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Microsoft is Bringing the Quick Access Toolbar Back to Office

Posted April 6, 2023 | Microsoft 365 | Office | Office 365 | Windows

Last July, Microsoft unveiled the Microsoft 365 visual refresh, which, among other things, allowed the desktop Office apps to automatically use the configured Windows 11 theme. (A bigger change, perhaps, was the addition of the customized toolbar last October, which is a sort of simplified ribbon.) But the visual refresh didn’t just simplify these classic desktop apps. It also removed the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT), a legacy user interface dating back to the early days of the original ribbon.

And that, predictably, did not sit well with users. So instead of making meaningful changes to the Office desktop apps yet again—like making that stupid customized toolbar something that can be enabled whenever you want it and not something that has to “learn” how you work—Microsoft is instead doing the wrong thing and is caving to the complainers.

That’s right, it’s bringing back the QAT.

Now, before you defend or even cheer this decision, remember why the QAT exists in the first place: it was added to Office because so many people hated the ribbon, and this gave them a way to add shortcut buttons for commands they used regularly right to the top of the window where they would always be accessible. But that’s what the ribbon (which is now more customizable) and the customized toolbar are for. And that fact should make the QAT superfluous. And it would, if the ribbon and customized toolbar were correctly implemented. Which they’re not.

“I’m excited to share that we have heard your feedback and moved commonly used commands back to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT),” Microsoft’s Hannah Kieffer writes in the announcement post. “With this update, the QAT is now shown by default and includes the Undo, Redo, and Save commands, and AutoSave has found its rightful place back on the title bar. You can quickly customize the QAT to keep only the commands you need.”

In other words, it works as before. The QAT appears at the top of the desktop Office applications as it did before and it can be moved to below the ribbon if you prefer that, as before.

There is one caveat: as suggested by the fact that this news was posted to the Microsoft 365 Insider blog, this change is currently only available to those who have enrolled their PCs in the Microsoft 365 (formerly Office) Insider Program. So where the current stable version of these apps is version 2303, you need to be on version 2305 or newer to see this change. I assume it will come to stable in the months ahead.

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