I do a lot of online and phone tech support and I'm constantly asking people
"Are you sure you mean the toolbar? Or do you mean taskbar?"
I know that most non-tech people don't feel a need to know the names of all
of the parts of their operating system or program interfaces, but think of it
this wayif you call tech support and are paying for that call,
or if you need an answer to a problem quickly, you may be wasting time
and money just trying to clarify what it is that you are seeing on your screen.
So, with this in mind, here's a brief tutorial explaining the names of some
main components of the Office and Windows interfaces. Obviously, I can't include
them all, but this will give both users and tech support staff a webpage they
can use to make sure they are both talking about the same thing. I would suggest
users bookmark this page so they can correctly identify the part of their screen
where they are having a problem. And, I suggest tech support people bookmark
this page so, when they receive a question that makes no sense to them, they
can send the user to this page to find the correct name for what item they are
trying to identify.
Let's start at the top of the screen and work our way down.
This is what you see at the top of almost every window on your screen. It identifies
the name of the file you are looking at and the name of the program you are
using to open that file.
Word's Title Bar identifies the name of the document and Microsoft Word.
Internet Explorer's Title Bar identifies the name of the web page and
Your Windows Control Panel Title Bar identifies the Control Panel and
then, when you click on one of the system icons inside the control panel,
the Title Bar for that Window identifies the specific part of the Control Panel
that you are accessing.
Note! On the left end of every Title Bar you see an Icon. This is called
the Control Menu Icon. If you click on this icon, you have choices that
allow you to minimize, maximize, close, resize, and move your window. This is
especially helpful if you have a window that has moved off the right side of
your screen and you can't get to the buttons on the right end of your Title
The menu bar is almost always directly below the Title Bar. It's called the
Menu Bar because it has buttons on it that allow you to access all of your available
menus. Usually these menus have names like File, Edit, View, Help, etc.
These menus will be different, depending on what program you are using.
Here's a picture of Word's Menu Bar.
When you click on a button on the Menu Bar, you see that menu and all of its
commands. For example, the File menu is generally the menu that includes commands
like New, Open, Close, Save, etc.
Here is a picture of an expanded File Menu.
Notice that some commands are followed by three dots (
). This is called
an ellipsis and indicates that, if you click on this command you will
be taken to a dialog box. Dialog boxes include a lot of additional parts from
which to choose.
Another thing you will see on your menus, beside ellipses which take you to
dialog boxes, are submenus which are indicated by an arrow to the right
of a command. When you see one of these, this tells you that the command itself
cannot be chosen, but hovering your mouse over this command will reveal a submenu
of subcommands which can be clicked.
This is the Windows Run dialog box and in here you see two features
you will often use in dialog boxes. One is called a dropdown list and
the other is called a button. The dropdown list has a downward pointing
triangle on the right end of it. If you click on this triangle, you can choose
from the available options which will be displayed. The buttons allow you to
make choices, simply by clicking on them.
Note! that one button will usually appear slightly differently than
the others (shadowed or raised). In this case, it is the OK button. This indicates
that OK is the default choice. If you hit the Enter key on your
keyboard, it's the same as clicking on the OK, or default, button. Note also
that the Browse button contains an ellipsis (
) which means clicking
on it will take you to another dialog box.
Also, in a dialog box, you will see some of the following features.
This is Word's Paste Special dialog box, which is accessed by going
to the Edit menu and choosing the Paste Special command. In here,
you see radio buttons, a scroll box, a check box, and some
The scroll box allows you to choose one item from the list (sometimes scroll
boxes are set up so you can combine the CTRL key with your clicks to select
multiple items). The radio buttons allow you to make one choice from
the options, whereas check boxes allow you to choose more than one item. (Note
that radio buttons are always round and check boxes are square.) After you make
your choices, you can click on the OK button to accept and apply the
selections or click the Cancel button to reject them and leave things as they
were before you accessed this dialog box.
Also, in dialog boxes, you will see tabs, slider controls, and
spinner controls. Tabs allow you to move from page to page within a dialog
box, by clicking on them. Slider controls let you increase or decrease an amount
by sliding the little control on the line. And, spinner controls are what you
use to increase or decrease a number by clicking on the upward or downward triangles
to the right of the box.
Usually, the Standard Toolbar is the one immediately below your Menu Bar (however,
most programs allow you to customize your toolbar layouts, so this isn't always
the case). The Standard Toolbar is the one that includes icons for the standard
commands, like Print, Save, etc.
This is the Standard Toolbar from Word.
And this is the Standard Toolbar from Internet Explorer.
As with the Menu Bar, the Standard Toolbar will have different icons, depending
on the program options.
Many programs allow you to format text or graphics and therefore, include another
toolbar which gives you access to the most common commands you use for this.
If the program you are using allows you to format text, the Formatting toolbar
will include a dropdown list where you can select your font type, font size,
Word's Formatting Toolbar looks like this.
Some programs do not include a Formatting Toolbar, but, instead use other types
of toolbars. PhotoShop (versions 6 and above), for example, uses an Options
Bar, which reflects the options available for whatever tool you have selected
Suffice it to say that there are many different toolbars in all programs and
each of them allow you to do different things. In most programs, if you go to
the View menu and select the Toolbars command (or right click on one
of your toolbars), you will see which toolbars are checked. If they are checked,
this means they are showing on your screen. The easiest way to identify a toolbar
is to look at the toolbars that are showing, then go to the View menu and choose
Toolbars and uncheck one and see which one goes away. To put it back, just go
back there and click on that toolbar's name again and it will return.
Here's some of the toolbar choices you have in Word. If you want even more,
click on the Customize
command at the end of the Toolbar submenu.
Many programs include a Status Bar at the bottom of your window, which
gives you some statistics about your file
Here's Word's Status Bar.
Here's PhotoShop's Status Bar.
And, this is the Status Bar in Windows Explorer in Windows XP.
As you can see, a Status Bar will look very different, depending on where you
are when you view it. But, generally, it will be at the very bottom of your
window, just above your Windows Taskbar.
This is one I see mis-named all the time. Nope, it's not a toolbar. It's
your Taskbar. It's called this because it holds buttons for all your
opened tasks. Right now, because I'm doing lots of stuff, mine is fairly
full. It's the bottommost thing on your screen and it includes your clock,
Start Button, Quick Launch Toolbar and System Tray and
it looks something like the image below.
Remember that there are lots of parts to the interface that I haven't covered
here, but I tried to cover the most common ones. And just think, now when you
have a problem, you can go to a newsgroup or call tech support and save yourself
lots of time and energy. Now, instead of saying "My whatsis on my doohickey
at the bottom of my screen is missing", you can say "My system tray
is missing from my Windows Taskbar". I guarantee you will get a much more
accurate and quick reply.
For more information about Windows and the Office programs, please check out
all of my free tutorials and my ABC newsletter at my website:
And details on my online classes, downloadable ebooks, and Office training CD
can be found: