Customizing Word User Interface: What is and isn’t customizable
Word is a stalwart… a pillar of the Office application suite. It’s been around since I was in junior high. It’s ubiquitous. And because of its familiarity, it is not possible to know whether Microsoft Word has adjusted to the needs of its users or if it is vice-a-versa.
For the casual or infrequent user of an Office application, the best path to productivity is to adjust to the application. This type of user should learn the main commands as presented by the app. If they run into trouble, they can hit F1 of search Google (or BING!).
But for the advanced user who views Word as essential to their daily grind at the office… Word needs to do some adjusting to the user. This user has well defined grooves in their workday. They work spans across multiple teams, departments, companies, and applications. Microsoft Word can be a player in these processes and you can put Word in the best position possible. But how?
Well, the best way to know where and how to utilize Word is to understand its strengths. Today, we’ll go a long way toward this goal by covering the customization options supported by Word’s user interface and Add-in Express.
- Customizing the Word Ribbon
- Customizing Word CommandBars
- Creating custom Backstage views
- Building custom Word task panes
- Customizing Word context menus
Word 2007 – 2013 utilize the Office Ribbon toolbar. The ribbon is the place for buttons and other controls that allow users to take action and invoke the features your solutions provides.
If you read Pieter’s article covering Outlook’s UI customization options, then you know everything you need to know. Granted, Word is simpler because there is a single window type and there are only documents to as the main “data type” (verses Outlook’s two windows and multiple item types).
Just add an ADXRibbonTab component to the AddinModule and start designing the Ribbon’s layout.
And just like you can with Outlook, you can use the Ribbon’s Context property to display your custom Ribbon only for a specific Word context.
For example, by setting the Context property to Word.TabSetHeaderAndFooterTools, your custom ribbon will display only when the user works with the header and footer design view.
The CommandBars (or toolbar) are relevant to Word 2003 and older. That might sound old and deprecated but the fact is, a significant number of companies still use these Word versions. As a result, it behooves you to support CommandBars in your Word solutions. You do this by adding an ADXCommandBar control to the AddinModule.
The above image shows an ADXCommandBar in its visual designer in Visual Studio. The design closely mirrors the custom ribbon. Given command bars do not have a control that equates to the Ribbon’s split button control, this design uses the combination of the drop down control combined with a command bar control. It’s not the same but it’s close.
With command bars, you can host .NET control by adding an ADXCommandBarAdvancedControl to the command bar. Then you add a .NET control to the AddinModule design surface and specify it as the value in the Host property of the ADXCommandBarAdvancedControl.
The Backstage view, introduced with Word 2010, contains the commands intended for working “with” a document (as opposed to working “on” a document). These are the commands that exist behind the scenes. The have their own view so that they don’t clutter the Ribbon and the main UI. Creating a custom Word Backstage is easy as adding the ADXBackstageView component to the AddinModule. Well almost… you will need to add controls and configure them using the Add-in Express visual designer.
The backstage is a good location to place options and administrative features.
Microsoft Word supports custom task panes. Task panes display within the Word window next to a document. They are intended to aid the user as they create a document. They are good place to add features that allow them to insert content or view issues within the active document… all without interrupting them with nasty dialog boxes.
Add-in Express’s Advanced Task Panes go further than standard Office task panes by supporting four display locations (top, bottom, left, and right). You specify where to display the panes initially, and if you allow it, the user can move it to any supported location.
In addition, Add-in Express automatically saves the custom pane’s display state. You don’t need to write code to do it.
As you see in the screenshot above, the additional features are within reach, elegant, and quite useful for the task at-hand.
The context menu is the right-click menu that provides users with useful, contextual relevant commands. You can add a custom context menu to Word add-ins by adding either one of these:
- ADXRibbonContextMenu – use this for Word 2010 and Word 2013.
- ADXContextMenu – use these for Word 2007 and earlier
Using the visual designer, you can quickly design your ribbon context menus…
… and your context menus…
… and impress your users.
Word’s user interface provides several customization options. With what’s possible, there is no reason you can’t build beautiful UIs for your solutions that provide a pleasurable experience to your users.
Word add-in development in Visual Studio for beginners
- Part 1: Word add-in development – Application and base objects
- Part 3: Customizing Word main menu, context menus and Backstage view
- Part 4: Creating custom Word ribbons and toolbars
- Part 5: Building custom task panes for Word 2013 – 2003
- Part 6: Working with Word document content objects
- Part 7: Working with Word document designs, styles and printing
- Part 8: Working with multiple Microsoft Word documents
- Part 9: Using custom XML parts in Word add-ins
- Part 10: Working with Word document properties, bookmarks, content controls and quick parts
- Part 11: Populating Word documents with data from external sources
- Part 12: Working with Microsoft Word templates