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Excel 2019: Customize the Quick Access Toolbar


December 09, 2019 - by Bill Jelen

Customize the Quick Access Toolbar. Photo Credit: The Roaming Platypus at Unsplash.com

As I mentioned in Excel 2019: Get Ideas from Artificial Intelligence, the Excel team had not added any new features to the Home tab since January 30, 2007. Ideas is the first feature that was deemed worthy of being on the Home tab.

Even though the Excel team does not think many features are Home-tab-worthy, you can add your favorite features to the Quick Access Toolbar (hereafter called QAT).

I always like asking people what they have added to their QAT. In a Twitter poll in January 2019, I had over 70 suggestions of favorite features that could be added to the QAT.

To me, a "good" addition to the QAT is a command that you use frequently that is not already on the Home tab. Any of the features in the Commands Not In The Ribbon category are candidates if you ever have to use them.

I've suggested the following icons on the QAT:


A close-up of the author's Quick Access Toolbar: AutoFilter, Change Shape, Subscript, Superscript, the Speak tools, Select Visible Cells, and Insert Screenclipping.

Below are more icons that you might want to add to your QAT.

The Easy Way to Add to the QAT

The easiest way to add an icon to the QAT is to right-click the icon in the Ribbon and choose Add to Quick Access Toolbar.

Open the Calculation Options drop-down and right-click Manual Calculation, choosing Add To Quick Access Toolbar. Repeat for Automatic calculation.

Adding Formulas, Calculation Options, Manual to the QAT gives you a clear indication of when your workbook is in Manual calculation mode:

When added to the QAT, Automatic and Manual appear with a checkbox and provide an awesome visual indicator that you are not in Automatic calculation mode.

The Hard Way to Add to the QAT

Sometimes, the command you want can not be right-clicked. For example, using Alt+; as a shortcut for Visible Cells in the Go To Special dialog box.

The Visible Cells Only choice in Go To Special can not be right-clicked to add to the QAT. How did anyone ever figure out the shortcut is Alt Semicolon?

Visible Cells Only is available to add to the QAT. But you can't add it by right-clicking in the dialog box. To make matters worse, when you follow these steps, you have to look for a command called "Select Visible Cells" instead of a command called "Visible Cells Only".

  1. Right-click anywhere in the Ribbon and choose Customize Quick Access Toolbar. The Excel Options dialog box opens showing a list of Popular Commands. I reject many of these popular commands because they are already a single-click on the Home tab of the Ribbon.

    Excel initially offers some Popular Commands that you can add to the QAT. But in the first 7 commands, five are already on the Home tab: AutoSave, Borders, Center, Conditional Formatting, Copy.
  2. Open the drop-down menu to the right of Popular Commands and choose either All Commands or Commands Not In the Ribbon.
  3. Scroll through the left list box to find the command.

    Change the top drop-down to Commands Not In The Ribbon and you will find some truly useful commands, such as Select Visible Cells.
  4. Click the Add>> button in the center of the screen.

    When you select a useful command on the left side of the dialog, click the Add>> button in the center of the dialog.
  5. Click OK to close Excel Options.
  6. Hover over the newly added icon to see the tooltip and possibly learn of a keyboard shortcut.

    Hover over Select Visible Cells in the Quick Access Toolbar and you learn that the shortcut is Alt+;

Favorite QAT Icons From Twitter

If you are looking for something to make Twitter more interesting, consider following @MrExcel. You can then play along in fun surveys like this one:

A Tweet from Bill Jelen @MrExcel Friday #Excel Poll: What are your favorite icons to add to the Quick Access Toolbar? Mine: AutoFilter and Insert Screen Clipping.

Presented below are several suggestions from people on Twitter.

In Excel 2019: Quickly Convert Formulas to Values

Paste Values in the QAT looks like a clipboard with 12. Paste Values and Number Formatting looks like a clipboard with a percent sign and 12.

Thanks to ExcelCity, Adam Warrington, Dan Lanning, Christopher Broas. Bonus point to AJ Willikers who suggested both Paste Values and Paste Values and Number Formatting shown to the right of Paste Values above.

Sometimes, You Don't Want the Gallery

The next most popular command to add to the QAT is Freeze Panes. Go to the View tab. Open the Freeze Panes drop-down menu. Right-click on Freeze Panes and Excel offers "Add Gallery to the Quick Access Toolbar".

If you try to add Freeze Panes using the right-click trick, it will always Add Gallery to Quick Access Toolbar.

Freeze panes is a tricky command. If you want to freeze row 1 and columns A:B, you have to put the cell pointer in C2 before you invoke Freeze Panes.

This worksheet has headings in row 1. It has two columns of labels in A & B. Numbers start in C2. If you always want to see both columns of labels and the one row of headings, you should select cell C2 before invoking Freeze Panes. The active cell should be the first cell that will *not* be frozen.

