Customizing Excel

You can customize Excel to change they way things look in the Excel window when you start the program. The startup options in the Customize dialog box let you personalize menus and toolbars, set the icon size, list font names in their font, show ScreenTips on toolbars, and change menu animations.

Customizing Toolbars

Excel offers several toolbars to save you time in choosing commands. The Standard toolbar and Formatting toolbar appear at the top of the screen. Earlier in this book, you learned that other toolbars appear when you create a template, a picture, a chart, and an org chart. The toolbars listed in Table 14.1 are available when you need them.


The 3-D Settings and Shadow Settings toolbars are not visible on the toolbar menu but can be found in the Customize menu.

Table 14.1. Excel's Toolbars




Contains tools for Excel's most commonly used features.


Contains tools for Excel's most commonly used formatting commands.


Contains tools for drawing borders around individual cells and groups of cells.


Changes and formats a chart.

Control Toolbox

Creates dialog boxes and other Excel control objects.


Contains tools for drawing objects.

External Data

Lets you work with data you imported from an external database.


Contains tools for creating your own fill-in forms.

Formula Auditing

Lets you troubleshoot, check data in, and trace source cells in formulas.


Contains tools for working with lists.


Lets you alter a picture.


Contains tools for working with pivot tables.


Gives you tools for locking cells, and protecting a worksheet and workbook.


Lets you review changes, highlight changes, and accept or reject changes on worksheets you share with others.

Task Pane

Displays the last task pane you used such as Home, Help, Search, Clip Art, Clipboard, and New Workbook.

Text to Speech

Provides speech playback tools for listening to a computer-generated voice read the data you entered on a worksheet.

Visual Basic

Contains tools for writing and editing instructions in Visual Basic.

Watch Window

Displays a toolbar that shows you cells and their formulas allowing you to check them for any errors.


Gives you tools for browsing the Web.


Contains tools for editing and formatting WordArt text.


Provides tools for opening and saving any properly-structured XML file, creating Web queries to properly structured XML data sources, and saving entire workbooks as XML worksheets.

If you want to show or hide a toolbar, choose View, Toolbars. On the Toolbar menu, a check mark appears next to a toolbar that is displayed. To show or hide a toolbar, click a toolbar name in the menu. Excel displays or hides the toolbar in the Excel window.


To use the Toolbar shortcut menu to hide or display a toolbar, right-click any toolbar. The Toolbar shortcut menu appears. A check mark appears next to each toolbar that is currently displayed. Choose a toolbar on the menu that you want to hide or display.

After you display the toolbars you need, you may position them in your workspace so that they are most convenient for you. To move toolbars to a new location on the screen, look at the vertical line that appears at the left edge of a docked toolbar. When you point to the vertical line, the mouse pointer changes to a four-headed arrow, which indicates that you can move the toolbar. Hold down the mouse button and drag the toolbar to a new location. You can drag it to a dock or let it float anywhere in the window.

If you decide to drag the toolbar to a dock, you can position it in one of four toolbar docks:

  • Between the Formula bar and menu bar

  • On the left side of the Excel window

  • On the right side of the Excel window

  • At the bottom of the Excel window

When you find a dock, the toolbar outline changes from square to rectangular. Then you can release the mouse button.


If a toolbar contains a drop-down list (such as the Zoom tool in the Standard toolbar and the Font tool in the Formatting toolbar), you cannot drag it to a left or right toolbar dock. If you do, you lose the tools that contain a drop-down list.

If there are too many or not enough options on an Excel toolbar, you can edit the toolbar. And if necessary, you can even design your own. Select View, Toolbars, Customize to add, remove, and move buttons to get the toolbar just the way you want it.

In addition to customizing toolbars, you can customize the way your menus appear when you select a menu command. For example, you can choose an animation option that causes a menu to display with special effects, such as random, unfold, and slide effects.

You can create a shortcut to a workbook by creating a shortcut icon for your workbook. The icon appears on your Windows desktop. Then, when you click the shortcut icon, Windows opens both Excel 2003 and your workbook.

