabs and Ribbons. Since a lot of users do not routinely look at the corners of their screens, here’s something to look for in the upper right-hand corner It’s a button that looks like an arrow in a box. Hover your mouse on this button and you’ll see the screen tip indicating that this is the Ribbon Display Options button:

When you click on this button you’ll see the following menu:

The last two commands in the menu are the most common choices. The default setting is “Show Tabs and Commands”. The “Show Tabs” command if clicked will have the same effect as double clicking a Tab. The Ribbons will disappear, but the Tabs will remain visible and if you click on a Tab it will reveal the Ribbon, but after you use a command button the Ribbons will disappear again.

So, what about the top command in this menu “Auto-Hide Ribbon”? If you choose this option both the Tabs and Ribbons will disappear, and you would then have to point your mouse to the top of your application window and click to reveal the Tabs and Ribbons. Probably not the best choice because out of sight is often out of mind and it doesn’t really save that much screen space. Best to be able to see your Tabs even if you don’t need or want to see all the command buttons!

‘til next month,

The Office Guy

Recent Posts: