New Keyboard shortcuts for Office menus

New shortcuts are coming to Microsoft Office 365 for Windows which will help navigate larger pull-down menus with keystrokes. Plus the screen-reader labels are being improved.

In short: the Tab key moves between sections/blocks of a pull-down menu.
That’s it … so simple and perhaps surprising that it’s not there already.

Unfortunately, Microsoft’s description of these new shortcuts is (deliberately?) misleading with many references to the ‘ribbon’ that don’t really apply.  We’ll explain how the new shortcuts work on the larger pull-down menus

At present, a pull-down menu opens with the focus/highlight on the first item in the first block (top-left option under ‘Light’ in this Excel example).  Press the Tab key and the focus jumps to the first menu item below the gallery (‘New Table Style’).

With this change, Tab will jump to the first item in each section/block of the menu.

In other words, pressing Tab moves from the first ‘Light’ item to the ‘Medium’ section. Press Tab again for the Dark section, then each of the menu items. Tab on the last item to jumps back to the start.

Shortcut key summary

Tab – move to the first item in the next section or menu item

Shift + Tab – moves ‘back’ to the previous section or menu item.

Left/Right/Up/Down – Use the four arrow keys to move around the items in a section or between sections, just as you can now.

Home  – jumps to the first item in the current section

End – jumps to the last item in the current section


Just use your mouse to click on the item you want, which is what most people do <g>.

Sections without headings

Sometimes the sections don’t have headings but a tab keypress will stop at the first item in that section. For example, the font color selector has a wide range of colors available below the single ‘Theme Colors’ line.

Note: ‘High-contrast only’ is another innovation appearing in Microsoft 365 beta releases.

There are various problems and inconsistencies with these new shortcuts. Menus that don’t work with the new shortcuts.  Since they are still in beta testing, it’s not clear if these are bugs or inconsistencies that Microsoft will dismiss as being ‘as designed’ (a standard excuse).

Better labels for screen readers

An important change for screen readers adds better labels with numbering. Screen readers are for visually impaired people and ‘speak’ the menus and labels.

Instead of the screen reader just saying the name of the menu section, the number of the section and total number of sections is said. Microsoft’s example is from the Insert | Shapes menu “Recently Used Shapes, 1 of 8” giving listeners a clue that there are eight sections on the menu.

Not the ribbon

Using your keyboard to move through the ribbon in apps such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint …”

Despite the many mentions of ‘ribbon’ in Microsoft’s blurb about this feature, the shortcuts do NOT apply to moving around the ribbon itself.

The new shortcuts apply to pull-down menus only.

Who gets it?

According to Microsoft the new shortcuts are available in “Version 2304 (Build 16318.10000) or later”.  We presume they mean Microsoft 365 for Windows <g>.

Check Accessibility problems as you work in Word, Excel and PowerPoint
How to use Excel’s Accessibility Ribbon 
Fixing common Office document accessibility problems