After Hours

My 10 favorite things about Office 2013

Office 2013 has its share of critics, but some new features could win you over.

When Microsoft released Office 2013, many dismissed it as a minor update to the Office franchise. Others found it wanting in certain areas. However, Office 2013 really does have some great new features. This article lists 10 of my favorites.

1: The new spell checker

My favorite new feature in Office 2013 is without a doubt the spell checker. Office has had a good spell checker for quite some time, but the new version is far better. In addition to offering suggestions for misspelled words, the new spell checker also offers dictionary definitions for its suggestions. There is even a link you can click to have the computer to pronounce the word.

2: Outlook Weather

Okay, maybe this one is kind of gimmicky, but I love the fact that Outlook 2013 displays the weather forecast on the calendar. I travel a lot and it is nice to be able to see the weather for the city I am about to visit. It is also helpful when planning outdoor activities, such as a day on the lake.

3: Overhauled comments feature

I'm just going to say it. I have never liked Office's comments feature. In past versions of Office, it was sometimes difficult to tell who was making a comment and replying to a comment was often problematic. I can't begin to tell you how many times I have tried to respond to a comment only to have my response appear before the original comment. Thankfully, Microsoft has rebuilt the comment feature. It is now easy to tell who made which comment, and the comments are arranged in threads (similar to text messages), which makes it easy to stay organized.

4: Parallel installation capability

Previous versions of Microsoft Office don't support parallel installations. If you want to install a new version, you have to get rid of the old version. However, you can now install Office 2013 alongside a previous version. This means that you don't have to abandon your previous Office installation while getting used to the new one.

5: Support for online content

Office has long offered the ability to insert content such as pictures and video into documents. Although these capabilities still exist in Office 2013, Microsoft has added some new options. Office 2013 lets you insert online content such as online pictures and online video. Doing so gives you the ability to incorporate content from sources such as SkyDrive, Bing, and Facebook.

6: Templates

Templates are nothing new to Office. But I really like the way available templates are presented in Office 2013. As soon as you open a Microsoft Office application, you see a screen displaying a number of the available templates. It's a small change, but I like that I don't have to go hunting for a template if I want to use something other than the default.

7: Apps

One of the biggest new features of Office 2013 is the support for apps. Some apps are obviously more useful than others, but I do like the idea of being able to use apps within Office. Microsoft has created an app library for Office 2013. Some of the apps are free and others are paid. One of the apps I find myself using fairly often is a sticky note app for Word and Excel. It's nice to be able to write reminders to myself without having to resort to using paper sticky notes.

8: Consistency

Microsoft has also reduced the learning curve for Office 2013 by maintaining a degree of consistency with Office 2010. Both versions make use of Ribbons at the top of the screen. Although Office 2013 contains a number of new features, Microsoft did a good job of maintaining the Ribbon layout that was used in the previous version of Office, at least in Word. The vast majority of the Ribbon icons are located in the same places in Office 2013 that they were in Office 2010. Sure, there are some new icons and there are a few things that have been moved around. But those who are experienced with Office 2010 should not have much trouble locating the most common options in Office 2013.

9: A streamlined Save As

When you click on Save As in Office 2010, you are presented with a dialog box that allows you to choose the folder in which you want to save your document and to specify a filename. In contrast, Office 2013 offers a much cleaner Save As screen, and there are shortcuts for saving documents in non-default locations (such as SkyDrive). The Save As screen even includes an Add A Place option, which is useful if you want to save documents to SharePoint.

10: Account connectivity

Finally, I like that Office 2013 can be connected to a Microsoft account. Doing so allows Office to take advantage of resources that are tied to that account. For example, if you have a photo associated with your profile, Office 2013 will use it. Whenever you comment on a document, your profile photo is added to the comment, making it perfectly clear who made the comment. More important, connecting Office to a Microsoft account makes it possible to seamlessly save documents to and open documents from SkyDrive.

Office 2013: Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Do you like the changes in the latest version of Office or are you happy to stick with previous versions? Share your opinion on the evolution of Office in the discussion below.

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About

Brien Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP. He has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects.

12 comments
rahn
rahn

Anyone else notice that while Windows 8 is pushing us toward a blocky graphics interface, Office 2013 is stripping all the graphics out of the interface? Is it possible that the two groups are diverging?

KCGarrett
KCGarrett

Can someone tell me how to submit feedback to ms on Office-related issues? And speaking of help, could the help component of Office-2013 BE less helpful?

n0tl0b
n0tl0b

Best thing by far is the way Excel now does little animation stuff when you change numbers that affect formula results and the way it does copy/paste. It's just pleasing to the eye! :) Not sure about the rigmarole you have to go through to save or open a file though, it all feels much less intuitive and you have the pretty new interface which suddenly gives way to the standard File Open dialog... Word handles charts from Excel being pasted in to it better. In 2010, they would shoot all over the place and never go where you wanted. With 2013, suddenly everything is behaving itself and I can put a chart where I want a chart rather than where Word thinks I want it... :)

dmajewski
dmajewski

I'm sticking with Office 2010

garylavery
garylavery

Finally forced to use it after 200 glorious years on Office XP. 1) Ribbon: absurd. Unbelievable productivity killer 2) Clicking: Follow a simple rule - more clicks = worse software 3) Bland interface is not just bland. Without using the power of color you lose the ability to "sense" what area you are looking at. I don't understand why there is a popular notion that Microsoft worries about backward compatibility. NONE of there interfaces are backward compatible. They cause severe angst in the workplace and needless expense dealing with retraining. Office XP was a finally honed scalpel that was inherently efficient. Office 2013 is a drumstick trying to cut through a steak.

jsn2092
jsn2092

I haven't made up my mind yet on whether I find Office 2013 positive or negative, but the one downside that I have found is with the quick style menu that pops up when you are working with embedded pictures. Office 2010 quick style allows you to resize the picture both horizontally and vertically whereas Office 2013 forces you to go up to the ribbon to perform this function. Not a big problem for one or two items, but if you do this a lot, you will miss it very quickly!

tim.lovegrove
tim.lovegrove

My favourite new feature is a really simple one. When writing an email in Outlook 2013, if you type "please see attached document" (or something similar) in the message body and then don't attach anything, it will prompt you with a message that you might be missing an attachment. Really smart - like they finally gave the paperclip assistant some brains! I also like the mouse-over pop-ups in the navigation buttons below the folder tree in Outlook. Very handy to be able to see and browse a month of your calendar or a list of contacts without opening the full page.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The features mentioned aren't enough to persuade me to try to get my eyes to adjust to the overall 'flatness' of the interface, especially running under W8.

techrepublic
techrepublic

4. Parallel install - this has been available as long as i can remember, you are normally given to option to upgrade, or install in parallel 6. templates - i suppose it's new, but it has been there in access and visio - nice to see they're rolling it out to other apps. the others i will give you - however, still to see how useful they will actually be (i work in a single office, and don't really need the weather showing in outlook).

julian_baird
julian_baird

Don't forget the ability to reply to a message directly from the review pane without the need to open a new window. Small feature, but very useful none the less. As with each Office upgrade you often think not a lot has changed but when you have to go back to a previous version you soon miss the new features. I use Office 2013 at home, but 2010 at work and I now find 2010 a little frustrating in places!

pjboyles
pjboyles

The "white" color scheme is a killer. The grey schemes are OK but having some other colors back would be much better. Personally a medium dark blue allows me to more easily distinguish visually where the interface ends and my work begins. Maybe the group providing the "user experience testing" should be fired. The ribbon, color schemes, etc.

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