Changing the Ribbon’s Size and Look

Brian is a member of a club that teaches computer skills to senior citizens. He has a new student who is sight impaired. Despite copious amount of searching he has been unable to discover any means of changing the look and feel of the Ribbon to make it easier for the student to use. Brian wonders if there is a way to modify the Ribbon’s size and look.

There are a number of approaches that can be taken. The first is to skip making any changes in Excel and make your adjustments in Windows. This may be the best overall approach as a person with sight impairment doesn’t necessarily need help with just the Ribbon; the help is needed in all areas of using the computer.

If you decide to go this route, you should look at changing the color scheme used in Windows to provide more contrast. You can also use Windows’ accessibility tools to add varying degrees of magnification to the area in which the mouse pointer is located. Color schemes and accessibility tools are all available through the Control Panel.

You might also consider adding verbalization tools to Windows or Excel. These allow a computer to “speak” what it on the screen so that those with sight impairment can actually hear what is on the screen. A good add-on to Windows is the JAWS software (you can search for it using your favorite search engine). Within Excel, you could consider adding the Speak Cells tools to the Quick Access Toolbar. When customizing the QAT, you can find it in the full list of available tools (there are several; they all start with the name Speak Cells).

If looking to specifically modify the Ribbon, Microsoft’s Help system is pretty emphatic that “you cannot increase the size of the buttons,” although it notes that you can modify the screen resolution within Windows to make the buttons appear larger.

That said, there are few tricks you can play with the Ribbon. You should, for example, consider adding the Touch/Mouse Mode tool to the QAT. This tool, available only in Excel 2013, provides the option to switch between an interface optimized for the mouse and one optimized for touch screen systems. The result of choosing “Touch” mode is that the tools on the Ribbon are spaced out more so they are easier to accurately touch with a finger. Even if you don’t have a touch-screen system, the additional spacing is helpful for those who are sight impaired and using a mouse.

Finally, if you are using Excel 2010 or Excel 2013, consider adding a custom tab to the Ribbon that contains the tools used most by the user. This allows the common tools to be in a predictable location, which means it is easier to find the tools needed. In putting the custom tab together, you can add spacing so the tools aren’t bunched up as much and therefore easier for a sight-impaired user to access.