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Missing Toolbars

Have your toolbars disappeared, and you can't seem to find them? Believe it or not, it is possible for this to happen in Word, and it can be quite frustrating to try to get the toolbars back. There are a couple of things you can try, however.

First, you should make sure that your missing toolbars aren't just turned off. Choose View | Toolbars and make sure there is a check mark next to the name of the toolbars you are missing.

Second, it is possible, in the present world of Windows, to overlay objects on the screen. This means your missing toolbar could actually not be gone, but simply behind another screen object. The trick in this case is to find it, and the only way to do that is to start moving objects around to see if this uncovers the toolbar's location. Try hiding your other toolbars one at a time and see if the missing toolbar shows up. Once you find it, move it to the middle of your document. Reactivate all your other toolbars, then reposition your formerly missing toolbar.

If you can't seem to locate the toolbar this way, it is possible that the toolbar is simply "out of range" for your screen resolution. This can be the result of recently changing to a lower screen resolution, or a macro or add-in that assumes a higher resolution than you are using. In this instance, simply change to the higher resolution and see if the toolbar becomes visible. You can then move it to a more central place on the screen and go back to your lower resolution.

The next possible solution relies on the fact that Word stores toolbar customizations in templates. The most commonly used template is Normal.Dot, and it therefore stores most of your customizations. If you quit Word, rename your existing Normal.Dot to a new name (such as OldNormal.Dot), and restart Word, your toolbars should be back to their default condition. If the missing toolbar is suddenly visible, you know it was a problem with your template file. If you have other customizations and macros you want to transfer from the older version of Normal.Dot, you can now do so using the Organizer tool.

If you are using Word 2000 or later, you can try using the /a switch to start Word. (This won't work with Word 97. If your toolbars don't come back and you are using Word 97, you should jump directly to the Registry Editing steps described later in this tip.) Follow these steps:

  1. Close your Word program.
  2. Choose Run from the Start menu. Windows displays the Run dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Run dialog box.

  4. Click the Browse button. Windows displays the Browse dialog box.
  5. Using the controls in the dialog box, locate and select the Winword.exe program. (This is the actual Word program.)
  6. Click Open. The Browse dialog box disappears, and the full path to Winword.exe now appears in the Open field of the Run dialog box. It should appear something like this:
  7.      "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office\WINWORD.EXE"
  8. In the Open field, place your insertion point right after the last character. In other words, right after the closing parenthesis.
  9. Type a space, then /a. The open box should now appear similar to this:
  10.      "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office\WINWORD.EXE" /a
  11. Click OK.

At this point, Word should start. The /a switch that you used causes Word to start with the following caveats:

  • Normal.dot is ignored.
  • Any templates in the Startup folder are ignored.
  • Any add-in libraries (.wll files) are ignored.
  • Any user settings in the Windows Registry are ignored.

If the toolbars are again present, then you know that one of these four elements is responsible for them disappearing. If it doesn't fix the problem, you need to jump right to editing the Windows Registry, as described shortly.

While you could modify the startup shortcuts for Word so that the /a switch is always used, this is not a good idea--because so many things are ignored, it means that any configuration changes you try to make in Word will always be ignored.

A better solution is to try to "fix" each of the items listed. If you already tried renaming Normal.Dot (as described earlier in this tip), then you are already partway done. Next, try removing any templates from the Startup folder and restarting Word. If the problem is still not fixed, it is unlikely that the add-in libraries are causing the problem; these don't have control over the toolbars in Word.

The most likely culprit at this point is a corrupt entry in the Windows Registry. You must use the Registry Editor to delete the corrupt entry; reinstalling Word won't help. This is because when you uninstall and reinstall, the old Registry entry is not deleted or overwritten; it remains in all its corrupt glory.

If you are familiar with using the Registry Editor, deleting the corrupt entry is not that difficult. If you are uncomfortable with using the Registry Editor, or you have not used the Registry Editor before, then you will want to have a more experienced friend help you out, or you will need to double-check all your actions before you take them. If you make mistakes in editing the Registry, you can mess up not only Word, but your entire Windows system. (In other words, be careful while editing the Registry.)

Get out of Word and follow these steps:

  1. Choose Run from the Start menu. Windows displays the Run dialog box.
  2. In the Open box enter the name regedit. (See Figure 2.)
  3. Figure 2. The Run dialog box.

  4. Click on OK. This starts the Registry Editor program. (See Figure 3.)
  5. Figure 3. The Registry Editor program.

  6. Locate and select the following key. (This example is for Word 2002. If you are using a different version of Word, the numeric portion of this key will differ. If you are using Word 97 it will be \8.0\ and if you are using Word 2000 it will be \9.0\.)
  7.      HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\10.0\Word\Data
  8. Press the Delete key. You are asked if you want to really delete they key.
  9. Click on Yes. The selected key is deleted.
  10. Close the Registry Editor.

You can now restart Word. When the program sees that the newly deleted Registry key is missing, it rebuilds a fresh, non-corrupt version. Your toolbars should now be back.

If you want additional, detailed information, see any of the following resources:


WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1797) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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Comments for this tip:

Red    09 Jan 2016, 10:19
well, it worked, at first I was struggling but then it work. Thanks :)
Roger Bloyce    27 Dec 2015, 11:48
In Word 2011 version 14.5.7 There is no / a switch. There is no start menu. There is no run dialog box. Accordingly, there appears to be nothing of any conceivable use to me on this site. My version of Word is in common usage, and I suggest that you give youe site a bit more thought.
Steven    06 Nov 2015, 14:14
are there tips for word for Mac?
John Polasek    09 Feb 2015, 09:32
Word 2007 does not have toolbars, just the ribbon and quick access toolbar, which can be modified according to wiki how.com.
In Word 97 there were 4 or 5 toolbars but one could never be sure which one had the paint brush or the % Zoom, etc. I often wished for a way to display all of the toolbars to help find my way.
GeordieLad    09 Feb 2015, 05:32
Hanlos: If someone hasn't already told you (or you've already realised it!) you're probably in Full Screen mode (see Word Help - F1) which states "To display as much of your document as possible on the screen, you can switch to full-screen mode. In this mode, Word removes distracting screen elements, such as toolbars and scroll bars.

On the View menu, click Full Screen.

To turn off full-screen mode and switch to the previous view, click Close Full Screen on the Full Screen toolbar, or press ESC."

Hope I'm not teaching Granny to suck eggs!
Emmy    08 Feb 2015, 08:55
Thank you sooooo much! This worked.
Hanlos    16 Jan 2015, 09:22
How can you "Choose View | Toolbars and make sure there is a check mark next to the name of the toolbars you are missing." if there are no toolbars? Hence, no view button?
NSB Happenings    04 Jan 2015, 16:26
Thank you for providing this simple fix. I spent half a day trying to get the ribbon/toolbar back. Then, I found you and the problem was resolved in 30 seconds. I greatly appreciate the info!
Steve Baker    18 Jun 2012, 09:53
I have spent two days trying to resolve a problem with Word 2000. If only I had found this website at the start ! Easy instruction sto follow and issues resolved immediately. Thanks.

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