Changing Startup Options

Excel's Customize command lets you change the startup options for Excel. These options determine how things look on your screen when you start Excel. The startup options are self-explanatory:

  • Standard and Formatting Toolbars Share One Row

  • Large Icons

  • List Font Names in Their Font

  • Show ScreenTips on Toolbars

There are several startup options that are turned on by default: Standard and Formatting Toolbars Share One Row, Menus Show Recently Used Commands First, List Font Names in Their Font, and Show ScreenTips on Toolbars. The other startup options are turned off.

The figures in this book show full toolbar menus, and if your toolbars and menu options are turned on, you won't see all of the options we show. Personalized toolbars and menus are there specifically to ease their use, especially for beginning users. You don't have to turn them off if you find them easier to use right now. When you are feeling confident with using Excel's toolbars and menus, feel free to change the toolbar and menu options in the Customize dialog box.

To change any startup options, choose Tools, Customize. The Customize dialog box appears. Click the Options tab, as shown in Figure 14.12.

Figure 14.12. The Options tab in the Customize dialog box.


A check mark in a check box indicates that the option is turned on. An empty check box indicates that the option is turned off. Choose any options you want and then click Close. The next time you start Excel, the screen will display the startup options you selected.

Designing a Custom Toolbar

One great thing about Excel is that you can design a custom toolbar that provides all the options you need to perform tasks in Excel with ease.

The upcoming To Do exercise builds a toolbar that contains three tools: Save, Undo, and Spelling.

To Do: Build Your Own Toolbar
  1. Choose View, Toolbars, Customize. The Customize dialog box opens.

  2. Click the Toolbars tab. This tab contains options for creating and editing toolbars, as shown in Figure 14.13.

    Figure 14.13. The Toolbars tab in the Customize dialog box.


  3. Click the New button. The New Toolbar dialog box pops open.

  4. In the Toolbar Name box, type My Toolbar. You are giving this name to your toolbar.

  5. Click OK. This step saves the toolbar name and places it at the bottom of the Toolbars list. A check mark appears in the check box, which indicates that the toolbar is displayed. You should see an empty toolbar with the name My in the title bar. The rest of the name couldn't fit just now. As you add buttons, you can see more of the name, or you can resize the toolbar with the mouse. You want to add buttons to the toolbar.

  6. Click the Commands tab. You should see a Categories list and a Commands list, as shown in Figure 14.14. The Categories list contains the command names, and the Commands list shows the icons that represent the commands. The File category is already selected and is the category you want for the File, Save command.

    Figure 14.14. The Commands tab in the Customize dialog box.


  7. In the Commands list, click Save. Excel displays a highlighted bar across the command, indicating that it is selected.

  8. Point to the Save command in the Commands list and drag the command to the My Toolbar toolbar. The Save button appears on the toolbar. As you drag, Excel displays a small button and a plus sign (+), indicating that you are copying the button.

  9. In the Categories list, click Edit. The icons for the Edit command appear in the Commands list.

  10. In the Commands list, click Undo.

  11. Point to the Undo command in the Commands list and drag the command to the My Toolbar toolbar. The Undo button appears on the toolbar. One more button to go!

  12. In the Categories list, click Tools. The icons for the Tools command appear in the Commands list.

  13. In the Commands list, click Spelling.

  14. Point to the Spelling command in the Commands list and drag the command to the My Toolbar toolbar. The Spelling button appears on the toolbar. Now you should have three tools on the toolbar. You're done!

  15. Click the Close button to close the Customize dialog box. Your toolbar should resemble the toolbar in Figure 14.15.

    Figure 14.15. The custom toolbar.


  16. Click the Close button on the custom toolbar to close the toolbar.


To delete a custom toolbar, choose View, Toolbars, Customize; alternatively, right-click any toolbar or anywhere in the toolbar area, and then choose Customize. In the Customize dialog box, click the Toolbars tab; choose the custom toolbar you want to delete; then click the Delete button in the Customize dialog box. Click Yes to confirm the deletion. Excel removes the toolbar from the list, and the toolbar is no longer available.

