Getting Started: Learn All About the Excel Menu System

About this lesson

Mastering Microsoft Excel’s Ribbon Menu: A Comprehensive Tutorial

A  tutorial on mastering Microsoft Excel’s Ribbon Menu. This powerful interface is the gateway to a wide range of tools and features that can help you streamline your workflow and increase your productivity. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced user, this tutorial will provide you with a thorough understanding of the Excel Ribbon Menu and its many options.

We will start with an introduction to the Ribbon Menu, covering its basic layout and functionality. From there, we will delve into each of the tabs in detail, exploring the various tools and features available in each section. You’ll learn how to navigate the Ribbon Menu quickly and efficiently, so you can access the tools you need with ease.

By the end of this tutorial, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of the Excel Ribbon Menu and its many features. You’ll be able to navigate the interface with confidence, and you’ll have the skills you need to use Excel to its fullest potential.

So, whether you’re looking to improve your Excel skills for work, school, or personal use, this tutorial is the perfect place to start. Let’s dive in and master the Excel Ribbon Menu together!

FIND THE SPECIAL Mac Excel Icon Decoder cheat sheet in the “Lesson Material” download link below.


  • 00:23 The Agenda
  • 00:34 Windows versus Mac Menus in Excel
  • 00:55 The Ribbon Menu BAR
  • 01:08 The Ribbon Menu TABS
  • 02:02 Quick Access Toolbar
  • 02:50 Windows Tooltips
  • 03:08 Missing Mac Tooltips
  • 03:39 FILE Menu for Windows
  • 03:57 Where to Find PRINT in Excel
  • 04:09 File Menu for Mac
  • 04:51 Action Command Icons versus Drop-Down Menus
  • 05:05 The Action Command Icon
  • 05:20 Drop-Down Menu
  • 06:40 Grouping of Actions
  • 08:12 The Windows Dialog Box Menu Launcher
  • 08:43 The Missing Mac Dialog Box Launcher
  • 09:10 In-Ribbon Gallery
  • 10:15 Missing Mac Hover Preview in Excel
  • 10:50 Missing Menu Items – Why?
  • 11:47 Context-Aware Menus


Subject Microsoft Excel

Software Compatibility All versions of Excel from 2013 and Up


Course Completed




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Excel Menu Video Transcript

Your confidence and spreadsheet skill level will skyrocket if you fully understand the Excel menu system.

Hi, this is Les from Power Up Training, where I focus on helping you master the tools of Microsoft Office. For free.

Let’s learn all about the Excel Ribbon Menus.

The Excel menu system has seven fundamental components. I will walk through them all, helping you understand the individual elements.

I am working on the Windows version of Excel. Still, the Apple Mac version is 95% identical, and I will demonstrate any differences along the way.

For Mac and Windows, the top layers of icons and specific ribbon menu tabs are identical.

Concept #1: The Ribbon Menu Bar

The Ribbon Menu Bar is a collection of menu tabs that is always visible at the top of the screen.

#2: Ribbon Menu TABS

Each menu tab heading stands for a collection of related additional sets of commands that are clickable action icons.

These TAB Menus hold the actual working command buttons, such as The HOME tab menu, which is a collection of the most common actions. And where you will spend most of time.

The INSERT tab menu will let you add in pictures, shapes, and charts

DRAW holds the sketching tools to INK on top of your spreadsheet.

And so forth, with Page Layout for managing your view, a dedicated collection of formulas in another menu, and so on.

Excel has tried to organize similar sets of commands under each ribbon menu.

Component #3 is the QUICK ACCESS TOOLBAR, which is also always displayed no matter which tab you are on.

And it is what it says it is: easy access to common tools that are quick to click

Always displayed? Yes, unless you have CUSTOMIZED IT to relocate it below the menu, or hidden it, or changed the icons which is a pro productivity tip. But by default, it is here.

With often-used action tools.

Some Icons are obvious, like the SAVE, as seen as a disk, but others are not so obvious.

Don’t worry. Just hover your mouse pointer over the icon for a quick pop-up TOOL TIP on what the icon would do if clicked.

SAVE, UNDO, REDO are seen on my Windows version.

But alas, our first deviation for the Mac: where there is NO helpful popup tool tip guides. And that’s too bad.

Fortunately, only a few are not labeled. Do check the link below to my free decoder guide for these icons at

Furthermore, we see even more subtle differences between Windows and Mac.

On my Windows version, we have a FILE tab menu that is not found on the Mac Excel ribbon toolbar.

For Windows, the FILE menu will let you manage files for saving, opening, and performing other advanced actions for the Excel file.

And while not a file activity, this is where you find PRINT.

It is almost as if Microsoft hid the print command here.

But for the Mac version of Excel, Microsoft follows the Apple menu protocol of putting the file management capabilities up on the APPLE TOP menu, conveniently using the same name of, FILE. And there, you can do similar actions as you do on Windows but just in an Apple Mac drop-down menu style. CLOSE, SAVE, MOVE, RENAME, and so forth.

And of course: PRINT.

Similar commands, just located differently.

Back to Windows, but the next topic is identical on the Mac.


Each ribbon menu tab has a collection of action icons or drop-down menus with even more action icons.

