Share a Ribbon Customization between Office Applications (Norm Estabrook)

We have received feedback from several folks that they would like design one Ribbon by using the Ribbon visual designer, and then re-use that same Ribbon in more than one Office application. This approach makes sense. If my custom tab looks the same for each application, I really don’t want to create the same Ribbon in four separate Office projects. 


So I poked around to see if this was possible. I caught up with one of developers who created the VSTO Ribbon designer and he showed me exactly how to do it.


First, add a Ribbon to a VSTO project. Then, copy the Ribbon code files to a class library project. Finally, add a reference to the class library assembly from within any VSTO project and voila. Well, it’s a tad more challenging.  Here are all the detailed steps.


Create the Ribbon


1.      Create a 2007 Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, or Word project in Visual Studio. For the purpose of these steps, create a C# project and name the project RibbonStarterProject.

2.      Add a Ribbon (Visual Designer) item to the project. For the purpose of these steps, accept the default name “Ribbon1”.

3.      Save and close the project.


Create a Class Library Project


1.      Create a new class library project in Visual Studio. For the purpose of these steps, name the project SharedRibbonLibrary.

2.      Add a project reference to the Microsoft.Office.Tools.Common.v9.0 assembly.

3.      On the Project Menu in Visual Studio, click Add Existing Item.

4.      In the Add Existing Item dialog box, browse to the “RibbonStarterProject” project directory, select the Ribbon.cs file, and click Add.

Ribbon1.cs is copied to the project directory and appears beneath the project node in Solution Explorer.

5.      Double-click Ribbon1.cs.

The Ribbon designer appears.

6.      From the Office Ribbon Controls tab of the Toolbox, drag a button onto group1.

7.      Click button1 to select it.

8.      In the Properties window, set Modifiers to Public.

Note:  By default, controls that you add to the Ribbon are Internal. That makes them only accessible to code inside the same assembly. However, when you access these controls, you will be accessing them through an assembly reference. Therefore, to reach them from code, you must make them public. More on this soon.

9.      Right-click the Ribbon designer, and then click Properties.

10.  In the Properties window, click the RibbonType property, and then select the Ribbon ID’s of the applications or Outlook Inspector windows in which you want the Ribbon to appear. For more information about this property, see the MSDN reference topic for the RibbonType property.

11.  In Solution Explorer, right-click Ribbon1.cs, and then click View Code.

12.  Change the namespace of the class to “SharedRibbonLibrary”.

13.  Repeat this step for the Ribbon1.designer.cs file.

14.  Compile and save the SharedRibbonLibrary project. You can now use the resulting assembly in any VSTO project that supports the Ribbon.


Consume the Ribbon Customization


1.      Create 2007 Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, or Word project.

2.      Add a reference to the SharedRibbonLibrary assembly.

3.      Add the following code to the ThisAddin, ThisWorkbook, or ThisDocument class of your project. This code overrides the CreateRibbonExtensibilityObject method and returns the Ribbon to the Office application.


protected override Microsoft.Office.Core.IRibbonExtensibility



    return new Microsoft.Office.Tools.Ribbon.RibbonManager(

        new Microsoft.Office.Tools.Ribbon.OfficeRibbon[] { new       

           SharedRibbonLibrary.Ribbon1() });




4.      Add a new class to the project. Accept the default name “Class1.cs”.

5.      Replace the code in the Class1 file with the following:


partial class ThisRibbonCollection : Microsoft.Office.Tools.Ribbon.RibbonReadOnlyCollection


    internal SharedRibbonLibrary.Ribbon1 Ribbon1


        get { return this.GetRibbon<SharedRibbonLibrary.Ribbon1>(); }



Ok – You are done! You can now access the Ribbon and the button that you added to the Ribbon in your code.  Lets try by handling an event in the consuming project.


Handle the Button Click Event


1.      Add the following code to the startup event handler of project.


Globals.Ribbons.Ribbon1.button1.Click += new EventHandler<Microsoft.Office.Tools.Ribbon.RibbonControlEventArgs>(button1_Click);


2.      Add the following event handler to your project:


     void button1_Click(object sender,

Microsoft.Office.Tools.Ribbon.RibbonControlEventArgs e)


    System.Windows.Forms.MessageBox.Show(“I can handle events!”);


3.      Run the project.


4.      When the Office application opens, click the Add-Ins tab, and then click your button.

A message that says “I can handle events!” appears.


– Norm Estabrook

Programming Writer for BizApps User Education