Editing an Existing Toolbar

Why would you want to edit an existing toolbar? The primary reason is to tailor an existing toolbar so that it contains only the buttons you really need for the commands you use most frequently. That way you have a toolbar that offers tools just for the type of work you do in Excel. When you edit an existing toolbar, you add or remove buttons and move buttons to the most convenient location on the toolbar.

In Excel, adding and removing buttons is a cinch. Just click the Toolbar Options down arrow button at the right end of a toolbar. Next click the Add or Remove Buttons menu, and then click the name of the toolbar on the menu. For example, Standard or Formatting. A menu of icons with their commands appears, as shown in Figure 14.16.

Figure 14.16. The Add or Remove Buttons menu for the Standard toolbar.


A check mark appears next to the commands that appear on the toolbar. Click a check mark to tell Excel to remove the button from the toolbar. Click a command that doesn't have a check mark to add the button to the toolbar. When you're done adding and removing tools, click any cell in the worksheet to hide the Add or Remove Buttons menu.

To rearrange buttons on a toolbar, open the Customize dialog box, click the Commands tab, and then click the Rearrange Commands button. In the Rearrange Commands dialog box, select the button you want to move, and then click the Move Up or Move Down button until the button is where you want it. Click Close to close the Rearrange Commands dialog box, and then click Close to close the Customize dialog box.


If you mess up one of Excel's toolbars, there's no need to fret. To restore a toolbar to its original setting, display the Toolbars tab in the Customize dialog box and select the toolbar in the Toolbars list. Click the Reset button. Then close the dialog box. Excel restores the toolbar, displaying its original tools and settings. Custom toolbars, by the way, cannot be reset.

Changing Menu Animations

Normally, the Menu Animation feature is set to None (System Default), which means that when you choose a menu command, nothing special happens. But you can animate your Excel menus by choosing a Menu Animation option that opens and closes a menu with a special effect. Whatever menu animation you choose becomes the setting for menus in all other Office programs.

To animate your menus, choose Tools, Customize and then click the Options tab. In the Menu Animations drop-down list, select one of these options: Random, Unfold, or Slide (see Figure 14.17). Then click Close.

Figure 14.17. The Menu Animations options.


Try out each animation option to find the one you like. If you don't like any of them, you can always opt for no animation by choosing (System Default) in the Menu Animations drop-down list.

Creating a Shortcut to a Workbook

If you use a particular workbook frequently, you might want to keep that workbook conveniently at your fingertips on your Windows desktop. That way, you can open the workbook quickly and easily at any time directly from the desktop. You won't have to open Excel and then open the workbook, thereby reducing the number of steps involved in opening the workbook.

An icon with a small arrow in the lower-left corner represents the shortcut. The "shortcut" arrow indicates that you can use an icon as a shortcut to an object. In this case, the object is a file within an application.

Double-clicking the shortcut icon opens the object to which the shortcut is pointing. For example, you create a shortcut to the Sales 1st Qtr workbook by placing a Sales 1st Qtr shortcut icon on the Windows desktop. Then, when you double-click the shortcut icon, Windows opens Excel 2003 and the Sales 1st Qtr workbook.

To create a shortcut icon, follow the steps in the To Do exercise. In this exercise, you create a shortcut icon for the Sales 1st Qtr workbook.

To Do: Create a Shortcut to a Workbook
  1. Click the Open button on the Standard toolbar.

  2. In the file list, locate Sales 1st Qtr and click it.

  3. Right-click Sales 1st Qtr. A shortcut menu pops up.

  4. Choose Send To, Desktop (Create Shortcut) (see Figure 14.18).

    Figure 14.18. Sending the shortcut to the Desktop with the shortcut menus.


  5. Close the Open dialog box.

  6. Click the Minimize button in the upper-right corner of the Excel window. At the top of the desktop, you should now see the shortcut icon called Shortcut to Sales 1st Qtr.

  7. Click the Microsoft Excel button on the Windows taskbar to display the full-size Excel window.


To delete a shortcut icon, click the icon to select it and then press the Delete key. You are prompted to confirm the deletion. Choose Yes to delete the shortcut icon, and it disappears.

    Part I: Excel Basics