Tiplet: Navigate Word’s Ribbon With Mnemonics

December 25, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Just a quick tiplet for now (after all, it’s Christmas!).

Microsoft provided a useful tool to help people work with the Ribbon in the newer versions of Word (and other programs in the MS Office suite): mnemonics. In the context of computer software, the term “mnemonics” (or “mnemonic”), derived from a Greek word that means something like “of memory,” typically applies to an underlined letter in the name of a drop-down menu; you can open a specific menu by pressing the Alt key plus the mnemonic (i.e., the underlined letter in that menu’s name). After you open a menu, you might notice underlined letters (mnemonics) in some of the command names. Once the menu is open, simply pressing a mnemonic — without also pressing the Alt key — executes a particular command.

With respect to the Ribbon, mnemonics operate a little differently. Pressing the Alt key by itself produces a series of mnemonics that appear as numbers or letters (or a combination of both) within white boxes. Initially, you’ll see letters below each tab of the Ribbon, as well as numbers designating icons on the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT).[1] The mnemonics for the built-in tabs [2] are:

Home Tab — H
Insert Tab — N
Page Layout Tab — P
References Tab — S
Mailings Tab — M
Review Tab — R
View Tab — W
Developer Tab — L
Add-Ins Tab — X

To bring a specific tab to the forefront, press the mnemonic for that tab. When the tab becomes active, you’ll see another series of mnemonics, this time representing commands on that tab. Tabs that contain groups with dialog launchers also display mnemonics that you can use to open a dialog box. For instance, if you press Alt P to bring the Page Layout tab to the forefront, you can launch the Page Setup dialog by pressing SP (without simultaneously pressing the Alt key).

Note that although the letter mnemonics appear in capitals, they are not case-sensitive.

To turn off the mnemonics, you can press the Alt key again or press the Esc key.

Another quick note about using mnemonics to navigate the Ribbon: Once you have activated a tab, you can use the arrow keys to move around within that tab (and execute commands). First, press the down arrow to position the cursor inside the tab.[3] The right arrow key will move the cursor from command to command, starting at the left side of the tab and moving rightward. (After moving the cursor rightward, you can use the left arrow key to move the cursor to the left.) To execute a command, press the Enter key.

When you encounter a command with a drop-down, you can press the Alt key together with the down arrow key to open the drop-down. Press Esc to close the drop-down.

Should the cursor get “stuck” in an input fields (such as the Indent and Spacing boxes on the Page Layout tab), press the Tab key to move from field to field, just as you would do in a dialog box. If that doesn’t work for some reason, you can press the Esc key one or more times to release the cursor.

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[1] Depending on the number of icons on your QAT, you might see combined numbers and letters, such as 0A, 0B, 0C, etc., too.

[2] The Developer tab and the Add-Ins tab might not be displayed on your machine. To display one or both of those tabs, do the following: (a) In Word 2007, click the Office button, Word Options, Popular, and check the box to the left of “Show Developer tab in the Ribbon.” (As far as I know, you can’t display the Add-Ins tab in Word 2007 unless you have an add-in that comes with its own toolbar for Word. Ordinarily, you manage add-ins in Word 2007 by clicking the Office button, Word Options, Add-Ins.) (b) In Word 2010, click the File tab, Options, Customize Ribbon. Navigate to the right-hand side of the Word Options screen and locate the boxes to the left of the Developer tab and the Add-Ins tab. Click to put a checkmark in the box(es), then click OK to save your changes.

[3] If you press the right arrow first, the cursor will move from tab to tab (bringing different tabs to the forefront, in turn).

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