The Developer tab in Microsoft Word provides access to a variety of tools and features that are useful for programmers, developers, and power users. However, this tab is hidden by default. This article explains what the Developer tab is, why you might want to enable it, and step-by-step instructions for showing this tab in Word on both Windows and Mac.
What is the Developer Tab?
The Developer tab gives you easy access to the following features in Word:
- Visual Basic Editor – For writing and editing VBA code modules to automate tasks
- Macros – For recording, running, creating, and managing macros
- Controls – For adding form controls like text boxes and date pickers to documents
- XML – For working with XML documents and schema files
- Add-Ins – For managing Word add-ins such as templates, toolbars, and more
In other words, the Developer tab equips you with tools for customizing and programming Word beyond its out-of-the-box capabilities.
Why Enable the Developer Tab?
Here are some common reasons you might want to show the Developer tab in Word:
- To create, run, edit, or manage macros for automating repetitive tasks
- To add form controls like text boxes or date pickers to Word documents
- To write VBA code to develop custom functions and applications
- To protect documents and restrict editing
- To import and export XML data between Word and other applications
- To manage add-ins like custom toolbars, templates, and styles
Enabling the Developer tab gives programmers, IT professionals, and power users access to these advanced tools for customizing and extending Word functionality.
How to Show the Developer Tab in Word on Windows
Follow these simple steps to enable the Developer tab on Word 2016, 2019, 2021 for Windows:
- Open the Word document you want to edit.
- Click the File tab.
- Click Options in the left pane.
- In the Word Options dialog box, click Customize Ribbon on the left.
- Under Main Tabs, check the box next to Developer.
- Click OK to show the Developer tab.
The Developer tab should now be visible in the ribbon. The steps are the same for showing this tab in older versions of Word for Windows.
Using the Ribbon Interface
If you have the ribbon interface, here is an alternate method to enable the Developer tab:
- Right click anywhere on the ribbon.
- Select Customize the Ribbon from the dropdown menu.
- Check the box for Developer in the right pane.
- Click OK to display the tab.
How to Show the Developer Tab on Word for Mac
Beginning with Office 2016 for Mac, Microsoft unified the Office experience across Windows and macOS. As a result, you can show the Developer tab in Word for Mac the exact same way:
- Open a Word document.
- Go to the Word menu and select Preferences.
- Click the Ribbons & Toolbars icon.
- Check the box next to Developer and click Save.
The Developer tab will now show up in the Word toolbar.
What Can You Do with the Developer Tab?
Once enabled, the Developer tab gives you access to the following groups of functionality:
The Code group contains tools related to VBA macros and coding:
- Visual Basic – Opens the Visual Basic Editor to write and edit VBA code
- Macros – Create, run, edit, and manage macros
- Record Macro – Start recording a new macro
- Security – Manage macro security settings in Word
- Template Organizer – Import/export Word document templates
The Controls group provides tools for adding form controls to documents:
- Legacy Tools – Insert older ActiveX controls
- Design Mode – Toggle design mode on/off for adding controls
- Properties – Change control properties like name, tooltip text etc.
- Add-ins – Manage COM add-ins to extend functionality
You can drag-and-drop controls like text boxes, combo boxes, date pickers etc. onto documents to create forms.
The XML group has features for working with XML documents:
- XML Mapping Pane – Map content controls to XML elements
- XML Structure – See the XML structure of the current document
- Schema – Validate XML data against associated schema
- Transform – Transform XML data file from one schema to another
- XML Expansion Pack – Manage add-ins for exporting Word content to XML
So if you exchange documents containing custom XML data, these tools will be useful.
The Templates group helps manage Word templates:
- Document Template – Apply a Word template to the current document
- Template Manager – Organize templates into custom categories
- Disable Templates – Turn off attached templates
- XML Schema – Attach XML schema files to current document
This is helpful for managing and applying custom templates.
Finally, the Protect group helps prevent document modification:
- Restrict Editing – Limit document editing to certain users
- Block Authors – Block specific authors from making changes
- Document Inspector – Remove hidden metadata or personal info
So that covers some of the key things you can do with the Developer tab in Word!
Common Uses for the Developer Tab
Here are some of the most popular uses for the Developer tab in Word:
- Create fillable forms – Add text boxes, drop downs etc. so users can fill out forms
- Automate with macros – Record and write VBA code to complete repetitive tasks automatically
- Import/Export XML – Integrate Word with other applications like databases
- Apply custom templates – Rapidly apply your personalized templates to documents
- Restrict editing – Limit who can edit documents before wider distribution
As you can see, the Developer tools equip you to customize and extend Word beyond what’s available out-of-the-box.
Should You Show the Developer Tab?
The Developer tab is really intended for developers, IT professionals, and power users comfortable with coding and complex features.
If you never plan to write VBA macros, design XML templates, or build fillable forms, then you likely won’t need to enable this tab.
However, if you want to unlock more advanced capabilities in Word, then displaying the Developer contextual tab is a must. Just be careful when clicking buttons or entering codes, as you could break functionality if not careful.
The Developer tab houses powerful tools for customizing Word documents and automation. To enable this hidden tab:
- On Windows – Go to File > Options > Customize Ribbon and check Developer
- On Mac – Navigate to Word > Preferences > Ribbons & Toolbars and check Developer
Now you can leverage tools for macros, forms, XML data, and protecting documents. Just be careful when accessing these advanced utilities.
Hopefully this gives you a good overview of the Developer tab in Word. Let us know if you have any other questions!