Microsoft Office: Customizing the Ribbon

In every Micrsoft Essentials training, we talk about customizing the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT). In a similar vein, did you know you can customize your Microsoft Ribbon as well? Indeed, you can create your own custom groups with those hard-to-find favorite features. This is just another way to save yourself a few clicks throughout the day… which we all know can add up to a lot of time. Let’s take a look.
Customize Ribbon selected on dropdown

Exercise File

There is no exercise file today, because you will be customizing the ribbon on your individual download of Microsoft Office. If you would like to follow along, open up a blank Word document.

Layout of the Ribbon

Ribbon with Tabs, groups and commands labeled

The Ribbon is made up of:

  1. Tabs: e.g. Home, Insert, Design
  2. Groups: printed at the bottom of each tab, e.g. Clipboard, Font, Paragraph
  3. Commands: the buttons/features within each group

Throughout all our sessions, have also talked about how we see specific Contextual Tabs, or Tool Tabs, appear as we access certain features (pictures, tables, etc.).  All of these can be customized.

How to Customize the Ribbon

Let’s say that you have been doing a lot of work in Word. You would like to make it easier to find Alt Text when inserting images. You also frequently find yourself adjusting Headers, Footers, and Page Setup options, and would like to save yourself a few clicks in finding these features.

Create a Group

  1. Right click in a grey space on top of the ribbon and select Customize the Ribbon.
    Customize Ribbon selected on dropdown

    • Notice this looks similar to the QAT customization screen, but this time Customize Ribbon is highlighted.

Customize Ribbon highlighted

  1. Highlight the Home tab on the right and press New Group at the lower right of the screen.
    New Group button circled
  2. A new group will appear in the home tab list. Select it and press Rename to name it something else. I am going to name mine Special.
    New group, rename button circled

Add Commands

Let’s add a few commands to the Special group.

  1. Select the Special group on the right pane.
  2. On the Left Pane, change the dropdown from Popular Commands to All Commands.
    All commands selected
  3. Scroll down to Edit Footer. Select it, press the Add button between the two panes.

Edit footer slected, add button circled

  1. Do the same for Edit Header, and Page Setup

Once you click OK, you will see a new group with your custom commands.

Special group with new commands

Customizing a Contextual/Tool Tab

We added the previous commands to the Home tab in Word. We also would like to add Alt Text to the Picture Tools contextual tab. Contextual/Tool tabs are tabs that we don’t see until we select a specific object (like a picture) the document.

Note: if you are using Office 365, Alt text will already appear on the Picture Tools tab by default.

To customize the Contextual/Tool tabs:

  1. Right click on the ribbon and select Customize the Ribbon
  2. On the right pane, change the dropdown from Main Tabs to Tool Tabs.Tool Tabs selected
  3. Find the Picture Tools tab and select the only group (Format).
  4. Follow the instructions above to add Alt Text to your picture tools tab.

Remove Commands

You will not be able to remove the default commands from the ribbon, but if you would like to remove commands that you have added yourself, you can do so easily:

  1. Right click on the ribbon and select Customize the Ribbon.
  2. Highlight the command or group (in our case, Special) on the right pane
  3. Press the Remove button between the two panesSpecial group highlighted, remove button circled


Remember, this works in all your Microsoft Office programs, not just our Word examples above.  I am sure there are special features you wish you could access more easily, so I can’t wait to hear what you decide to do!  A few I have added to mine are:

  1. Outlook: Journal Feature to the Home tab (and QAT, because I am extra).
  2. All Programs: Alt Text to the Picture Tools tab
    • As I mentioned earlier, in Microsoft 365, Alt text will appear on the picture tools tab by default, but if you are on 2016 or earlier, it can be a huge time saver to add it yourself.
  3. Excel: Set Print Area to the Home Tab


How will you customize the ribbon on your Office programs? I would love to hear which commands you decide to add!

Congratulations, Power Users!

