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Microsoft Office Applications attempt to show you only the most commonly used menu items. There's a simple setting if you always want to see them all.

How do I make the WHOLE menu display always?

A couple of versions ago, several Microsoft products introduced the concept of "smart menus" - menus that would display only the most common and most recently used items and hide the rest. The idea was to make the ever growing menus seem a little less daunting. The problem of course is that many functions and options were hard enough to find already, and hiding a bunch of menu items made that problem worse for many people.

Short Format Menu

Full Format Menu

Smart menus in applications such as office work like this: when you first drop down the menu, it shows you the short form. There's a little downward pointing indicator at the bottom that indicates there are more items on the full version of the menu. (See the accompanying examples of Word 2003's Format menu above.) What most people don't realize is that a) if you wait a few seconds the full menu will be displayed, or b) if you click on that little downward pointing indicator the full menu will be displayed.

If, like me, you never want to see short menus again that's easily taken care of as well once you know where to look.

To turn off 'smart menus':

- Right click on any menubar or toolbar

- Click on Customize

- Click on the Options tab

- Make sure that "Always show full menus" is checked

- Click on OK or Close

Microsoft also has a Knowledgebase article on this topic here.

Article C1874 - December 28, 2003 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

June 2, 2004 5:11 PM

smart menus? they SUCK!
thanks for the tips.

October 29, 2004 1:42 AM

Was very usefull, save my time.

November 6, 2004 8:55 PM

Great Tip!!!!

How do you make the start up bar display all?


November 11, 2004 7:03 AM

Thanks Leo! Big help!

April 1, 2005 10:32 AM

Outstanding. I think I lost all of my hair because of "smart-menus".

Richard Swika
January 20, 2006 8:00 AM


John Parker
February 20, 2007 2:24 AM

i hate smart menus too :)

May 31, 2007 8:38 AM

The Smart Menus concept is right on par with "Clippy".....

Thanks for spreading the word on how to get rid of this pain-in-the-ass.

October 14, 2008 12:54 AM

Hi! Is there a way to make Photoshop CS3 menus appear in full too. It drives me crazy. If I don't use PS for a couple of weeks it's easy to forget where everything is - there's so much in there.

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