How to Add Developer Tab in Excel (Step-by-Step Guide)

The Developer tab is the home to a fair few advanced features and controls that are widely relied on by the Excel community. All the coding technology that carries out tedious work in the backend, multimedia controls that seem to perform on Excel like magic, you will find all of that under the wing of the Developer tab. But where will you find that wing?

While the focus of today’s lesson is on finding that wing, we mean finding the Developer tab, we can’t help but also let you know how cool the tab really is. So we’ll quickly go over the contents of the Developer tab but not before we tell you what it is and the significance of having it in Excel. How to enable, disable and shift the Developer tab’s position in the toolbar is also a part of this tutorial.

Developer Tab In Excel

Sure, your worksheets were going all fine without the Developer tab. Excel provides such a vast array of functionality anyway but are you reaping the benefits if you’re not using something to its full potential? Therefore, …

Let’s get developing!

What is the Developer Tab

If you saw the Developer tab, you’d get a slight idea of what it offers but it’s nowhere to be found, right? It has got to be your version of Excel, right? Wrong. Or maybe right if you're using any version earlier than Excel 2007.

By default, the Developer tab isn’t displayed above the Ribbon with the other tabs. To make use of the features in the Developer tab, you’ll either need to work a few keyboard shortcuts* or enable the Developer tab so it sits north of your active worksheet.

This is the face of the Developer tab:

What is the Developer Tab

This tab is your door to using VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) and various controls that perfectly oil your Excel engine for a smooth ride. Do you want to find out how the Developer tab makes its great contribution in Excel? Continue to the next section.

*VBA and Macros can be used without the Developer tab being displayed by the Alt + F11 and Alt + F8 keys respectively. Macros can also be accessed from the View tab.

Importance of Developer Tab in Excel

The Developer tab comprises interactive controls giving the user better access and command over the data. Since Excel is the go-to tool for organizing and analyzing data, the Developer tab helps further that experience with some basic and some advanced features.

The Developer tab will give you easy access to creating and running Macros (through VBA which automates tasks using codes), managing add-ins, using Form and ActiveX controls (to create features like a checkbox or push button), working with XML, and working with features to be used in Microsoft Visio.

Without an actual reference, these all just sound like Excel-terrestrial fancy words. Think of your Excel worksheet as a form, you know, like the paper ones that you’re handed to fill out the information. A worksheet is like a digital form, you can fill in any type of data.

Do you recall seeing a checkbox in a form? One that you were never quite sure whether its size was big enough to fit a tick mark in. Using the Developer tab, you can add a checkbox that will tick mark the relevant detail upon selection.

The controls in the Developer tab also have an option of adding a list box (e.g. so the user can select their birth month from the list).

You may have an idea now how the features in the Developer tab make Excel usage more flexible.

How to Add Developer Tab to the Excel Ribbon

If the Developer tab has earned your interest, here’s how to add it to the Excel Ribbon so that all its features are a click away.

  • Right-click anywhere on the Ribbon under the tabs and select Customize the Ribbon.
  • How to Add the Developer Tab to the Excel Ribbon
  • This opens the Customize Ribbon tab in the Excel Options window.
  • How to Add the Developer Tab to the Excel Ribbon
  • This is the shortcut and you can also arrive here by going to the File tab > Options > Customize Ribbon.
  • Use the list box on the right containing the Main Tabs to find the Developer tab and select the checkbox which was unchecked by default as also shown in the example shot above.
  • How to Add the Developer Tab to the Excel Ribbon
  • Next, click on the OK command button of the Excel Options

The Excel Options window will be closed and the Developer tab will be added to the main tabs above the Ribbon:

How to Add the Developer Tab to the Excel Ribbon

Isn’t that an easy effort for something so serviceable?

Note: The tab will be added in the Excel application, not just to the current workbook. It will stick around until it is disabled.