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PowerPoint: Slide Layout and Accessibility

PowerPoint has a lot of aesthetic features, so it can be easy to become so focused on the visual aspects of a presentation that we forget about what is happening behind the scenes. A slide deck can appear perfect from a visual perspective, but definitely still have a long way to go internally. Let’s take a look.

Exercise File

Download today’s exercise file here: LayoutExercise

This is a (very important!) presentation about Star Trek characters. It consists of  a title slide and three additional slides with content. At first glance, It looks like all the content slides are laid out identically, but they are actually quite different.

Selection Pane: Reading Order

Similar to Accessibility settings that we talk about in Acrobat DC Essentials training, there is also a Reading Order to PowerPoint documents.

Someone in your audience may be visually impaired and accessing your PowerPoint with a screen reader. The Reading Order is the order the screen reader will read the contents of the slide. How do you access the reading order? Via the Selection Pane.

  1. Select Slide 2: The Original Series.
  2. In the Home tab, Drawing group, select the Arrange dropdown and select Selection Pane

 Selection Pane

  1. A menu will appear on the right. This is the Selection Pane displaying the Reading Order.
  • Important: reading order is from bottom to top! So in the case of Slide 2, the Title is on the bottom, where it should be if it is to be read first.

 Selection Pane reading order

Click on any of the items in the Selection Pane to highlight their location on the slide. Or, click on any item in the slide to see it highlighted in the Selection Pane. Items may be reordered by clicking and dragging.

Outline View

I mentioned that all these slides appear identical, but they are actually set up differently. One quick way to see this is to change your View to Outline View.

  1. Go to the View tab, Presentation Views group, and select Outline View.

 Outline View button

  1. Notice how slides 3 and 4 are missing something very important: a title! Titles are indicated in bold next to the slide number.

 Outline View

But wait, what is going on here, I was sure I saw titles on those two slides?

  1. Let’s return to Normal view and investigate. Go to View tab, Presentation Views group, and select Normal.

 Normal View Button


  1. Select Slide 3: The Next Generation.
  2. Take a look at your Selection Pane on the right (if you left that view from earlier, you can get it back by following the steps under Selection Pane above). Where is the Title?
  3. Click on to the title words in the slide (The Next Generation). Notice this highlights a Text Box in the Selection Pane on the right. It looks like someone has deleted the title box on this slide and inserted a text box.  This means that:
  • The reading order is out of order… it could be reordered by clicking and dragging, but…
  • There is also no official Title on this slide. Fixing the lack of title will actually fix both issues.

Selection Pane with text box highlighted

  1. Let’s first confirm the correct Layout is selected. Go to Home tab, Slides group and select the Layout. It looks like Two Content is selected. Since there is both text and a picture, this makes sense. Let’s not change this, but it is good that we confirmed it.

Layout dropdown, two content selected

  1. The real issue is that the Title got deleted and replaced with a text box. Let’s fix this. Start by deleting the imposter title:  click on the text box that contains “The Next Generation,” then click on the line of the text box to select the whole text box. Press the Delete key to completely remove this imposter title.
  2. Go back to the Slides group and select Reset. This is going to reset the current slide into its original two content layout, while keeping the content.

Reset button

  1. A true title box appears. Retype your title into the new title box. Notice the selection pane is now correct, in that there is a title, and that the reading order has been corrected.

Title Correct

Change Layout

What about Slide 4? Let’s follow the same steps as above.

  1. Under Layout, I noticed the wrong layout is selected. It is currently a Title and Content and should be a Two Content. Let’s change this slide to a Two Content.

Change from title and content to two content

  1. Notice this causes the slide to reset. The fake title text box may need to be deleted to make room for the real title.


Side note: you might be noticing right about now that remediation is a lot harder than creating a slide correctly to begin with. This is almost always the case, regardless of the program you are using!


  1. Once slides 3 and 4 are corrected, revisit Outline view, and notice the new look! Titles on every slide, what a beautiful sight!

