Navigating the Microsoft Office Ribbon Using a Keyboard
by Avantix Learning Team | Updated August 26, 2021
Applies to: Microsoft® Word® 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019 and 365 (Windows)
This article is the first in a series of navigating and choosing commands in Microsoft Office using the keyboard.
You have the ability to work in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint as well as many other programs using just your keyboard. This can be useful for those working with laptops or for any user that has difficulty using a mouse including users with disabilities (particularly those with mobility impairments). For those that use assistive technology such as a screen reader, Microsoft uses a standard called Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) so that users with visual impairments will be able to navigate in the Office programs. You can use these keyboard navigation strategies in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, Project and Publisher.
Do you want to learn more about Microsoft Word? Check out our virtual classroom or live classroom Word courses >
Showing or hiding the Ribbon
To show or hide the Ribbon, press Ctrl + F1.
Activating keyboard control in the Ribbon
You can use the Alt key to activate keyboard control in the Ribbon. Key tips will appear on the Ribbon as a small label or badge. You can also press F10 instead of Alt.
Below is an activated Ribbon in Microsoft Excel after the user has pressed Alt:
Choosing commands in the Ribbon using a keyboard
To choose commands in the Ribbon in any of the Microsoft Office programs using badge letters:
- Press Alt. Key Tip labels or badges appear on the Ribbon. One layer of badges appear at a time. Once you choose an option (a letter), then a new set of options appear. The Key Tip badges appear for the active tab.
- Press the appropriate badge letter to activate the desired tab.
- Press the appropriate badge letter to choose the command in the active tab.
- Press Enter to execute the command. If a drop-down menu appears, use the up and down arrows to choose the desired option and then press Enter. A dialog box may appear where you can choose the desired options (more about navigating in dialog boxes in Part 2 of this series).
- If you end up with the Key Tips for the wrong tab, press Escape to display the desired Key Tip badges again.
Below is the Ribbon in Microsoft Word after the user has pressed Alt:
Below is the Ribbon in Microsoft Word after the user has pressed Alt and then N:
Another way to use the keyboard is to move the focus through the tabs and commands. To choose commands on the Ribbon without using badge letters:
- Keep pressing F6 until the focus is on the Ribbon (the Ribbon is active). Key Tip labels will appear in the Ribbon.
- Press the right or left arrow keys until the desired Ribbon tab is active.
- Press Tab to move forward through commands on the active Ribbon tab or Shift + Tab to move backward through commands.
- Press Enter to execute the selected command. If a drop-down menu appears, use the up and down arrows to choose the desired option and then press Enter. A dialog box may appear where you can choose the desired options (more about navigating in dialog boxes in Part 2 of this series).
Inserting a page break in Microsoft Word (example)
For example, to use the keyboard to insert a page break in Microsoft Word:
- Position the cursor where you want to insert a manual page break.
- Press Alt. The Key Tips badges appear on the Ribbon.
- Press P to access the Page Setup tab.
- Press B to access the Break command. A drop-down menu appears with Page Break selected.
- Press Enter.
When a command is selected in the Ribbon, press F1 to display the Help dialog. If there is no Help topic associated with the selected command, a general Help topic will be displayed.
Key Tip behaviour
Although the layered approach to Key Tips means that each command in a program has a unique sequence of Key Tips, the same letter may be used on different active tabs.
If a dialog box is open that uses the same letter in a shortcut as a Key Tip, the dialog box “wins” or takes precedence.
In summary, since many users either can’t use a mouse or don’t use a mouse (such as laptop users using track pads), learning to navigate using the keyboard can make things a lot easier. For some users, the keyboard is their only method to navigate and select.
This article was first published on December 1, 2014 and has been updated for clarity and content.
Next article in this series: Navigating and Selecting in Dialog Boxes Using a Keyboard
Did you find this article helpful? If you would like to receive new articles, join our email list.
Our instructor-led courses are delivered in virtual classroom format or at our downtown Toronto location at 1 Yonge Street, Suite 1801 (Toronto Star Building), Toronto, Ontario, Canada (some in-person classroom courses may also be delivered at an alternate downtown Toronto location). Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to arrange custom onsite training or an online course on a date that's convenient for you.
Copyright 2021 Avantix® Learning
You may also like
Here are 5 different ways to quickly convert numbers stored as text to numbers in a Microsoft Excel worksheet. You can use a Smart Tag, Paste Special or …
You can use conditional formatting in Excel to highlight cells containing dates before today or within a date range before the current date. In a worksheet, you can use conditional formatting to highlight selected cells by filling them with a color based on rules or conditions. This type of formatting is helpful if you want to highlight past due dates such as invoices that are 30, 60 or 90 days overdue.
You can set up a PowerPoint slide show lo loop or replay automatically. A looping presentation can be used at events, trade shows or even in a reception area in an office. The easiest way to set up a slide show to loop is to apply automatic transitions and then configure Slide Show settings.
Microsoft, the Microsoft logo, Microsoft Office and related Microsoft applications and logos are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in Canada, US and other countries. All other trademarks are the property of the registered owners.
Avantix Learning | 1 Yonge Street, Suite 1801 (Toronto Star Building), Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5E 1W7 | email@example.com