Unlike the menus -- such as File, Edit and View -- in many other programs, Microsoft Office programs display tabs on a ribbon bar. In Excel, these include tabs that always appear, such as Formulas and Data, as well as contextual tabs, also called tool tabs. Contextual tabs show up only when you select specific items in the program and enable you to edit those particular items.

About Contextual Tabs

Excel's ribbon uses contextual tabs and sections to hide settings you can't use on your current selection. For example, when you select a picture, the Picture Tools section will appear on the ribbon, containing the Format tab. This tab contains options to edit images and will disappear when you select a cell in your workbook. When you select a chart, the Chart Tools section appears containing three contextual tabs: Design, Layout and Format. When working with a table, the Table Tools section will appear with the Design tab. Though some tabs in contextual sections use the same names, they contain different features.

Other Contextual Sections

In addition to the sections mentioned above, Excel has the following contextual tab sections: SmartArt Tools, Drawing Tools, PivotTable Tools, Header & Footer Tools, PivotChart Tools, Ink Tools, Sparkline Tools, Slicer Tools and Equation Tools.


Information in this article applies to Excel 2013 and 2010. It may vary slightly or significantly with other versions.