Outline view corrected with slide titles

Accessibility Checker

Another way to find these layout issues is by running an Accessibility Checker. A full write up of how to work with this feature may be found here:  Accessibility Checker Article

Go to File, Check for Issues, Check Accessibility.

Accessibility Checker

When a number of text boxes are found on a slide, the checker will remind you to check your reading order. Click on the dropdown next to this warning to access the same Selection Pane a different way.

Selection Pane in Accessibility Checker


Did you know about these tricks for checking slide layout and reading order? How will you put this to use?

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit:

  • Tegan Perry

Tegan Perry



Microsoft Office: Creating and Using Templates

Microsoft templates are a mystery to a lot of people. Maybe you have found  a way to save a file as a template. You noticed a new type of extension appear at the end of the file… but for the most part you see it behaving the same as a regular office file. So you wonder, what is the big deal with templates? I have to let you in on a secret. The usefulness of template files is all about where they are saved.  And… they can actually be a timesaving lifesaver in a pinch, especially for repetitive work. Let’s explore how templates work in MS Office.

Exercise Files

This process will work the same in Excel, Word and PowerPoint; here are some sample templates to try out for each program:

p.s. This awesome PowerPoint template is available through the Strategic Communications Templates page. I hear that more will be coming soon, so stay tuned!

Open the File

Let’s open one of the files, the Word Template. Let’s say this is a file you had spent a lot of time creating; from selecting a theme and color palette, to tweaking the Styles to creating a dynamic Table of Contents. (More on those options for a future Byte).

Word Template with Themes and palettes

Save As

  1. Go to File and select Save As (or a lot of you know that my favorite shortcut for a quick Save As screen is F12). Location doesn’t matter, because that is about to change when we select type.
  2. In the Save as Type dropdown menu, select Word Template.
    Save As screen with type dropdown
  3. Notice this changes the default location of your save to Custom Office Templates Folder.This is important:  do not change this save location! This is where Word will look for your template.
    Custom Office Templates Folder Location
  4. Press Save.

 Access Your Personal Templates

Let’s test out your new template!

  1. Go to File and select New. You are creating an entirely new Word document, just like you would in the future when starting from scratch.
    File, New screen
  2. At the top of the templates, notice you now have a Personal tab. Press this button.
    Personal Templates button
  3. You should see your new template, the Office Bytes Template. Select this to apply the template to your new Word document.
    Template in the Personal Templates folder

Notice how this brings in not only the content, but all the themes, colors, fonts and styles.

This will work the same way with your PowerPoint and Excel file examples. Give it a try!


Do you have a handy use for templates like this in your office?

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit:

  • Amy Yonai

Amy Yonai


True Colors: Optimizing Charts for Readers with Color Vision Deficiencies

Hey, would you take a look at this chart and let me know what you think? I am particularly concerned about the sales figures I marked in red.

Chart filtered for red green color blindness. All colors appear murky green and indestinguishable

Don’t adjust your screen. You are viewing this chart through a filter that simulates the most common type of color blindness. We often have the best intentions when we try to draw attention to an element in a chart by marking it red, or by contrast to show that all is well by marking something green…  But trust me, this is the sort of thing that can ruin someone else’s day, and it is so easy to fix.

About Color Blindness

According to the NIH, color blindness or color deficiency affects around 8% of the male population and 0.5% of the female population. This means that, if your document will be viewed by 1000 people, around 45 of them will have some form of color deficiency. If you are sending it across campus, this could easily translate to several hundred people who will be affected.

It is worth noting that color deficiency is a spectrum; people can have mild to severe forms of color blindness, and not all forms of color blindness involve the same colors. The most common type of color blindness involves deficiencies in discerning the colors red and green.

