Customize the Quick Access Toolbar


The Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) isn’t unique to Windows Explorer. Many programs written using the Ribbon take advantage of its access to frequently used features. As more and more programs implement the Ribbon, we might find it inconvenient to (re)learn where a command is. The QAT can sometimes help ease the pain.

In case you don’t know what I am talking about, here is a visual:

The Quick Access Toolbar


Unfortunately, the feature set is limited in Windows Explorer, but it is still a useful tool if you are doing some file clean up and organizing. The Microsoft Office 2010 and 2013 applications and most of the Windows accessories implement the Ribbon and QAT. Lately I am noticing many third party programs are implementing it too.

Add/Remove Icons

The Quick Access Toolbar is not as useful as it can be until we customize it. Here is a quick tutorial on what we can do with it in Windows Explorer.

To add an undo icon to the Quick Access Toolbar:

  1. Click on the drop-down button
  2. Click on Undo
First click on the drop down. Then click on "Undo"

Steps to add an icon to QAT

After the action completes, you have the standard Undo icon on your toolbar.

The QAT with the Undo button


Minimizing the Ribbon

Did you notice the “Minimize the Ribbon” selection in the Quick Access drop down?

Minimize the Ribbon

Click it and you will turn this:

Ribbon in default visibility

Into this:

Minimized Ribbon

This is especially useful if you are on a small screen and need to make better use of the available real estate.

Look Up

I don’t think there has been anything useful up in that corner of Windows since the Windows 3.1 days. We have pretty much trained ourselves not to look up there anymore. Check out the Quick Access Toolbar for yourself and see if you can make it fit into your workflow.

Fix the Win 8.1 Start Menu Background

Like a lot of people, I wasn’t very happy with the Start screen in Windows 8. There’s nothing really wrong with it – it’s just that the transition is so abrupt when it pops up into that solid background from whatever desktop wallpaper you are using.

For instance, this is my current wallpaper:

When I hit the Window Key, this monster pops up:

See what mean? Abrupt.

It wasn’t until Windows 8.1 that I realized that abruptness was my only real problem with the Start menu. Once they gave us the ability to make the background of the start menu the same as the desktop wallpaper, things just seemed …. Better.

To change the background do this:

  • Right click on the taskbar and choose properties

  • Click on the navigation tab (1) and look for the “Show my desktop background on Start” checkbox (2)

  • Check the box (1) and click OK (2)

  • Now hit the Window Key

Now the effect looks like the program windows just fade into the Start screen tiles.

Once you have the nice smooth transition in place, try rearranging and resizing the tiles for the look and feel you desire and give the new Start screen a chance.