Some people don't understand this, and in Excel 2007, the Excel team made the Freeze Panes gallery with choices to freeze top row and freeze first column for people who did not know to select C2 before invoking Freeze Panes.

Since you understand how Freeze Panes works, you don't want the gallery on the QAT. You just want the icon that does Freeze Panes.

When you look for commands in the Excel Options, there are two choices for Freeze Panes. The one with the arrow is the gallery. The first one is the one you want.

There are two entries called Freeze Panes that you can add to the QAT. Both say "Freeze Panes". The second one adds a right-arrow at the far right edge of the list box. The one with the arrow adds a gallery to the QAT. In this case, you want the one without the gallery.

Thanks to Debra Dalgleish, Colin Foster and @Excel_City for suggesting Freeze Panes

In other cases, the Gallery version is superior to the non-gallery version. Here is an example. Jen (who apparently is a @PFChangsAddict) suggested adding Save As to the QAT. Alex Waterton suggested adding Save As Other Formats. When I initially added the non-gallery version of Save As Other Formats, I realized that both icons open the Save As dialog box.

Instead, use the Gallery version of Save As

The are two choices called Save As Other Format (with a gallery) and Save As Other Formats (no arrow indicating a gallery). You want the one with the gallery.

Here are those four icons in the QAT. The Save As Other Format gallery offers the most choices.

Once on the QAT, the gallery version of Save As Other Format offers Workbook, Macro-Enabled Workbook, Binary Workbook, Excel 97-2003 Workbook, OpenDocument Spreadsheet, PDF or XPS, Savee as Another File Type.

If you are planning on creating a lot of PDF files, Colin Foster suggests adding Publish as PDF or XPS to the QAT.

The First 9 Icons in QAT Have Easy Shortcut Keys

Most people who customize the QAT add new icons after the AutoSave, Save, Undo, Redo commands that are in the default QAT. But those first 9 QAT spots have super-easy keyboard shortcuts. AJ Willikers pointed out that the first 9 icons have easy short cut keys.

Press and release the Alt key. Key tips appear on each ribbon tab. So, Alt, H, S, O would sort descending. If you sort descending a lot, add the icon as one of the first 9 icons on the QAT. Press and release Alt, Then press 1 to invoke the first icon on the QAT. Note that the key tips for items 10 and beyond require you to press Alt, 0, 1 so they aren't quite as easy as the first 9 icons.

Thanks to AJ Willikers for pointing out the Alt 1-9 keyboard shortcuts.

Press and release the Alt key to reveal Key Tips in the Ribbon. The first 9 items in the QAT are easy shortcuts. Alt 1 is the first icon. Alt 2 is the second item. After Alt 9 for the 9th icon, you have to start using Alt 09 Alt 08 Alt 07 which is not as easy. For the people who make use of the QAT, carefully choosing the first 9 icons is critical so they can use short cut keys to invoke them.

The Camera Tool versus Paste as Linked Picture

Another popular QAT command on Twitter was the Camera. This awesome hack dates back to Excel 97. It is great because it allows you to paste a live picture of cells from Sheet17 on the Dashboard worksheet. It was hard to use and Microsoft re-worked the tool in Excel 2007, rebranding it as Paste As Linked Picture. But the operation of the tool changed and some people like the old way better.

For background on the tool, see Excel 2019: Line Up Dashboard Sections with Different Column Widths.

Six rows by 3 columns of numbers formatted with a color scale.

Old way: You could select the cells. Click the Camera icon. The mouse pointer changes to a cross hair. Click anywhere that you want to paste the picture of the cells.

New way: Copy the cells. Click in the new location. Choose Paste As Linked Picture. If you don't want the picture lined up with the top-left corner of the cell, drag to nudge the picture into position.

Two icons on the QAT:  Camera and Paste As Linked Picture.

Thanks to Manoel Costa, Brad Edgar, and Duncan Williamson for suggesting the Camera.

Screen Clipping to Capture a Static Image From Another Application

One of my favorite commands for the QAT is Insert Screen Clipping. Say that you want to grab a picture of a website and put it in your Excel worksheet. To effectively use the tool, you need to make sure that the web page is the most-recent window behind the Excel workbook. So - visit the web page. Then switch directly to your Excel Workbook. Choose Insert Screen Clipping and wait a few moments. The Excel screen disappears, revealing the web page. Wait for the web page to grey out, then use the mouse pointer to drag a rectangle around the portion of the web page. When you release the mouse button, a static picture of the web page (or any application) will paste in Excel. The Screen Clipping is also great for putting Excel charts in Power Point. Until you add this command to the QAT, it is hidden at the bottom of Insert, Screenshot. I don't like the Screenshot options because they put the entire full screen in Excel. Screen Clipping lets you choose just a part of the screen.

Two Icons Might Lead to the Same Place: Open Recent and Open

One of the popular QAT commands in Excel 2010 and Excel 2013 was the folder with a star - Open Recent File…. This command disappeared from Excel in Excel 2016. But people discovered that if you exported your settings from 2013 and then imported to 2016 or 2019, the icon would appear!

