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Task Pane Doesn't Appear Properly

Brian was perplexed by the fact that when he starts Excel 2002, the Task pane momentarily appears and is then overlaid by the standard blank workbook. This happens in spite of the fact that he has the Task pane set to show at start-up (Tools | Options | View tab), and the same selection is chosen at the bottom of the Task pane itself.

Even though Brian is using Excel 2002, the problem he experienced could also occur for those using Excel 2003. Excel automatically hides the Task pane upon startup if your copy of Excel loads any files automatically. For instance, if you have any worksheets in your Startup folder, or if you have a personal.xls file that loads, then the Task pane will automatically be obscured. It appears that this behavior—despite what you explicitly specify for the Task pane to do—is built into Excel.

There are three ways around this problem. The first is to make sure that nothing automatically loads when Excel starts. For many people, this may not be a practical solution—after all, Personal.xls is often used for "global" user macros and customizations. The second solution, then, is to add more programming code to the file being opened automatically (for instance, Personal.xls). This code is designed to run automatically when the file is opened, and it displays the Task pane:

Private Sub Workbook_Open()
    On Error Resume Next
    Application.CommandBars("Task Pane").Visible = True
End Sub

If it is not possible for you to add such coding to the file or files being opened, then you can modify a Registry entry to tell Excel to leave the Task pane open. As always, be careful when you edit the Registry, as a mistake can make your system unstable or totally unusable.

Get out of Excel and follow these steps:

  1. Choose Run from the Start menu. Windows displays the Run dialog box.
  2. In the Open box enter the name regedit.
  3. Click on OK. This starts the Registry Editor program.
  4. Locate and select the following key. (For Excel 2002 the path will differ slightly, referencing 10.0 instead of 11.0.)
     HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Common\General
  1. Choose the New option from the Edit menu, then choose DWORD Value. A new value appears in the right side of the Registry Editor, awaiting a name.
  2. Name the value DoNotDismissFileNewTaskPane. Note that there should be no spaces, and capitalization should be just as shown.
  3. With the newly named value still selected, choose the Modify option from the Edit menu. You will see the Edit DWORD Value dialog box.
  4. Change the Value Data field from 0 to 1.
  5. Click on OK.
  6. Close the Registry Editor.

When you restart Excel, the Task pane should remain visibile.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3066) applies to Microsoft Excel 2002 and 2003.

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