The quick access toolbar
The quick access toolbar allows you to add the commands that you use the most often. They are always close so that you can use them at any time. The versions previous to Office 2007 allowed you to create your own toolbars. That option was removed in Office 2007. But it came back with, in some way, with Office 2010.
How to add or to personalize the quick access toolbar ...
Press the arrow pointing downward located at the end of the quick access toolbar.
You can immediately select among the list of the most often used commands. You can also decide to place the quick access toolbar above or below the ribbon. The bar is more easily visible above but closer to your document when it's below the Ribbon.
Select More commands...
From Excel's options window, under the Personalize option, you can choose the commands that you wish to add to the Quick Access toolbar and select the placement order on the bar.
Select the command of your choice from the list of commands and press the Add >> button.
Use the UP and DOWN arrows to move the command higher or lower on the list.
Press the OK button.
Office 2007 changed the command structure for the menu. Each tab represents the steps used to create a document. Each step has its own tab that regroups all the commands related to it.
Under each tab, you will find the commands for this option. Similar commands are grouped together. But even with this new menu structure, it cannot show all the available options, only the most commonly used ones. To access all the options, you need to press the dialog box launcher button located at the bottom right of most command group.
The contextual tabs
Microsoft Excel uses tabs to manage the commands available in this program. However, contextual tabs are needed to manage the objects that you insert in your documents such as pictures, diagrams, charts, etc...
For example, three contextual tabs are needed to manage all the tools available for a chart. These contextual tabs are named Design, Layout and Format. Other objects that you can insert may require many contextual tabs.
The groups of commands
The group of command regroups similar commands. It makes it easier to find the commands you need. Notice that each group has its own name (Fonts in this case) and that there is a Dialog box launcher at the bottom right of most groups.
These are instructions that you need to create your model. They can be used to insert a function, a formula, a chart, change your model's appearence or to print. Other options are also available.
The Dialog box launcher
Even in this new command structure, there isn't enough space on the screen to show all the possible commands and options. The Dialog box launcher opens a new dialog box with all the commands and options for the group.
You may need help to navigate through all the menu's options. Excel offers an option called the ScreenTip. It gives you a short description of the command when the pointer hovers over a command button.
In the previous Excel versions, a contextual menu appeared every time that you pressed the right mouse button. From Excel 2010 on, an additionnal mini toolbar appears at the same time. It gives you quick access to change your documents' formatting.
Here is one option that was rarely used before but was nicely improved in Office 2007. The keyboard shortcuts have been available in previous versions of Office. But it was hard to notice which keys should be used and at what time. You may have noticed them before but didn't know how to use them. Most commands in the menus had a letter that was underlined. That was the keyboard shortcut. In Office 2007, when you press the Alt key. The shortcuts are more obvious and therefore more useful. You can kkep your hands on the keyboard and access any comand you need. With a bit of practice, you will be choosing commands without even thinking about it! This option is really under estimated and should be used more often!
Office 2007 added a wonderfull option called Live Preview. You can see what impact a command will have on your document even before you apply it. This saves a lot of time in trial and error. You may even be temped to try even more possibilities before deciding what to apply.
Another advantage of Office 2007 is to offer galleries with a vast list of possibilities to chosse from. You can place the cursor over each possibility and see the impact it would have on your document because of the live preview.
Microsoft Office does provide the user help just by pressing the F1 key. With Office 2010, it will look up the help file from the Internet. The advantage of this is that you always have access to the most recent support documentation.