Windows From the Keyboard Tips, Navigating Ribbons Using the Keyboard, May 6, 2020

Hello. This is Gerry Chevalier from the GTT Edmonton Chapter. This weekly blog provides tips that I find useful as a keyboard user of Windows. The information is for Windows10 and Office 365, although many tips still apply to older versions. The tips do not require a screen reader unless specifically noted. Thus, the tips apply whether you are a keyboard user or low vision mouse user. Here is this week’s tip.

Microsoft Office – Navigating Ribbons Using the Keyboard
In Office apps such as Outlook, Word, Excel, and Power Point as well as certain non-Office apps such as File Explorer and Wordpad the ribbon provides the command functions of the app. Note: If you are a JAWS for Windows user, be sure to disable the JAWS virtual ribbon menu feature. Press JAWS key + V to open quick settings and type “virtual” into the settings search box. Tab once to reach the list of resulting settings and ensure the virtual ribbon menu feature is unchecked. Here is a summary of how to use ribbon commands from the keyboard.
• There is a ribbon bar at the top of the screen containing a list of ribbon tabs. You reach the list of ribbons by pressing the Alt key and then using left/right arrow keys to move across the list to find the ribbon tab you want. As you move across each tab in the list its corresponding ribbon opens below it. If you don’t see the ribbon bar, try pressing Control+F1which is a toggle that expands and collapses the ribbon bar. It is best to leave the ribbon bar expanded so it is visible.
• When you reach the desired ribbon, press Tab to move to the first command in the ribbon. You may need to press Tab 3 times to skip over the Minimize and Help buttons that are attached to the ribbon bar.
• Then press TAB and Shift+Tab to navigate the ribbon commands. IMPORTANT: Do not use arrow keys to navigate ribbon commands because you will miss some commands. Only use Tab and Shift+Tab.
• At any time, you may press Escape to close the ribbon and return to your document.
• Commands are often grouped on the ribbons. You can jump back and forth between the groups with Control+Left or Control+Right arrow keys.
• For commands with a list of radio button choices, use arrow keys to choose the desired button and press Enter to activate it.
• You can navigate grid items with all 4 arrow keys and press Enter when you find the item you need to execute.
• Commands with split buttons have a menu of choices. You can accept the default choice by pressing Enter or you can open the menu of choices with Alt+Down Arrow.
• Commands with a checkbox can be actioned by pressing spacebar.
• Commands may have submenus which can be opened with Enter.
• There are sequences of shortcut keys to reach the ribbon commands, usually 2 to 4 keys in sequence. These key sequences are called Key Tips and are displayed in little boxes beside the ribbon commands. If you use a screen reader, it should announce the key tips as you navigate the ribbon commands. If you can remember the key tip for a given ribbon command, you can repeat the command by pressing that sequence of keys.
• For example, in Word, you may reach the Font dialogue of the Home ribbon by pressing the key tip sequence: Alt+H to open the Home ribbon followed by F and another F.
• Note that ribbons are contextual. For example, in Outlook if you are focused in the body of an email message and press ALT, you will encounter different ribbons than if you pressed ALT while focused in the headers of your email.
• Also, don’t forget to try your Applications key while in your document. It will bring up a context menu that has a subset of ribbon commands so you may not even need to navigate the ribbon if the command you want is on the Applications context menu.
• If you find ribbon navigation somewhat daunting, the next two tips will offer strategies to simplify using the ribbons from the keyboard.