A common misconception among those who are not color blind is that if someone has red/green color blindness, they only have trouble with the colors red and green. However, these deficiencies can easily affect other colors as well; for instance, maroon and brown can look identical to people with red/green color deficiencies… after all, maroon is just brown with a touch of red. In other words, it is not just the colors red and green themselves, but also those colors within other colors. It’s like an inception of color… (I still don’t understand that movie).

Troublesome Charts

Let’s take a look at a couple examples… (Disclaimer: both charts are created with entirely fictional data for purposes of illustration of chart features).

Pie chart using purple and blue to distinguish

At first glance, this chart looks great! I think I am clearly demonstrating that so many students (95%!) are happy on campus. But let’s run this through a red/green color blindness simulator…

Same chart filtered for red green color blindness: all appears purple

Wait. What is going on?? How many students are happy? Who is unhappy? Someone is 95%, but which one?

Let’s look at another.

Schools distinguished by red and green lines

We think we did a good job of drawing attention to Anthopology’s interest numbers by marking them in red…. But here is how the same chart filtered for red/green color blindness:

Same chart filtered for red/green, all lines appear green

Oh man. Maybe we didn’t do such a good job…

What You Can Do

  1. Never Use Color Alone to Convey Meaning

“Wait, are you saying I can’t use color anymore?” Of course you can! But don’t make color the only way someone can discern what is going on.

Think about incorporating labels, tables and textures in your charts (see below for some examples).

  1. Use Color Blindness Simulators to Test Documents

There are several simulators available online to help you do a final check on images or charts in your document. Here are a couple I have been using:

  • Color Oracle: This site has a free download that allows you to filter your entire screen with a couple clicks, and see how different documents would look with different types of color impairment.
  • Coblis: Color blindness simulator: upload an image to this site to see how it would look for different types of color impairments. For charts, you may have to take a screen shot so you will have an image to upload.
  • Windows 10: the settings of Windows 10 also has a color blindness simulator in settings. Go to Settings and search for Color Filter to find it.Windows 10 settings
  1. Utilize Monochromatic Color Sets

If there are only a few variables in a chart, contrast can be helpful. Regardless of a color that is perceived, gradations in color can almost always be detectable to your viewers. Monochromatic palettes consist of the same color with different gradations of lightness or darkness. See below for an example with a pie chart.

  1. Color Blind Friendly Palettes

If you are feeling fancy, there are some tried and true color-blind friendly palettes out there. Just make sure you are still not conveying meaning with color alone, because no palette can address all types of color blindness. Here is a page with some cool options, and interesting general information: Color Friendly Palettes

Exercise File

If you would like a challenge, try fixing some of the Charts in this exercise file. There are two sheets in the workbook with problematic charts and two sheets with possible solutions. That being said, there are many ways you could solve the puzzle of making these charts more accessible.


Let’s Fix Those Charts!

If I went through all the ins and outs of chart creation, this would be much more than a byte, so please do come to my Pivot Tables, Charts and Pictures training if you get really stumped (or attend anyway, because it is a blast!)

Below is a summary of how I approached fixing the problem charts.

Chart 1

Chart 1 was this guy:

Pie chart using purple and blue to distinguish

I did two things to this chart:

  1. Utilized a monochromatic color set
  2. Added data labels

The result is conveying the same information, but the look is a bit different.

Pie chart now monochomatic yellow with labels

Running this chart through the red/green color blindness simulator (or even converting it to greyscale) it is still understandable.

Pie Chart looks mostly the smae with filter

Below are the steps I took.

Monochromatic Color

  1. Click on the chart to select it.
  2. Press the paintbrush button on the right side of the chart to access Style and Color options.
  3. Select color.
  4. Select a monochromatic color set (I picked yellow).
    Steps 1 through 4 illustrated

Data labels

  1. Click on the chart to select it.
  2. Press the + button on the right side of the chart for Chart Elements.
  3. Check the box next to Data Labels.
    • Don’t forget you can press the arrow to the right of Data Labels to access more options, like the location and appearance of the labels.Data Labels

Chart 2

Chart 2 was the fictional subject interest chart:

Schools distinguished by red and green lines

To fix this chart,  I added two things:

  1. Data labels  (see above)
  2. Data table at the bottom of the chart.

Line Chart now has labels and a table underneath

Though I didn’t change the colors, running this through a red/green color blindness simulator I can tell that people can perceive the difference between the lines with their labels; and as a backup, they could reference the table underneath.

