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Chapter 3. Using Office Task Panes > Understanding the Task Pane

Understanding the Task Pane

A major change to the Office XP application environment is the introduction of task panes. A task pane is a multipurpose windowpane that appears on the right side of the window of an Office application. A task pane basically takes the place of dialog boxes that were used to navigate certain application features, such as opening a new file or inserting clip art into an application document. The list that follows describes the global task panes that you will find in all the Office applications:

  • New File Task Pane — Enables you to start a new file in a particular application (for example, in Word it is called the New Document task pane; in Excel it is called the New Workbook task pane). It also provides access to various document templates and the capability to open recently used files.

  • Office Clipboard Task Pane— Enables Enables you to view items that you copy and cut to the Office Clipboard. You can manage up to 24 items on the Clipboard and paste them within an application or between applications.

  • Insert Clip Art Task Pane— Enables you to search the Office Clip Gallery and insert clip art into your Office application documents.

  • Search Task Pane— Enables you to search for files from any of the Office applications.


Outlook and Access Outlook does not use task panes, and Access uses them only in a very limited way. The New File task pane is used in Access to create new database files. Access also uses the Search task pane to search for files on your computer.

You look at the Search, Clip Art, and Clipboard task panes in more detail later in the lesson.

Task panes also house features that handle specific purposes in each of the Office applications. For example, in PowerPoint, the Slide Layout task pane (shown in Figure 3.1) is used to select a design format for a new or existing PowerPoint presentation slide. You learn about the different task panes in the Office applications as you use them in the different parts of this book.

Figure 3.1. The task pane provides specific features in the different Office applications.

When you are working in an Office application, such as Word or Excel, you can open a task pane and switch between the different task pane features offered in that particular application. To open a task pane, follow these steps:

  1. In the Office application window, select the View menu and select Task Pane. The New File task pane appears on the right side of the application window (the New File task pane is the default task pane for the Office applications).

  2. To switch to a particular task pane that is available in the current Office application, click the task pane's drop-down arrow (see Figure 3.2).

  3. Click the task pane on the menu that you want to use.

You will find that the task pane also pops up when you select specific features in an application. For example, in Word, when you select Format and then Styles and Formatting, the Styles and Formatting task pane appears in the Word window.

Figure 3.2. Use the task pane's menu to switch to a particular task pane in an application.

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