One of the key changes made to Office 2010 is that the Ribbon navigation tabs can now all be customised, in addition to the Quick Access toolbar. In Office 2007 you can only customise the Quick Access Toolbar. In Office 2010 you can now add tabs, change tab order, create new command groups and add any built-in commands to any customised group in any tab. All this can be done from the Customize Ribbon options.

You can customise navigation tabs in Word 2010, Excel 2010, PowerPoint 2010, Outlook 2010, Access 2010, Publisher 2010 and Project 2010 all in exactly the same way. This article describes how to do this in Word 2010, but the methods are the same for all these applications. We'll begin by describing what you can and can't do in ribbon customising and then we'll describe the practical steps in Word 2010.

What you can and cannot do

You can add new tabs, rename existing tabs, add custom groups to any tab, add any in-built command to any custom group and change tab order. If you do add a new tab a new custom group is automatically added to that tab. You can also drag and drop groups or commands between tabs, but remember commands can only be added to customised groups. You can also remove any added commands, added groups or added tabs.

You cannot add a command directly to a tab, but only to a customised group. You cannot delete a default command, and you cannot delete a default tab - a wise precaution so you cannot end up with no tabs! You cannot copy a tab, but you can create a new tab and add customised groups and commands. You can also drag and group of commands from one tab to another. Now we'll describe how to go about some of these activities.

To start tab customizing, you either click the File tab (often referred to as Backstage view), select Options, then choose Customize Ribbon, or you can right click on any command or tab and choose Customize the Ribbon. Suppose you do this in Word 2010. The Customize Ribbon screen shows two main columns. The left one lets you select a command to add, and the right hand column lets you select the command destination.

Customizing Ribbon screen: Left hand Column

The left column lets you select a command to be added to the right column. You can select different kinds of commands using the drop down selector just above the column. The default is Popular Commands which shows about 70 commands - more or less all the commands in the existing tabs. If you choose All Commands you'll see hundreds of commands - literally every single command available in Word. The left hand selection also includes Macros so you can also add macro buttons to a customized group the right hand column. If you select any one item in the left column, the Add button between the columns turns on. Clicking Add will add the chosen command to the chosen destination. Note you can only add one command at a time to the right hand column.

Customizing Ribbon screen: Right hand Column

The right column lets you select where to add the command and includes various tab management options such as changing tab order. The drop down selector above the column lets you choose which tabs to show from All Tabs, Main Tabs and Tools Tabs. The default is Main tabs which lists all the regular tabs and also shows additional tabs such as Developer, Add-Ins, and Blog Post. Tool Tabs are all the context tabs such as SmartArt Tools and Chart Tools.

You can change tab order by selecting a tab and then clicking on the Up or Down button to the right of the column. or create new tabs here. There are also buttons under the right hand column to create and rename new tabs or groups. To create your own tab click the New Tab button, rename it as you wish and click OK to complete. Your new tab will then show in the regular Word 2010 window to the right of existing tabs.

To return to the customise view just right click on any command and choose Customize the Ribbon. It is very useful and we'll look at before we close is the Import/Export feature under the lower right hand column.

If you do make lots of changes to the ribbon tabs you save these to a file by clicking this button, choose Export all Customizations and save your settings to a file. You could then import this file later to restore all your tab settings. Alternatively you can reset settings for any tab, or reset all settings for all tabs and the Quick Access Toolbar. But be careful before choosing the latter as all tabs settings and Quick Access Toolbar settings are reset, in just one click.

Hopefully this article has given you an insight into customising the new Office 2010 ribbon toolbars. Attending a training course might also be a very useful to develop your Office 2010 skills further and increase your enjoyment of working with Office 2010.