How to get more from the toolbar in Word web app

Microsoft web apps like Word and Excel are excellent and are like lite versions of the full applications. The web apps do more than you might think and here’s how to master the Word toolbar.

Nothing beats the full Microsoft Word application installed on a Windows PC or Apple Mac, but not everyone needs the huge range of features it provides. It is excellent, but if you are not using everything to the maximum, the Word web app is a simpler, but still powerful version of Word that runs in a web browser.

Go to in a web browser and click the New button to create a new Word document in a new browser tab. Alternatively, go to and click the Word icon in the sidebar. Microsoft Word appears in the web browser window and apart from being within a browser, it looks and works in a similar way.

Some features in Word web app are obvious, but some are not, so let’s take a look around the toolbar at the top of the window and see what we can learn. Everything here works with the free version of Word web app.

Set the document mode in Word web app

Go to OneDrive or Office websites and create a new Word document. You are automatically in Editing mode and can immediately start typing.

Selecting the document mode in the Microsoft Word web app in a browser
Select the Word document mode: Editing, Reviewing or Viewing

Open an existing document and you have several options that are accessing using a menu to the right of the Help menu. Click the button and choose:

  • Editing: You are the boss and you can make any changes you want in the document. Enter new content, delete existing content and more.
  • Reviewing: Changes to the document, such as adding text or deleting it, become suggestions and they appear in red. Underlined text indicates added text and strikethough indicates deleted text. Open a document that has been reviewed by you or someone else, select the Review toolbar tab and there is a toolbar section with Accept and Reject, and Previous and Next buttons. Use them to choose what to keep.
  • Viewing: The document can be viewed, but not edited, reviewed or changed.

If it is your document, Editing mode is fine and Reviewing and Viewing modes are really only useful when sharing documents with other people. You can limit what they can do.

Set a ribbon layout in Word web app

It is easy to miss the little button at the right side of the toolbar or ribbon as Microsoft calls it. Click it and there are two layouts and two view options.

Ribbon toolbar options for the Microsoft Word web app
Select the Word ribbon toolbar options
  • Classic Ribbon: This is the deep ribbon toolbar that is packed with buttons and menus. It was introduced into Word over a decade ago and if you have used the desktop app, you will be familiar with it. It puts nearly all features in the ribbon where they are easy to find.
  • Simplified Ribbon: Some people do not like the full-featured ribbon toolbar and they prefer a more compact, traditional-style toolbar. It is useful if you only need basic Word features. Try both toolbars and see which one you prefer.
  • Always Show: Always show the ribbon toolbar. It works for Classic and Simplified ribbons.
  • Automatically Hide: Move the mouse up to the top of the page and the ribbon appears. Click in the document and it disappears. If you have ever used auto-hide on the Windows taskbar or Mac Dock, you will be familiar with the idea. It gives you more screen space and hides things when not being used, which is useful on laptop computers with small screens.

Expand hidden items in the toolbar

If you choose the simplified ribbon, some items are shrunk to a single button in order to get everything into a single row toolbar.

Reveal drop-down panels in the Word web app toolbar
Click the down arrows to open panels and menus

Look for down arrows (v) next to buttons and click them to see all the options available. Here is the Font Color panel for example.

Reveal hidden menus in the Microsoft Word web app

If the web browser window is not wide enough to show everything on the simplified ribbon, look for three-dots buttons. Click them to see a menu containing additional items. If you cannot find some formatting option you need, if could be on a menu like this.

Word web app ribbon toolbar

We have looked at the simplified ribbon, which is great for saving space. Let’s now look at the classic ribbon in the Word web app. As we saw earlier, it can be set to be permanently visible or to auto-hide when the mouse leaves it.

The full ribbon toolbar in the Microsoft Word web app
The ribbon toolbar in Word web app. Click that little button

The ribbon is organized into sections. If there is insufficient space to show everything, there is a v button under the icon and clicking it shows a menu of options. In the bottom right corner of some sections is a tiny icon. You can see this next to the mouse pointer in the screenshot. Click it to open a window containing more options.

Open settings panels from the Word web ribbon toolbar
Open popup windows to access extra settings

Several sections open windows like this and they are useful for accessing extra settings and options. Open each one from the ribbon toolbar and get to know them.

Install Word add-ins

Add-ins extend Word’s capabilities and they provide extra features and functions that can be accessed when editing documents. It is similar to adding extensions to a web browser to add features and functions.

Select the Insert tab for the ribbon toolbar and then click Add-ins. If you are using the compact simplified ribbon, you may need to click the three dots at the right side to show a menu.

Microsoft Word web app add-ins store
The add-ins store in Word web app

My Add-ins is shown by default, but select Store under Office Add-ins and you can browse and add add-ins.

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