Adding Groups to the Quick Access Toolbar

A great deal of the time spent in an Office development schedule after Beta 1
is put towards addressing feedback collected through the use of the product,
both in our private beta program and through other research.

One of the key areas in which we continue to make improvements is the Quick
Access Toolbar.

You may remember that the
Quick Access Toolbar is the
customizable place in the UI in which you can store frequently-used features so
that they’re always a single click away (even when the Ribbon is closed!)

Probably my favorite improvement to the Quick Access Toolbar ("QAT") in
the Office 2007 Beta
1 Technical Refresh is the
ability to add Ribbon groups to it.

That’s right–just like you would
right-click a command to add it to the QAT, you can now right-click a group to
add the whole group to the QAT as a single icon. The group is added as a
"popup group" which kind of works like a menu in that it pops down, you can use
the controls in the group, and then it disappears back out of sight. As with
Ribbon groups in general, the 2-D layout puts features closer to your mouse
cursor than a flat list, and the layouts will be familiar because they’re the
exact ones used in the Ribbon itself.

Adding groups to the Quick Access Toolbar – Click to view full picture

This works great for packing a large number of features into a very small
space, and it’s more convenient than adding each feature individually. Some
power users have indicated they plan to use the feature to enable them to take
advantage of the improved organization and layout of the Ribbon while not needing to
have it open all of the time.

It’s just one example of a broadly useful feature
which came directly from the feedback on Beta

Comments (26)

  1. BradC says:

    Very nice!

    So does that mean you have to design an icon for each group, even though those icons don’t appear in the ribbon normally? Or are there other places these icons are utilized (say, when the ribbon is shrunk)?

  2. Stephen Bullen says:

    A very welcome addition, thanks. I guess I can now put every chunk on the QAT as just an icon and have something that behaves like a normal menu that drops down when it’s needed and shrinks away when I’m done.

    Now all you need to do is let us create multiple sets of buttons as separate QATs, allow us to float them near where we’re working and allow us to tear-off these dropdown chunks and float those too. Then I might be happy(ier) <g>.

  3. Jharr says:

    Speaking of icons, have there been any published (official or non-official) style or design guides for the new Vista and Office icon look?

  4. jensenh says:


    Yes, it means there needs to be an icon for each group.

    The same behavior does happen if you shrink the Ribbon so small that a group can’t show up in any form–it turns into a "popup" group and behaves the same way.

  5. James says:

    Why is the droppy thing left-aligned? The closer it is to the middle of the Ribbon group that appears, the shorter the distance I’ll need to move the mouse, unless the command I want most of the time happens to be on the left. If that were the case, however, I’d probably put the specific button on the QAT.

  6. Kevin Ulland says:

    I can understand the desire to reduce the amount of junk that piles up over time in the UI. I appreciate that the floating toolbars for images and tables eventually clogged the interface because users were afraid to close them for fear of not finding them again.

    However, I can see why people want to have the ability to detach these groups into floating bars, so that they have less distance to travel with the mouse to reach a critical command.

    Isn’t it possible to enable this? Here’s my logic:

    The old default behavior was to pop a floating toolbar for images, tables, etc. and this resulted in UI clutter because users wouldn’t close them ever again and they would just float there with disabled icons.

    The new behavior is to switch to contextual tabs when specific tools are needed for images and tables.

    As a result, there will be NO/ZERO/ZIP UI clutter from users who are afraid to close floating toolbars. There are no more default floating toolbars.

    Now that the problem is no longer the result of default Office behavior, can’t you always assume that any desire to have a floating toolbar is at the explicit request of the user, and that this is not clutter to be feared, but functionality to be embraced?

  7. Roger says:

    It would be great if there was a way to carry all of my customizations with me when I use another PC. A small file that held all information on custom toolbars. Let me open up my customization file when I use Office on someone elses PC and when I exit that PC it goes back to it’s previous setup.


  8. Jon Peltier says:

    Stephen and Kevin have captured my thoughts, so I’ll just thank them and not add to the din.

  9. BradC says:

    Frankly, I think that the urge for power users to customize is based largely on the fact that it WAS hard to find exactly what you wanted in prior versions of office. So we made our own space for our "favorite things" that we wanted to have easy access to.

