Lesson 7


Contextual Tabs

Besides the standard tabs, Excel also uses contextual tabs. Whenever a graphical object such as a chart is selected, specific tab(s) and toolbar for working with that object are made available to the Ribbon.
For example, if you create a chart for its associated table and then click on the chart with a mouse, Excel will immediately add a contextual tab section to the Ribbon, called Chart Design and Format tabs, as shown in FIGURE 2. It should be emphasized this contextual tab will only appear when you click on the object with your mouse. When you click on a chart or another graphical object, you will see an outline of the object with sizing handles (circles). Besides showing that the object has been selected, these sizing handles are used for changing the object’s size (FIGURE 1). These contextual tabs are temporary and will remain on the Ribbon until you click off of the object with your mouse. There are several contextual tabs available in Excel. This is only one example of them.    

Figure 1

For example, if you create a chart and then click on the chart with a mouse, Excel will immediately add a contextual tab section to the Ribbon called “Chart Design” and “Format” tabs, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Chart Design Tab Toolbar

This toolbar appears when you select the “Chart Design” contextual tab, as shown in Figure 3 below.

Figure 3

Chart Format Tab Toolbar

​This toolbar appears when you select the Chart Format contextual tab shown below in FIGURE 4.

Figure 4

Tables and pivot tables are heavily used in Excel. Let’s examine contextual tabs used with tables. Before we begin let’s take a quick look at ranges. Below in FIGURE 5 is a graphic of a simple range. If we were to select one of the cells of the range, we would not see any contextual tab(s) appear on the Ribbon.

Figure 5

Below in FIGURE 6 is a graphic of a table. If we were to select one of the cells of the table, we would see a contextual tab on the Ribbon titled “Table Design”.

Figure 6

Below in FIGURE 7 is the contextual tab Table Design toolbar, and has been divided up into sections for better viewing. FIGURE 7 is the left-side of the toolbar. Keep in mind that we must click on the Table Design toolbar tab in order to view this toolbar.

When examining the “Properties” section of the toolbar, we see we have the option of changing the default table name “Table1” to something more descriptive. Spaces are not allowed; use an underscore (Shift + hyphen) if a separator is desired.

In the “Tools” section of the toolbar, we see an option, “Convert to Range”. When selected, it will convert the table back to a range. Although converted to a range, the range keeps the banded rows formating. To remove the formating we must go to the Home tab toolbar and in the “Editing” section, select “Clear”, and on the drop-down menu, select “Clear Format”.

Figure 7 (Table Design Contextual Toolbar – left side)

Below in FIGURE 8 is the contextual tab Table Design toolbar. We are viewing the right-side of the toolbar.

Figure 8 (Table Design Contextual Toolbar – right side)

Let’s look at the “Table Style Options” section of the Table Design toolbar. Notice there are several checkboxes that we can check with our mouse.

The “Header Row” checkbox is almost always checked since many tables have column headers.

The “Total Row” checkbox is checked when we want to see totaling of our data at the bottom of the table (FIGURE 9). Notice that although we viewing the bottom of the table, we still see the column headers. This is another advantage of using a table. A range does not have this capability.

The “Banded Rows” checkbox and the “Banded Columns checkbox are very similar in that we can alter the graphical look of the table. Banding of data results in better readability of data and adds a design element to our table.

The “Filter Button” checkbox provides filter arrows that enable us to sort the same column of data as the filtering arrow above.

Figure 9

The last section of the Table Design toolbar to be examined is the “Table Styles” section. We see there are arrows on the far-right of the section, which enable us to view a large drop-down menu of various graphical choices of how we can view our table as shown in FIGURE 10 below.

Figure 10

Contextual Tabs Used with Other Objects
Contextual tabs can become visible when other inserted objects besides charts are clicked on with a mouse. Below is a list of Excel objects that use contextual tabs: (Notice that ranges are not on the list)

  • Tables
  • Pivot Tables
  • Charts
  • Shapes
  • Icons
  • 3D Models
  • SmartArt

Other Excel Objects with Contextual Tabs

If we inserted a shape such as an arrow and we clicked on that arrow with a mouse we will also see contexual tabs. In this example, we have inserted a block arrow by selecting Insert tab, Shapes, Block arrows. When we click on the block arrow with a mouse we see the following toolbar with contextual tab visible. It should be remembered that you must click on the contextual tab with a mouse to see the associated toolbar for that object, as shown below:

​Shape block arrow object selected below (FIGURE 11):

Figure 11

Shape Format Contextual Tab Toolbar (FIGURE 12)

Figure 12

​In the example below, we have inserted a SmartArt object by selected Insert tab, SmartArt. SmartArt object selected below (FIGURE 13):

Figure 13

SmartArt Design Contextual Tab Toolbar (for brevity, we only show 1 of the 2 toolbars available) (FIGURE 14)

Figure 14

Customizing the Ribbon

Figure 15

Customization Instructions (FIGURE 15)

  1. On the Ribbon, select the File tab. This will take you to the Backstage View.  From the left side select Options. Select Customize Ribbon (or right-button mouse click anywhere on the Ribbon that is vacant of an icon, select Customize Ribbon).
  2. Select the feature desired from the list of features on the left side. On the right side window, select a Tab and Group you would like to add the new feature to. Press the Add button. Selected feature will appear under the Tab/Group selected.
  3. To add a new Tab and Group to the Ribbon and then add the new feature to it, on the right side window at the bottom select New Tab. A new unnamed tab will appear (it will read New Tab (Custom)). Click on New Tab (Custom) to highlight it. Select the Rename button at the bottom and enter a name. When it created the unnamed tab, it also created an unnamed group underneath it, called New Group (Custom). Click on New Group (Custom) to highlight it. Select the Rename button again and enter a name for it.
  4. Select the feature(s) you wish to add from the list of features listed on the left side. Press the Add button. Your new feature will appear underneath the new group you recently created.


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