Ever have a toolbar just seem to disappear when using a favorite Microsoft (MS) Office application like Word, Excel, or PowerPoint? It can be frustrating trying to figure out where the toolbar went and how to get it back because toolbars can be hidden and shown depending on user preference. Or maybe the entire toolbar is visible or only parts of it, but it seems to jump from place to place rather than always being at the top of the screen. This is because toolbar placement is either docked to the top, side, or bottom of the application window, nested among other toolbars, or optionally floating anywhere within the window. Perhaps an unfamiliar toolbar is perplexing, this too is not really a problem just a matter of understanding how MS Office toolbars work. For an average user of Office, there are some toolbar facts that are good to know.

To show or hide a toolbar, do this easily with the menu option View. When the sub-menu appears, choose Toolbars. This will display a list of all toolbars available in the application open. Toolbars that have checks next to them currently display. To hide or show a toolbar, merely select it from the list in order to check or uncheck it. Another method to quickly show/hide a toolbar is to right-click on any open toolbar, including the menu bar to see the list of available toolbars. With either method, the selected toolbar can appear as floating or docked located wherever it was when it was previously used.

When a toolbar is visible, it can be moved to become a docked or floating toolbar to match the user’s preference. To move a docked toolbar, click and hold on the move handle (little dashed lines) on the left end of toolbar and then drag the toolbar to a new location. Locations can be docked at the top, side, or bottom of the application window or floating anywhere within the window. To quickly change a toolbar from floating to docked, click and hold on the title bar (blue area at top) of that tool bar and then drag the toolbar to where it will become docked.

A docked toolbar may be showing in the window but all the icons on it do not show. This is because several toolbars may be nested on the same a row or at the side so that more screen area for working is visible. If multiple toolbars are nested in the same area, the toolbars may be compressed so only the first part of each toolbar is visible. If the toolbar has more options available, it will have a drop-down at the end of that toolbar for accessing the other options. Click on the drop-down indicator arrow (points down or left depending on where toolbar is docked) to view the rest of the toolbar. For changing to/from nested toolbars, merely move the desired toolbars until they show up in the new location and display as preferred.

If an unfamiliar toolbar is displayed it could be confusing since there are so many icons on the various toolbars other than the menu bar. If it is unknown what an icon button is used for, then using the mouse, place the pointer on the toolbar icon in question but do not click on it. Wait about a second and a little tip box will pop up under the icon saying what function it is used for. This is especially helpful on those toolbars where there are only subtle differences in the icon images. Seeing a text description of what the icon does could prevent users from clicking on the wrong one and becoming even more confused or frustrated. If a tip does not appear, turn it on from the Tools menu, using Options, View tab to check to “Screen Tips” under Show.

An unfamiliar toolbar could also mean the toolbar was custom created by an advanced user. Advanced users of Microsoft Office applications can create custom toolbars. These user-specific toolbars can include already available application or may have buttons the user created with macros. Both the custom toolbar and macro options are complicated enough to involve multiple steps so it is not recommended that anyone other than an advanced user try to create a custom toolbar. Users desiring a custom toolbar should consult the application specific help on how to create “custom toolbar” or “macros.”

The average MS Office user can work more confidently by knowing these few things about toolbars. Understanding why a toolbar may be unfamiliar and how to work with it is helpful to user. Knowing that toolbars may be moved, docked, floating, nested, or hidden and how to change this is very valuable to Office users who like to set-up their own screen look when working with files. This means no more blocked area or the screen or disappearing toolbars when using a favorite application like Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.