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.
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.
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.
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.
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.