Chart now understandable even though colors are all green

I covered data labels in the previous example.  Below is how you can insert a data table.

Data Tables

  1. Click on the chart to select it.
  2. Press the + button on the right side of the chart for Chart Elements.
  3. Check the box next to Data Table. Don’t forget you can always click on the arrow to the right of any of the chart elements to see more options.

Data Table

Tell Me About Your Experiences

What do you think? Did you approach correcting the charts differently than I did? Are you someone who has a color deficiency? Have you torn out your hair trying to read certain charts, and if so, do you have other suggestions that we, the chart makers, can do to improve? I would love for you to weigh in with your thoughts!

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit:

  • Johny Buchanan-Spachek

Johny Buchanan-Spachek

PowerPoint: Animation Painter

We frequently go to a lot of trouble to create the perfect animation in PowerPoint. In PowerPoint Essentials, we discuss options for adjusting duration, delaying animations, triggers for animations, and other various tweaks you can make when selecting an animation. Once you have spent a lot of time making these adjustments, you may want to apply the same effect to another object in your presentation without recreating the wheel every time. Animation Painter is the perfect tool for this!

Exercise File

If you would like to follow along, download the exercise file here: AnimationPainterExercise

This file has the beginnings of a presentation on Wichita State University. Slide 2, titled Shocker Hall, has an image with a couple animations applied to it; both animations have been tweaked for timing. Slide 3, Culture and Activities, has an image with no animations applied.

Your Challenge (should you choose to accept it) is to apply the animation from Slide 2 to the image in Slide 3.

Important: Animation Pane

For this exercise, and really any time you are working with animations in PowerPoint, toggle on your Animation Pane. There are many ways this will make your life easier when working with animations, and working with the Animation Painter is no exception.

  • Go to: Animations tab, Advanced Animation group, select Animation Pane.
    Animations Tab, Animation Pane button

Animation Painter

Let’s paint some animations!

Slide two selected, click on element, go to animation painter.

  1. Select Slide 2 (Shocker Hall) from the preview pane on the left side of the screen.
  2. Select the Shocker Hall image.
  3. Note the animations applied to the image in the Animation Pane on the right.
    • To preview the animations, press the Preview button in the left side of the Animations tab.
      Preview Button
  4. With the Shocker Hall image selected, go to the Animation tab, Advanced Animation group, and select Animation Painter.
    Animation Painter
  • Note that your cursor turns into a paintbrush (just like the Format Painter we explore in Word and Excel Essentials)

Cursor is a paintbrush

5. Select Slide 3 (Culture and Activities) in the preview pane on the left side of the screen.

6. Select the Performance image in the slide; this will “paint” the animation settings onto this picture.

Click on image

  • A preview of the newly-applied animation should occur immediately, but can also be replayed with the Preview button in the Animations

Possible Pitfall

  • Mouse Click Folly: Be careful where you click with this feature: be sure you have selected what you would like to copy, then immediately click onto the object to be altered. It is very easy to “paint” animation onto the wrong item (don’t forget, ctrl Z can be your best friend).


How will you use this feature on your presentations?

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit:

  • Jesse Koza
    (channeling Clippy!)Jesse Koza

Accessibility Checker

How accessible are your documents? Do you know how to check? Do you know it is easy and not scary at all? I promise.  Let’s run an accessibility check a document.

Exercise File

To follow along, download today’s exercise here: ExerciseDocCheckAccessibility

This document looks familiar if you have attended a Word Essentials training session; it is a final draft document from our Summer Camp Exercise. While this is a Word document, the good news is the checker will work the same in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; so once you have learned it in one program, you have learned it in all of them.