As I considered the prospect of dragging my Excel 2013 .tlb file around for the rest of my life, I inadvertently realized that the Open icon leads to the exact same place as the Open Recent File icon.

Thanks to Colin Foster and Ed Hansberry for suggesting Open Recent File.

Clear Filter and Reapply Filter

You hopefully already have the AutoFilter on your QAT after reading Excel 2019: Filter by Selection in Excel.

Three filtering icons on the QAT: AutoFilter, Clear Filter, and Reapply Filter.

Bathazar Lawson suggests adding Reapply Filter to the QAT. Here is how this becomes handy. Let's say you have a list of projects. You don't need to see anything where the status code is Complete. You set up a filter for this.

There is a project status column. The status of 5 means complete and status of 1 through 4 is various stages of completion. You use the Filter drop-down to hide all of the 5's.

You change the status code on some projects. Some of the projects that used to be In Review are now Complete.

One of the projects in a status of 4 is now complete, so you update the spreadsheet, changing the status to 5. In fact, there are three projects that have been completed since the filter was applied.

Instead of re-opening the Filter drop-down, click Reapply Filter.

When you click Reapply, the old filter logic of "hide the rows with a status 5" is applied to the data set. This is easier than opening the dropdown and choosing the checkboxes again.

Excel will re-evaluate the data and hide the items which now have a 5.

After reapplying the Filter,  the completed projects are hidden by the filter.

Some Future Features Debut on the QAT and then Become Real Features

I was at a seminar in Topeka when Candace and Robert taught me that you could add an icon called Document Location to the QAT.

When you add document location to the QAT, you can see the folder name, and can copy it to the clipboard.

If you need to copy the document location to the clipboard, you can select the text from the QAT, right-click and choose Copy.

Right-click Document Location and choose Copy from the menu offering Cut, Copy or Paste.

The Document Location has been available since at least Excel 2010. In early 2019, Office 365 subscribers will notice that the File, Info screen now has new equivalents of Copy Path and Open File Location.

New in February 2019, the File, Info panel offers buttons to Copy Path and Open File Location. (These only appear if the file has been saved).

Easier Superscript and Subscripts

Add the new Superscript and Subscript icons to the QAT. As you are typing, click either icon to continue typing in subscript or superscript. This might be handy for a single character (such as the 2 in H20) or for several characters.

A cell says "Drink 8 glasses of H20 per day citation needed. The 2 in H2O is a subscript and the citation needed is a superscript thanks to the new subscript and superscript icons on the QAT.

New Features from the Data Tab

The Data tab is like the Boardwalk and Park Place of the Excel ribbon. Every project manager wants to be on the Home tab, but most of the great features end up on the data tab. Excel 2016 introduced Get Data (Power Query), Relationships, and Refresh All. Add those to the QAT.

Three new tools from the Data tab are added to the QAT:  Refresh All, Relationships, Get Data.

Build Formulas Without Ever Leaving the Mouse

Ha-ha! This advice flies in the face of what every Excel tipster teaches. Most people want you to build formulas without ever leaving the keyboard. But what if you hate the keyboard and want to use the mouse? You can add these operators to your QAT:

QAT icons for Equals, Plus, Minus, Multiply, Divide, and Exponent, and Percent. Each appears inside of quotes, so the QAT looks like "=" "+" "-" "*" "/" "^" "%".

Using the mouse, you can click the Equals sign, then click on C1, then Multiply, then D1, then Divide, then E1. To complete the formula, click the green checkmark next to the formula bar to Enter. Surprisingly, Enter is not available for the QAT. But the formula bar is usually always visible, so this would work.

Those seven icons shown above are not located in one section of the Customize dialog. You have to hunt for them in the E, P, M, M, D, E, and P section of the list.

If you want to put these math operators on the QAT, they are particularly hard to find, because the are spread alphabetically throughout All Commands. The words to look for are: Equal Sign, Plus Sign, Minus Sign, Multiplication Sign, Division Sign, Exponentiation Sign, and Percent Sign.

Show QAT Below the Ribbon

Right-click the Ribbon and choose Show Quick Access Toolbar Below The Ribbon. There are several advantages. First, it is a shorter mouse move to reach the icons. Second, when the QAT is above the Ribbon, you have less space until the icons run into the file name.

Title Photo: The Roaming Platypus at Unsplash.com


Bill Jelen is the author / co-author of
MrExcel 2020 - Seeing Excel Clearly

This is a 4th edition of MrExcel LX. Updates for 2020 include: Ask a question about your data, XLOOKUP, Power Query's Data Profiling tools, How Geography Data Types decide which Madison, A SEQUENCE example for descending 52 weeks, Exchange Rates support in Stock Data Types, How to collapse the Search box, How to leave effective feedback for Microsoft, How to post your worksheet to the MrExcel Board using XL2BB.