Lightroom Toolbar: What you Need to Know

Lightroom Toolbar: What you Need to Know



If you’ve seen items come and go in your Lightroom interface and if you’re confused about what exactly is happening chances are you hit a keyboard shortcut that displays or hides one of the interface features. When I was new to Lightroom it was the Toolbar – I could make disappear in a heartbeat – problem was it took a lot longer to work out what had gone and how to get it back.

As I soon learned, the toolbar can be hidden and displayed using the T shortcut or you can choose View > Toolbar. The toolbar is visible in Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print and Web view – but here’s the catch – there is a separate toolbar for each module and hiding one doesn’t hide them all – likewise displaying a toolbar only does so for the current module not all of them.

That said, you’ll want to have the toolbar visible in most of the modules most of the time because it has some handy features that you will use regularly.

The toolbars in the Library and Develop modules are customizable – those in the other modules are fixed in what they display. To add to the general confusion, the toolbar you see in Grid view and the one you see in Loupe view in the Library module are both toggled on and off as if they were the same toolbar but they are separately customizable so you can select which tools appear in which view and they can look very different in each view as shown in these images of firstly Loupe view then Grid view:



To customize a toolbar click the down pointing arrow at its far right and select the options to display and hide. When you are working on a laptop, for example, and where screen real estate is a valuable commodity, you’ll need to be judicious about what tools are visible and which are not.


One option on a laptop that I like to disable is the rotation tool in Grid view in the Library. The reason is that I can set the thumbnails in Grid view so they show rotation icons so I don’t need the additional tool on the toolbar. However, in Loupe view this rotation tool doesn’t appear so I add it to the toolbar.

If you often resize your thumbnails then including the Thumbnail Size slider is a good idea – if you need the space it takes up for other tools then hide it and learn the = and – shortcut keys for managing the thumbnail size instead.

One gottcha that is a guaranteed disaster in the making for new Lightroom users is the apparent duplication of rating, color and flags on the Toolbar and on the bar across the top of the Filmstrip. These are NOT duplicates and instead they are each very different options. The tools on the Toolbar are used to apply a flag, color and rating to images in the Grid or Loupe views. Those above the filmstrip are filters that you use to filter your images based on the flags, colors and ratings you have applied to them. It is important to understand the difference. If you get into trouble and some of your images disappear, selecting Filters Off from the dropdown list above the filmstrip will display all your images again.


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Helen Bradley is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at

Some Older Comments

  • Bev July 7, 2013 06:10 am

    How do I get the Basic tool that has disappeared from the Develop module back into the tool bar?

  • Larry Harris April 12, 2012 12:57 am

    I can not find how to Email photos? It is not in the Tool Bar? In the old adobe Photo suite was SO MUCH Easyer!!!!!

    How dose one email a group of pictures??????

    Please advise!!!!

    Larry Harris

  • Frank June 13, 2011 04:54 pm

    A handy tip that I don't think I have seen on your site: use the scroll wheel on your mouse.

    For example:
    - To change the thumbnail size in Grid view, use CTRL+scrollwheel. That way you don't need to look for the slider.
    - To change image settings (e.g. brightness, vibrance, sharpness) in Develop view, click on the slider peg and then use the scroll wheel to move it left or right without moving your mouse. Once you move your mouse, the setting is added to the image history.

    This way, you don't need to let go of your mouse to find the + and - buttons.

  • Helen Bradley June 13, 2011 06:16 am

    @Eden - Technically nothing is "happening" to your image but what you are seeing is that the preview is changing and so the starting point for editing your image is different to what you saw in the initial thumbnails.

    That said, if you go to the Develop module and open the Camera Calibration panel you will see a dropdown list of profiles. For some cameras this is an extensive list and for others a very short one. If I have it set to Adobe Standard I have the same "problem" as you are experiencing but if I select Camera Standard my images look like the thumbnails so my starting point for editing is "better".

    It isn't a problem that needs "fixing" so much but perhaps think of it more as being something you'd like to have working better for you. So, find a profile that works for you. Then you can select all your images and apply the profile to them all.

    Or, better still, make it a preset and apply it on importing your images as I explain in this post: - check out #5 in the list.

    See how that goes... and let me know if it works for you?


  • Eden Connell June 12, 2011 11:05 am

    Oh Helen you rock fixed it perfectly! Thanks so much really appreciate this....

    I have another question that has been bugging me for a while hope its ok to post here......

    When I do a photoshoot I have the perfect exposure of the images on my camera, when I import into Lightroom 3 the images look fine with the exposure, until I go into Develop mode and when I click on the image it loads (I presume this is from JPEG format from the thumbnails it creates) to the RAW file. (it only takes 1 or 2 seconds to change from JPEG to RAW)

    What is happening when it changes into the RAW file is the images goes darker and is not the perfect exposure anymore (this would make the image about 1/2 stop underexposed)... would anyone know what this problem is?

    Really would love some ideas!!

  • Helen Bradley June 12, 2011 05:50 am

    @Eden This is controlled in the Preferences. Choose Edit > Preferences on Windows (Lightroom > Preferences on a Mac) and click the Interface tab. There are are options there for the Filmstrip - I think you will find that Show Badges is disabled when it should be disabled.



  • SJCT June 12, 2011 05:14 am

    Thanks for the article. I have made the toolbar disappear many times and then had to struggle to find out exactly what I'd done!

  • Eden Connell June 11, 2011 09:35 pm

    Hi there can you help!

    Below the toolbar where all the images are placed they don't show if they have been editing or resized (there are no little icons on there anymore).

    If you go into Grid view you can see the little icons on the right hand side of the image but not down the bottom on the images below the toolbar.

    Do you know how I would turn this on again?



  • hkb11001 June 9, 2011 09:24 pm

    Thanks for the tips and "watch-outs"

  • Vaughn June 9, 2011 03:49 am

    Thanks so much, I've been looking to customize Lightroom a little more and this certainly helps.