Checking Accessibility

To check accessibility on this document:

On a PC:

  1. Go to File
  2. Select the Check for Issues dropdown
  3. Select Check Accessibility

Backstage View: Check for issues, check accessibility

On a Mac:

  1. Go to Tools
  2. Select Check Accessibility

Tools, check accessibility

  • Depending on your version of Microsoft, you may see the Accessibility Checker make an appearance in other views and tabs in the ribbon. Go for it! Microsoft is great about putting features in multiple locations, making them easier to find.

The Results

Once you select the Accessibility Checker, the results will appear on the right. It looks like my checker has found a few errors and a warning…. Some missing Alt Text and some repeated blank characters. What does this mean?

Accessibility Checker Results Pane


Microsoft separates these results into three classifications:

  • Error. Content that makes the document difficult or impossible to read and understand for people with disabilities
  • Warning. Content that in most (but not all) cases makes the document difficult to understand for people with disabilities
  • Tip. Content that people with disabilities can understand but that could be presented in a different way to improve the user’s experience

Quick note, depending on your version of Microsoft, your checker may find different results than mine, so don’t be alarmed if your screen looks different. These checkers are constantly being developed and improved upon… the good news is, things are only getting better and more user friendly!

More Information About Errors and Warnings

For even more information, click on one of the errors, and look at the scrolling pane underneath the errors, titled Additional Information. Included in this pane is a Why Fix section with detailed explanations.

I can see, for instance, that my blank characters, which seem innocuous to me, could be very irritating to somebody accessing my document with a screen reader. I might be better off removing some of them or replacing them with a page break, if that is what I am really hoping to accomplish.

Accessibility Checker Errors

What is Alt Text? This is one you will see quite frequently. Alt text stands for Alternative Text. Screen readers will read alternative text aloud to your readers. So, think about the times you have created a document and conveyed a thought with an image rather than text; somebody accessing your document with a screen reader might want in on some of that knowledge so they can understand what is going on.

How to Fix

You probably know how to get rid of blank spaces mentioned above, but are you unsure how to fix problems like Alt Text?

It is worth reiterating that solutions are only getting simpler: if you are using Microsoft Office 365, the newest version of MS Office, Alt Text is accessible on a right click menu.

Edit Alt Text in right click menu in Office 365

That being said, most of us on campus are using Office 2016 or 2013, where Alt Text is absent from a right click option.

Microsoft does offer some guidance for How to fix each error:

  1. In the Accessibility Checker results pane, select the alt text error.
  2. In the same scrolling pane underneath the errors where we found why to fix the errors (above) is a subsection called Steps to Fix (you may have to use the scroll bar to see it).

Accessibility Checker: Steps to fix

These instructions are quite helpful, though I have found that they are more accurate for those using 2016 or earlier versions of Microsoft Office, where Alt Text is harder to find.

It looks like my instructions (For MS Office 2016) are telling me to:

  1. Right click on the image
  2. Select Format PictureRIght click menu, format picture
  3. Select Layout and Properties icon (looks like a four-headed arrow)
  4. Then enter Alt Text: How would you describe this picture to someone?Alt Text Screen in Word

More about Accessibility

There is so much more to say about this topic, but I will leave you with a couple more thoughts:


An excellent way to make your document accessible and utilize many more fabulous features in Microsoft products is by making use of the Styles. We cover styles at great length in Word Essentials training… I hope you are using them! More on these later…

Word Styles

Instructional Design and Access

Instructional Design and Access is the ultimate resource on campus for accessibility in documents. They offer numerous training sessions and excellent guidance. They can be reached at

Don’t miss their Blackboard and Accessibility Lab in the C-Space in the library every Tuesday and Wednesday from 1:00 to 3:00.

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit:

  • Betsy Main

Betsy Main

  • Karen Rogers

Karen Rogers