Excel Intro:
Icon: Excel 2002Icon: Excel 2003 Task Pane

Title: Jan's Illustrated Computer Literacy 101
Did you want Working with Numbers: 2007,2010,2013,2016  or españolIcon: Change web

Excel 2002/2003 and the other Office programs add a new feature to the application window, the Task Pane. This pane displays at the right of your document and changes, based on what you are doing. Its purpose is to give you easy access to frequently used commands related to what you are doing.

Excel window with the default task pane, New Workbook

Excel 2002 window with default Task Pane

Where you are:
JegsWorks > Lessons > Numbers

Before you start...

Project 1: Excel Intro
   Interface To subtopics
       Task Pane Icon: Excel 2002Icon: Excel 2003
       Smart Tags Icon: Excel 2002Icon: Excel 2003
       footprintOpen Excel
    Select & NavigateTo subtopics
    Common TasksTo subtopics
    ExercisesTo subtopics

Project 2: Excel BasicsTo subtopics

Project 3: Format & ArrangeTo subtopics

Project 4: Groups & FormulasTo subtopics

Project 5: DesignTo subtopics


Different Panes for Different Tasks

There are several different sets of commands that display in the Task Pane. Some are available for all Office programs, and some are specific to the program you are in. Excel does not have many panes that are special to it, while Word has several.

Office XP:

  • New Document

  • Clipboard

  • Search 

  • Insert Clip Art

  • Basic search (on File menu)

Office 2003:

  • Getting Started

  • Help

  • Search Results

  • Clip Art

  • Research

  • Clipboard

  • File Search (on File menu)

  • New Document

  • Shared Workspace

  • Document Updates

Excel 2002 does not add any special panes.

Excel 2003 adds:

  • Template Help

  • XML Source

Sample Office Panes

By default, only certain buttons and menu commands for Task Panes are shown. You can customize the menus and toolbars, if you wish, to include commands or buttons that are not shown.

New Workbook -
Lists recent documents and links for new documents and templates.

File | Button: New New

The New button Button: New on the toolbar does not open the pane. It just creates a new blank document.

Pane: New DocumentPane: New workbook (2003)

Clipboard -
The Office Clipboard keeps track of up to 24 selections or images that you copied or cut in Office programs. This is not the same as the Windows Clipboard, which only remembers the last thing you copied.

Edit | Button: Office Clipboard Office Clipboard


Pane: Office Clipboard

Basic Search -
Allows you to search selected folders or online sites or just the current document.

Searches for the text you specify, but primarily in Microsoft Office files or web pages. You need to let Office index your documents for this to work.


Button:Button: SearchSearch

Menu: File | Button: SearchSearch


Pane: Search

Insert Clip Art -
Opens a search form to look for images, then it shows thumbnails of the results. Not all image formats will show thumbnails.

Menu: Insert | Picture | Button: Clip Art (Excel 2002)Clip Art


Pane: Insert Clip Art Pane: Results - search for Clip Art

Managing the Task Pane

Default pane

Icon: Excel 2002All of the Office XP programs will show the New document pane first, by default. In the case of Excel, it is called New Workbook. Other programs use an appropriate name for that program, such as New Document for Word and New Page or Web for FrontPage.

Icon: Excel 2003 In Office 2003, the Getting Started pane shows first, by default.


As you work, the pane will appear or change if you use certain menu commands or toolbar buttons. You can customize the toolbars to show a button for a pane that doesn't have a button in the default toolbar.

Pane:Getting Started - List of task panes availablePane: New Workbook - List of task panes availableYou can switch to a different task pane from the pane itself. Clicking the arrow at the top of the pane will open a list of available panes for you to choose from. There may be more choices in a bottom section of the list, depending on which Office program you are using.

Hide pane

Three Close buttons - pane, workbook, ExcelYou can hide the Task Pane by clicking Button: Close its Close button. Be careful not to click the button that closes the document, or the one that closes Excel. (Are we getting too many Close buttons yet??)

Show pane

Menu: View | Task PaneIf the Task Pane has been closed, you can show it again with the menu command  View  |  Task Pane .

Menu: View | Toolbars | Task PaneIf you have a Chart sheet open in Excel, you will not see the Task Pane command on the View menu. But it is still available with  View  |  Toolbars | Task Pane .

You can also open the Task Pane by right clicking a toolbar and selecting from the popup list of toolbars.