Using a Keyboard to Navigate and Select in Task Panes

by Avantix Learning Team | Updated August 26, 2021

Applies to: Microsoft® Word® 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019 and 365 (Windows)

This article is the third in a series of navigating and choosing commands in Word, Excel and PowerPoint using a keyboard. In this instalment, we’ll review working with task panes. You can use these keyboard navigation and selection strategies in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, Project and Publisher.

A task pane is a window in a Microsoft Office program that provides more options or commands. In Microsoft Word, examples include the Styles task pane and the Find or Navigation task pane. Some task panes open automatically when you select a specific command. You can also open a task pane using a keyboard shortcut or the Ribbon.

Recommended articles: Navigating the Ribbon in Word, Excel and PowerPoint Using a Keyboard and Navigating and Selecting in Dialog Boxes in Word, Excel and PowerPoint Using a Keyboard

Do you want to learn more about Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint? Check out our virtual classroom or live classroom courses >

Below is the Styles task pane in Microsoft Word:

Styles task pane in Microsoft Word 2010.

Controlling the focus

In order to work with the keyboard in a task pane, the task pane must have the focus (or be active).

If a task pane is open, you can switch to it by pressing F6 repeatedly until the task pane has the focus.

Cycling between areas in the program window

To move the focus to select the following areas of the window, keep pressing F6. This changes the focus in a clockwise direction as follows:

  • Active tab of the Ribbon
  • The document
  • Task pane
  • Another task pane (if open)
  • Status bar at the bottom of the window

You can cycle in a counter clockwise direction by pressing Shift + F6.

Navigating and selecting in task panes

Once a task pane has the focus, you can use the keyboard to navigate and select:

  • Move the focus between the task pane elements or areas by pressing Tab to move forward or Shift + Tab to move backward.
  • Use the up and down arrow keys to navigate within a gallery area in a task pane that has the focus (such as the Styles gallery in the Styles task pane in Word).
  • To select the first or last item in a gallery, press Home or End.
  • Activate a command by pressing Enter.
  • Press Shift + F10 to open a shortcut menu (comparable to right-clicking on an item). Use up and down arrows keys to navigate the menu and press Enter to select a menu item.
  • Press Ctrl + Spacebar to display the menu for the task pane.

Closing a task pane

To close a task pane:

  1. Press F6 until the task pane has the focus.
  2. Press Ctrl + Spacebar. A drop-down menu appears in the title bar of the task pane.
  3. Press C to close. You could also use the down arrow key until the command is selected and then press Enter.

Resizing a task pane

To resize a task pane:

  1. Press F6 until the task pane has the focus.
  2. Press Ctrl + Spacebar. A drop-down menu appears in the title bar of the task pane.
  3. Press S to resize. You could also use the down arrow key until the command is selected and then press Enter.
  4. Use the arrow keys to resize the task pane. Use Ctrl + arrow keys to resize one pixel at a time.
  5. When you finish resizing, press Escape.

Moving a task pane

To move a task pane:

  1. Press F6 until the task pane has the focus.
  2. Press Ctrl + Spacebar. A drop-down menu appears in the title bar of the task pane.
  3. Press M to move. You could also use the down arrow key until the command is selected and then press Enter.
  4. Use the arrow keys to move the task pane. Use Ctrl + arrow keys to move one pixel at a time.
  5. When you finish moving, press Escape.

Learning to use the keyboard to navigate and select can save time but is also particularly useful for those working with laptops or any user that has difficulty using a mouse.

This article was first published on December 31, 2014 and has been updated for clarity and content.

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More resources

3 Strikethrough Shortcuts in Microsoft Word

14+ Word Selection Shortcuts to Quickly Select Text

How to Create a Table of Contents in Microsoft Word

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