An ACTION COMMAND ICON will immediately perform an action when clicked, like BOLD when clicked or ITALICS or LEFT ALIGNED.

Select the target cell, then click the action icon and done.

But not all items are one-click actions.

Instead, a list of even more choices is provided. The drop-down menu icons will have a small “V” on the right side. Click the v, and you will get a drop-down list of even more choices . . . almost always a collection of additional one-click action icons.

That you can then click, to execute, and the drop-down menu rolls back up.

Note the nuance. If you click the actual icon, it will act as a one-click action icon command and execute. In this example, the BOLD BORDER. But if you click the small V next to it, Excel will reveal an expanded list. And if you select an alternate action, that now becomes the default top action command icon.

Furthermore, many of the expanded lists will have a “MORE”  dot dot dot, which will then open up an expanded detailed menu for complete control.

Pay attention to how Excel’s ribbon menu tab choices are grouping the related action icons together.

See the faint divider lines here indicating these are related commands for formatting: bold, italics underline, font size, or crazy big and small A’s for increasing or decreasing font size with each click.

Or color icons to change the CELL colors or the FONT color.

All related and all grouped together, between the faint divider lines.

Look at the NUMBER formatting GROUP with the comma separator for thousands or the ability to INCREASE or DECREASE the decimal places showing.

Adding the dollar currency is just a click away, and also with our already-seen V drop-down indicator, we can select other foreign currencies. Note that the change is not just the currency symbol but the addition of the thousands marking commas and the setting of the decimal to two places. One-click. . . multiple transformations.

And there is more than money for numbers with the drop-down dialog V triangle for a variety of choices. Dates, time, percentages, and more.

All of these choices are grouped together, between the faint vertical lines. Easy to peruse and click.

BUT WAIT, there is even more.

See the category label of NUMBER? And the Right Downward arrow? That indicates a fly-out dialog box with many more ways to format the cell.

For numbers and alignment and fonts and more.

Looking closely, we see the fly-out menu choices for the clipboard, fonts, and alignment.

And those individual fly-out menus will take you to the corresponding tab on this menu.

Mac users. I know. Those fly-out menus are missing. Well, not missing, but just hiding.

Go to the top Apple Excel menu and click FORMAT and then CELLS and there is the identical menu box with all the same tabs.

Mac mystery solved.

We have a few more unique menu components to discover, starting next with the IN-RIBBON GALLERY.

Some of the ribbon menus will have a visual gallery of choices right in the ribbon menu tab for you to browse and choose. Such as on the Home ribbon menu with the STYLES gallery.

Selecting some cells, I can click the green-cell-fill gallery preview, which includes a bold font.

One click and multiple format changes.

Or a variety of other style choices.

With the down arrow click, I expand the gallery for even more one-click instant formatting.

See. Like. Click.

As a bonus for Windows users, you just need to hover your mouse over the gallery items to get a preview of the proposed changes within the actual spreadsheet. No click needed until you find what you like. Then click.

For Mac users, the auto preview does not work, but it is not that big of a loss as you can just click on different styles to try them out. Click try, click try.

One of the best uses of the in-ribbon gallery is the Chart Design menu, where you can try out different chart looks without knowing any of the individual chart formatting commands.

Now a GOTCHA: The Case of the Missing and Shrinking Menus.

If you are not using Excel in FULL MONITOR mode, you may experience lost or hidden menus. Watch as I reduce my window size and how the full menu shrinks or sheds menu choices or loses action tool icon labels.

Excel attempts to maximize the use of screen space to show as many menu items as visibly possible. As the window size shrinks, icon DESCRIPTIONS reduce or disappear. And as it gets smaller, even lesser-used action icons get dropped altogether.

The lesson is to best work in full-screen mode until you become proficient in knowing all your Excel menu choices.

Our last menu item is both mysterious and ingenious: the Context-Aware Menu.

Look at this sheet with numbers, a photo, and some graphic highlights.

Words and numbers are common elements in most Excel spreadsheets, so the menu system always shows us choices, as seen during this tutorial. However, not all spreadsheets use photos and graphics, so Excel has elected NOT to show any unneeded menus to distract us.

However, what if we have a photo that needs formatting?

That is where the context-aware menus magically pop up.

Watch when I click the photo image and how a new hidden menu of PICTURE FORMAT magically appears, out of nowhere. Click off the photo, and the context-aware menu goes back into hiding.

Click, and it is back.

Then, if I click the now showing context-aware menu, there is a whole new set of specialized action icons and an in-gallery set of formatting choices only used for photos.

Click outside the image, and the PICTURE FORMAT menu will go away.

And reappears back again with a click.

Now, watch closely as I click from the photo to the GRAPHICAL ELEMENT of the arrow shape:  a new menu called SHAPE FORMAT, not PICTURE FORMAT pops up and stays active.

When I click another shape for the callout box, the SHAPE FORMAT menu appears with specific formatting tools dedicated to changing shapes.

The CONTEXT-AWARE pop-up menus are magical because they are aware of the context of your spreadsheet and reveal the needed menu action command icons only when needed.

And there you go. All of the components of the Excel Menu system.

You are now ready to expand your Excel horizons. Do subscribe for more Microsoft Office tutorials so that you can excel at your job.

Until next time, go Power Up.