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Add Command Search to Word 2007 Ribbon Bar

written by: Lamar Stonecypher•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 9/3/2009

One of the most exasperating things about using Word 2007, even with a couple of year's familiarity, is that it's hard to remember which panel certain commands are on. Clicking around the ribbon looking and looking wastes tens of minutes thousands of times per day. There has a better way!

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    1,500 Separate Commands in Word 2007

    According to Jensen Harris, the Principal Group Program Manager for Microsoft's Office User Experience Team, there are about 1,500 separate commands in Word 2007. Previous versions of Word included menus and toolbars and taskbars and more menus, sometimes to a confusing, dazzling extreme, but during the early design phase of Office 2007, back in 2003, the team purposively used phrases like "Reawaken the soul of the software" and "Think about features instead of commands."

    Office 2003 had just been released. Here's what the team had to contend with:

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    Microsoft Word 2003 

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    In the image above, the Office 2003 user has searched inside Word for help with a command, and then clicked the link he found in Word Help to open the topic outside Word in Office Help. Office Help cooperatively docked with Word in case the user clicked a link that went back to somewhere in Word. Our user then left both open when he returned to work. Look at how small his actual work area became.

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    The Ribbon in Word 2007

    So the purpose of the ribbon was to provide a logical, easy-to-use interface that grouped commands in a task-oriented way based on the type of feature- page layout, mailing, insert, etc.- the user selects.

    This was great. The hard work of the Microsoft team won design awards for Office 2007, and the majority of users that switch from Office 2003 to 2007 say that 2007 is easier to use and allows them to complete their tasks more quickly.

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    But have you ever spent minutes at a time trying to find where a specific command is hiding in the ribbon? Have you thought that it should be easy to find because you had done the same thing, used the same command- the day or the week before- if only you could remember where it is at?

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    And here's where "Search Commands" from Office Labs comes in. It creates a new tab in the ribbon that looks like this.

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    Search Commands tab 

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    Using Search Commands to Find Commands in the Ribbon

    Using Search Commands is very straightforward. Say that you needed to find "Undo" in the ribbon.

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    Searching for Undo Command 

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    "Undo" is not actually in the ribbon, of course. It's an icon near the "File Save" diskette in the title-bar of the Word application. Fortunately, Search Commands found it anyway.

    Notice the numbers beside the search results. Press that number to select that command quickly. You can also hover the mouse over a command, and Search Commands will show you the command's location within the ribbon.

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    Hover Help for Commands 

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    Search Command Compatibility and Requirements

    Search Commands works with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007. It is available in English only and only runs in 32-bit versions of Windows. Since it's from Office Labs, it's not supported as an official product, and there's no promise that it will become part of Microsoft Office in the future. Also, it does not work with the Office 2010 Technical Preview (if you're lucky enough to get your hands on a copy this early).

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    I hope that it is included in the next version of Office. In fact, I'd like to see 64-bit support, too. Using Search Commands is far more convenient than starting from Word Help or clicking randomly on the ribbon.

    Kudos to the folks at Office Labs for making this very useful prototype available to Office 2007 users.

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    Related Reading

    "Reveal Codes" in Microsoft Word - New to Microsoft Word 2007 and just can't get a handle on the ribbon bar? Past user of WordPerfect yearning for "Reveal Codes" in Word? CrossEyes is a Word add-in that creates a reveal-codes-like area that shows document formatting tags that give access to settings dialogs. How does it work? Great!