The Office Ribbon secret decoder ring

I ran across this free Microsoft Office Labs add-in a while back, but it’s worth sharing again:

Search Commands

You know there’s a button for it, but you don’t know or remember where it is. If this ever happens to you, check out Search Commands. You can use this concept test today to quickly find the commands you need in Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010 Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Just search with your own words and click on the command you need.

Here’s an example. You want to change the default font used for new Word documents but you’re not sure where the command is located? Type in the search box and the command appears immediately, like this:


Click that result to go directly to the dialog box tab that contains the command you’re looking for.

This is ostensibly a power user’s tool, but it also works nicely for anyone who is having trouble making the transition from menus to the ribbon and tabs.

7 thoughts on “The Office Ribbon secret decoder ring

  1. I suppose this is nice, but doesn’t this say something about the usability of the ribbon?
    Call me old fashioned (as some have implied already: ), but I know (knew, anyway) how to find things in my old interface, thank you very much.

    As a software engineer and technophile who is generally very positive about technology developments, I use plenty of software day in and day out but have never considered the ribbon interface an improvement.

  2. I’ve been running “Search Commands” for a long time. Another great tool in Office Labs is “Community Clips”. You can “Record and Share” your Office file with another person. Best regards.

  3. @Wil S, You gave yourself away with the “software engineer and technophile” statement. You are the type that LOVES to twiddle with stuff. The ribbon removes the need to dig and twiddle for most folks. Not your thing, understandable. However, it is a vast improvement for the majority of computer users. Far too many technical folks don’t know how to allow others to do their own thing. As a person in the IT field, I’m one of few that understand my job is about people first, computers second. In that mindset, I’ve learned a lot about what people REALLY want in software. I think you need to consider that path too in your software work.

  4. @Scott, that’s a fair statement. But personally, I still find it easier to find things in well organized menus than on the ribbon. (FWIW, I also think Ed’s 100 year old newspaper analogy is deceptive because it doesn’t represent good categorization and nesting (hiding) of sub-menu items…). My earlier comment was really about that: the need for a search perhaps indicates that I’m not alone in finding it difficult to find things in the ribbon.
    At this point, my primary software work does not target the windows desktop. Perhaps if it did, I would be in a better position to evaluate the effectiveness of the ribbon interface.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s