Microsoft Office 2013 has been available for some months now, and as is always the case with a new release there are a few quirks and annoyances that have led to users wondering if they have made the right choice.
Now, we wouldn’t dare suggest whether the choice has been good or bad if you’ve just forked out several hundred dollars, but if you are feeling as if there are some quirks in the application that you would rather wish weren’t there (and I know I am) then you should be pleased to know that there are workarounds and hacks that you can use to make Office 2013 far more agreeable.
Even if you’ve already checked out our Office 2013 guide, the following five Office 2013 tricks range from registry hacks to hidden features that can be used to turn the new suite of applications into something far more familiar to old hands.
The Office Start Screen: Deleted!
Arguably the most frustrating new element to Office 2013 apps such as Excel, PowerPoint and Word is the Office Start Screen, a tiled interface displaying the various templates that are available for you to use in the main pane and a list of recent documents in the left-side column.
Opinion is divided on this feature; while visually it isn’t all that different from the New screen of Office 2010, the fact that it appears each time you launch an Office application is pretty frustrating.
Fortunately, like the controversial Windows 8 Start Screen which can be removed with various hacks and utilities, there is a registry hack that can be used to disable the Office 2013 Start Screen.
Hit WINKEY + R to open the Run dialogue and enter regedit. Next, find this registry key:
Look for the key DisableBootToOfficeStart, listed in the right-hand pane. If you don’t see it, create it by right-clicking and selecting New > DWORD and set the value to 1. Click OK to finish.
This will disable the Start Screen in all Office 2013 applications. To undo, you can change the value to 0.
If you prefer to disable the Start Screen in specific Office 2013 applications, you can do so by finding the Options key for your chosen app. For instance, Word would be:
You would then create the DWORD as above to disable the Word Start Screen.
Other Annoyances Dealt With
It isn’t just the Office Start Screen that has proved divisive – there are plenty of other quirks and annoyances that have been causing much pulling of hair and angry Internet chatter.
A problem that has frustrated me no end comes in the Open page, where recent documents and locations can be quickly found. One false move, however, and the view switches not to your recent documents but your Documents directory – frustrating and needless. This happens when the user fails to appreciate the non-existent separation between the folder icon and the path to the chosen file. The only way to avoid landing yourself in the wrong place is to click on the file path and not the folder. Oh, and the less said about SkyDrive as the default save location, the better (and I’m a regular user).
Live Layout in Microsoft Word 2013 is also a problem. Purporting to flow the text around image elements added to documents, Live Layout is tricky to use and generally unresponsive – it just doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. For many users the best option has been to load up the relevant document in Office 2010 and insert the image there.
There is also the CAPS ON attitude of the shouty menu tabs, designed to reflect the best in Metro/Modern UI stylings and coming across as a slightly aggressive, totalitarian word processor. Fortunately this is easily remedied by opening (in each individual Office 2013 app that you use) File > Options > Customize Ribbon and using the Rename button on each of the main menu items listed in the right pane under Customize the Ribbon. Rather than change the name, however, add a space to the end of the name, then click OK. When you return to the Home tab, the ribbon menu items will all be displayed in a more liberal lower case!
Finally, if you want to avoid these problems at all, your best bet is to stick to Office 2010 or a different office productivity suite. In terms of features, there isn’t really anything in Microsoft Office 2013 that sets the world alight, and certainly nothing that can’t be done with a little expertise in Office 2010.
Problems with Office 2013 That Can’t Be Fixed
I’ve come across a couple of little quirks with Office 2013 that just don’t seem to have a work around.
One is the dialogue box asking if you want to save a document that you’re closing. “What’s wrong with that?” you might ask – well, I didn’t make any changes!
In Excel, the drag-to-paste function for series of numbers basically doesn’t work as it should do, meaning that you need to jiggle your mouse about.
For instance, if I was adding a column of months, I would start with “January” then select the box, drag the bottom right corner down while holding CTRL in order for the cells to be populated with the consecutive months (with CTRL held, all cells would show “January”). As you are doing this a tooltip will pop up to display the month that will be inserted into the adjacent cell. However, the tooltip displays the wrong month (or whatever type of data series you’re copying) unless you move the mouse up a bit and then back down again.
Now of course this isn’t a major manoeuvre, but then again Microsoft Office 2013 is the seventh release of the suite for Windows and this is a legacy feature. The lack of polish here and in other areas is quite disappointing.
We shouldn’t forget the “touch” elements of Office 2013 either. While a toggle button is provided to switch between mouse and touch/finger modes, it is far too small to activate with a finger! The resulting touch mode is perhaps better, but still has a distinct feeling of “we’ll just space the buttons out” rather than a genuine, cohesive attitude to designing for touchscreen devices.
The Benefit of Trial Versions
Good or bad, the changes to Office 2013 make this a suite of tools that seems unlikely to ever reach a definitive version. While our Microsoft Office 2013 unofficial guide explains what experienced Microsoft Office users can expect, nothing can quite prepare you for seeing the price of a software suite and paying top dollar for something that doesn’t seem quite user-ready.
Whether it is the Start Screen or the ribbon menu or one of the various quirks that don’t seem to have a fix that concerns you, if you’re yet to try Microsoft Office 2013 you should take the time to try out one of the trial versions that are available before making a decision.
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