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Make Your Own Menu in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint

Do you like menus? Menus tend to be overlooked in the desire to show every possible option at once in a toolbar or palette, but the nice thing about a menu is that its there when you need it and out of the way – but not gone entirely – when you don’t. Typically, a program comes with certain commands on its menus, and you, the user, are stuck with them. Microsoft Office doesn’t suffer from this particular limitation, at least in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. In this article, we share with you an excerpt from our latest Take Control ebook, Kirk McElhearn’s "Take Control of Customizing Microsoft Office." It explains how to make your own menus in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (both v.X and 2004), and how to take advantage of Word’s Work menu. Take it away, Kirk!

Create a Menu — In this brief tutorial, I explain how to create a menu that contains a handful of frequently used commands. (I use Word in this tutorial; the procedure is nearly identical with Excel and PowerPoint.) To make your own menu, follow these steps:

  1. Display the Menu Bar toolbar so you can work with it: Choose Customize > Customize Toolbars/Menus. If the Menu Bar toolbar does not appear along with the Customize Toolbars/Menus dialog, click the Toolbars tab and select Menu Bar in the list of toolbars.

  2. Put a new menu on the toolbar: In the Commands pane, at the end of the Categories list, click New Menu. In the Commands list you’ll see just one command: New Menu. Drag it to the position where you want it in the Menu Bar toolbar.

  3. Name your menu: You don’t want the name to be too long, since it takes up space in the menu bar. Double-click the New Menu button in the Menu Bar toolbar to display the Command Properties dialog. Enter a new name in the Name field, and then click OK.

  4. To copy commands from other menus to your new menu, click a menu in the Menu Bar toolbar, and Option-drag a menu command from that menu. For example, to begin copying the Format > Font command to the custom menu, click the Format button to display the contents of its menu. Hold down the Option key and drag the Font command toward your new menu. (If you hold down Option when dragging, the command will remain in its original location and copy to the new menu; if not, it will move. It’s much safer to copy commands than move them.) When you reach the button for your new menu, move the pointer over the button to display the menu). Release the mouse button when the command is in the desired location in the menu.

  5. If you don’t find the commands you want in the existing menus, go to the Commands tab of the Customize Toolbars/Menus dialog and in the Categories section, click All Commands. You can then look through the list of commands to find the ones you want.

  6. Rename long menu items: Commands that you drag from menus have concise names, but ones you drag from the All Commands list may have awkward, long names. To make the change, double-click a menu command in the menu from the Menu Bar toolbar to display the Command Properties dialog and change the name by entering a new name in the Name field.

  7. Organize your menu with a separator: To help group commands, insert a separator above a menu item. Double-click the desired menu item in the Menu Bar toolbar to display the Command Properties dialog and select the "Begin a group" checkbox.

Congratulations! You’ve set up a custom menu. If you want to delete it, simply drag it off the Menu Bar toolbar.

Use the Word Work Menu — Word offers a special menu called the Work menu. Located between the Window menu and the Help menu, this menu is designed to store a list of your commonly used files. Unlike the recent files list at the bottom of the File menu, Word doesn’t add documents here automatically; you must add them manually. If you regularly use the same files, the Work menu saves you a trip to the Finder. Just select your document from the Work menu and get to work.

All you have to do to add a document to the Work menu is open the document and make sure it is frontmost. Then, choose Work > Add to Work Menu.

Word is pretty good at finding documents that you have moved after you added them to the Work menu, as long as you move them somewhere on the same volume or disk. If Word cannot find the file, it displays an alert asking if you want to locate it. Click OK, and you’ll see a standard Open dialog. Navigate to find the document, and Word will open it and update its path so it can find it again next time.

To remove a document from the Work menu, press Command-Option-Hyphen. The pointer changes to a thick, black dash. Choose the document you want to remove from the Work menu, and it disappears.

Go Further with the Ebook — Although this excerpt focuses on menus, the 82-page "Take Control of Customizing Microsoft Office" doesn’t stop there, teaching you how to put commands on a toolbar for one-click access or how to assign memorable keyboard shortcuts to frequently used commands. It also shows you how to insert frequently typed pieces of text, explains how to use templates so you don’t have to create every document from scratch, and more. It costs $10, and note that we and Kirk are donating 10 percent of the proceeds from the September sales of this ebook to the American Red Cross Hurricane 2005 Relief Fund.

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