    The hope (the dream?) with Office 2007 is that everything should already be where you need it, most of the time.

    And most of the stuff that we need "close at hand" will be available through the floatie.

    Sure, MS probably won’t get it 100% the first time, but I’m hoping that I won’t HAVE to customize the system to get it to work the way I want. And if I do? You’ve got the QAT and you could always attach new easy keyboard shortcuts to features you need.

  10. Ben R. says:

    A minor point, but can a user both add a group AND a single icon FROM that group to the QAT? I might want to have the Commenting group icon sitting next to the Next Comment icon, for example.

    That may seem like a finicky request, but it would enable users to really finetune their QAT selections…

  11. I am still experiencing the same feeling that the ‘power user’ is being penalized with the new interface. The very limited customization does not seem to leave room for special needs (see Kevin Ulland’s excellent desscription). I also have not seen any way to integrate 3rd party add-ins, aside from relegating them to their own little island (the add-in’s tab). My key concern is the need to place an add-in icon somewhere on its corresponding ribbon (ie. In PowerPoint the ‘make equal width’ ‘make equal height’ ‘make equal size’ buttons should be on the same toolbar as the alignment tools).

    I would love to have you update us on if anything as chaged, since first announced, with add-in’s and customization.

  12. Phillip Reeves says:

    Absolutely, I fully agree with Troy.  This is my major concern as an Excel developer who routinely codes MAJOR changes to the Excel interface (i.e. getting rid of all toolbars and only showing custom menus) so as to simplify (and limit) the options available to the end-user.  Everything goes back as it was after quitting my application (or in any other session) of Excel.

    My limited testing thus far on Beta 1 seems to indicate that this will be v. difficult or nigh on impossible under Excel 2007.  Which means my clients won’t upgrade the office system as they cannot operate without my apps.

    It’s a shame, as everything else I’ve seen is great (esp. > 256 columns – FINALLY).

    If the release product would allow me to ditch/hide fully the ribbon and any buttons on the QAT, as well as properly modify the menus (again, not relegating changes to the Add-Ins tab), then I’m there.  If not, I’m not I’m afraid.

    Power users need power!

  13. Jon Peltier says:


    "Frankly, I think that the urge for power users to customize is based largely on the fact that it WAS hard to find exactly what you wanted in prior versions of office. So we made our own space for our "favorite things" that we wanted to have easy access to."

    It’s not that things were hard to find so much as that it took time to repeatedly navigate through the labyrinth. Using a button on the ribbon, you have to get to the correct tab and then hit the button, which is not much different from the menus in 2003. Put the button onto the QAT and you have to move at least halfway across the screen. Put the button onto a floating toolbar near where you’re working, and you move the mouse an inch and click once. This is the best of the three, and it’s not available.

    These are all good suggestions, and good explanations of how we use the current tools, and how much more difficult this would be in the proposed new UI. I fear that this is preaching to the choir, and the unconverted can’t hear.

  14. BradC says:

    Have they said that the floatie won’t be customizable? Its not exactly the same as a manually dragged floating toolbar (its actually better, in most cases), but if it was, it sounds like that would solve most of your concerns.

    I know they were re-evaluating what they wanted on the floatie by default, but I don’t recall them saying one way or the other whether end users would be able to customize it.

    Personally, "distance away from the cursor" is not a huge issue for me. How many CLICKs away might be pretty relevant, but I’ll have to get a feel for the QAT in use before I pass judgement.

  15. Brad: "Have they said that the floatie won’t be customizable?"

    Yes they have. The Floatie is not customizable. It’s a one-size-fits all deal, and doesn’t really work well in Excel anyway.

  16. Simon Murphy says:

    I just can’t see this ‘one size fits all’ approach to the UI working, particularly in Excel.

    The diversity of uses and users just can’t be satisfied from 1 UI unless it has proper customisation – nothing special, just what we have in current versions.

    If the development community does not embrace this new version, an important part of the eco-system that drives sales will be lost.

    I’d be tempted to write an add-in to provide ‘classic’ functionality, if i wasn’t convinced that MS will put it back by RTM, if we keep requesting it.

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