Microsoft Word/Strange Popups


Hello Suzanne,

I've been using Word for decades. Just now, however, when hitting, by accident, some unknown key combination, something happened that I have never seen before.

Up on the Ribbon, a bunch of little white squares popped up, one per button and each containing, like some sort of "bubble" hint, a unique two (capital) letter combination.

Do you know what they are and what are they're used for? Assuming they are of some real use it would also be nice to know what keys I hit to bring them up.

Thanks for all your help.


These are KeyTips. They appear when you press Alt alone to show you the "accelerator keys" for the Ribbon. Something similar happens in toolbar versions: if you press Alt alone, the File menu is selected, and if you press the underlined letter (accelerator key) on any menu heading (File, Edit, View, Insert, etc.), you open the corresponding menu, where each item also has an underlined letter; press that and you execute the command or open a submenu. In Ribbon versions, every Ribbon tab and every button on each tab and on the Quick Access Toolbar also has an accelerator key. These are shown in the square popups. If you press the letter of one of the Ribbon tabs, it will be displayed, and you can then press the letter for any of the buttons on that tab.

Many users whose income depends on typing speed (such as transcriptionists) use keyboard shortcuts as much as possible to avoid switching to the mouse. Those who started with toolbar versions of Word have many menu shortcuts memorized, and most of these still work in Ribbon versions as well. See for more on Key Tips and for more on the "legacy accelerators."
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Suzanne S. Barnhill


I've been using Word for Windows since version 2.0 (1992), and the more I learn about it, the more I realize how little I know. But I may know a few things that you don't, and I'll help if I can. I answer many questions every day in Microsoft's peer support forums and as a result have been awarded the MVP (Most Valuable Professional) designation by Microsoft Corporation. You may be able to find the answer to your question at the Word MVPs' FAQ site or at my own Word FAQ site, so please check those first! Please, no questions about VBA (macros), Registry editing, networks, or complex merges, as I have no experience with these aspects of Word, nor do I have any experience with Word for Mac. Please indicate which version of Word you are using; if you are not sure, see "What version of Word do I have?".


I have a master's degree in classics (Latin), which is surprisingly helpful, though I no longer teach. The things I am proudest of: Having raised two children to maturity, both Merit Scholars, both college graduates (one a philosophy major!), one Phi Beta Kappa (from Harvard!); having been made a Paul Harris Fellow by my Rotary club; having been designated a Microsoft MVP.

Rotary Club of Fairhope, Friends of the Fairhope Public Library

B.A. (Latin), Agnes Scott College, 1966; M.A. (Classics), Emory University, 1972.

Awards and Honors
Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award every year since 1999; many Rotary honors

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