How to Move the Developer Tab on the Excel Ribbon

The default position of the Developer tab (when it’s not invisible) is the second last tab; between the View and Help tabs. The tabs above the Excel Ribbon cannot be clicked and dragged so you’ll have to Customize the Ribbon to change the order of the tabs. See how to do it with the steps below:

  • Place the cursor on the Ribbon, right-click and select Customize the Ribbon.
  • When you have access to the Excel Option’s Customize Ribbon tab, select the Developer tab in the Main Tabs
  • How to Move the Developer Tab on the Excel Ribbon
  • Use the Move Up and Move Down buttons on the right (highlighted above) to get the Developer tab to the preferred spot.
How to Move the Developer Tab on the Excel Ribbon

That’s your Developer tab adjusted:

How to Move the Developer Tab on the Excel Ribbon

How to Remove Developer tab in Excel

Hiding or Removing the Developer tab takes us back to square one when it was disabled. Removing the Developer tab is a matter of disabling it from Excel Options. Let’s head to customizing the Ribbon again. Remove the Developer tab with the following steps:

  • Right-click the Ribbon and then click on Customize the Ribbon.
  • You will be redirected to the Customize Ribbon tab in the Excel Options dialog box.
  • Clear the Developer tab checkbox to unselect it.
How to Remove Developer tab in Excel

Going! Gone!

How to Remove Developer tab in Excel

Developer Tab Options

If you don’t know what the Developer tab does, this is the most important component of today’s discussion; now we talk about what is actually in the Developer tab. We’ll go group by group, explaining the tab’s hottest features and what Excel situations the features can be handy in.


The Code and the Controls group is arguably the most important group in the Developer tab. But importance is relative is it not? Anyway, this is the Code group:

Developer Tab Options

The Visual Basic icon opens the VB editor where you can create and run Macros. They can also be used later and assigned to the controls from the Controls group.

These Macros, created using codes, can be a task or collection of tasks (e.g. highlighting values in cells higher than $2000 or deleting alternate rows) you want to carry out on the worksheet. Creating a macro for a task is especially productive if the action is repetitive.

The Macros button opens the list of all the stored macros. Macros can be run and managed from here.

If you want to record a Macro, the Developer tab is your answer again. The Record Macros option allows the user to perform a live Excel task and record it. When the recorded Macro is run, the task will be carried out as recorded.

Use Relative References is in relation to the recorded Macros which are recorded with absolute references. With this option, you can record the Macros with relative references.

We can deduce that this group is macro manic.


The next group is all about add-ins. Add-ins are programs that can be added (as the name itself implies) to make extra features accessible in Excel. Using the Add-ins button, you can get add-ins from the Office store.

This group will let the user manage add-ins and enable the ones already available in Excel as, by standard settings, they are disabled. Add-ins can also be created using a Module in VBA and added to the Quick Access toolbar for prompt use.



The Controls group will offer the most interactive features that may or may not be used with a VBA code. Checkbox and list box have already been discussed above. Other controls that you can find in the Insert menu are spin button, option button (radio button), toggle button, scroll bar, label, and (believe it or not) more!

The Insert menu will show you two types of controls; Form Controls and ActiveX Controls. The former is compatible with older Excel versions. ActiveX Controls are more advanced than Form Controls and can be used in UserForms in VBA whereas Form Controls can’t.

The Design Mode button should be used as a log-out when you're done working on your added controls.


Controls aren’t only required to be inserted for forms, you can make a control or two a part of your worksheet to instantly carry out a task e.g. inserting a button that will add a degree symbol to the selected cells. This task will have to be created as a Macro in VBA and then assigned to the control button.


This part of the tab relates to working with XML data and commands in Excel. XML files that are created out of Excel can be imported and exported. The purpose of this group is a smooth exchange of XML data between applications. Mapping XML elements onto Excel templates and calculations extends Excel’s functionality and also makes it easier to manage data.


So, what did we learn today?  We looked briefly into what options the Developer tab provides us with, why and how the elements of the tab can be useful and how to enable, disable and move the tab in Excel. You didn’t even know that the Developer tab was lacking in your Excel life.

Once you get the hang of things, you’ll find the features of the Developer tab indispensable to creating techy spreadsheets. We’re on our way to piece together more techy news for you while you explore today’s elusive tab!

About Mehwish Javaid

Mehwish, an ACCA-qualified professional, transitioned from an audit trainee to an Excel specialist. With a foundation in financial auditing, her 4+ years of Excel expertise, showcased as a Content Specialist at ExcelTrick, bridges her auditing background with advanced spreadsheet skills. Read more...