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office 2013 tricksMicrosoft 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.

office 2013 tricks

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.

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Fortunately, like the controversial Windows 8 Start Screen which can be removed with various hacks and utilities Start Menu, How I Miss Thee: 4 Ways To Make A Start Menu On Windows 8 Start Menu, How I Miss Thee: 4 Ways To Make A Start Menu On Windows 8 Windows 8 brought down the axe on the Start Menu. This is a feature that no one paid special attention to for years but its untimely demise has caused all sorts of despair. Not only... Read More , 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:


office 2013 tips and tricks

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.

office 2013 tips and tricks

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 Is There a Good Reason To Use Microsoft SkyDrive In Addition To Dropbox & Google Drive? Is There a Good Reason To Use Microsoft SkyDrive In Addition To Dropbox & Google Drive? Read More 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.

office 2013 tips and tricks

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

office 2013 tricks

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.

Image Credit: Red Haired Business Lady via Shutterstock

  1. Tamas
    December 16, 2015 at 9:47 am

    For us who had no choice to stuck with 2010 many thanks for this, I particularly enjoyed the ribbon customization. :)

  2. Dave
    November 29, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    Wow, I can't believe they offer a trial version of Project 2013 because people will try it and see what a crappy program it is and get to experience first hand all it's short-comings. Things like: 1) update your resource list (say change some names) but the dropdown menu keeps the old names (this is a great bug. Wonderful to work with :/)
    2) It greys out the 'make resource effort driven' so that you can't change it -- because why would any project manager expect this program to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a task just based on the number of people working on it?

    Seriously flawed. I am not listing the 50 or say pathetic ways this software deals with things but do yourself a favor and try anything else, anywhere else -- and it will probably be better.

  3. m
    April 27, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    My company is a late adopter. How disappointing to see that after two years of complaints, there is no solution to the lack of contrast. True, it is no longer skeumorphic. However, it is also no longer usable to anyone with even moderate vision issues. Thanks, MS for adding to my eyestrain and ruining what little vision I have left.

  4. Stefan Vucak
    April 11, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    In all Office 2013 applications, when you click on a word/cell, the box that appears with prompts/options shows text in faded black/gray. Is there a way to make this text sharp black and sharp gray?

  5. Joe
    March 18, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    I'm still angry about the huge productivity hit when the Ribbon was imposed on us. I am now being compelled to downgrade to Office 2013 by my IT department, and I look forward to our corporate productivity taking a nosedive.

    • Christian Cawley
      March 20, 2015 at 9:50 am

      Did your organization make conisiderable inroads against the competition when they adopted Office 2013?

  6. Anthony
    February 22, 2015 at 11:15 am

    I am staying with Office 2010, simply because the colour scheme in 2013 wouldn't allow me to work due to severe eye strain.
    What on earth was the logic behind reducing the number of colours schemes?

  7. derek
    February 20, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Hopefully this version of office has fixed the calculation bugs in excel that previous versions had

  8. Kurt Saldutti
    January 26, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    Seriously does Microsoft really believe that what they are doing to Office is good? Are they doing this destruction to Office just show that they are actually doing something. All they need to do was give the office power user the Classic button option to dump the “ribbons for dummies” for the very powerful straight forward productive custom toolbars and menus as in Office 2003. 2013 is just an insane, terrible waste of time and money in every respect. What where simple one click operations are now a three click operations. You can’t even edit a button image any longer. Totally unproductive and quirky. I spent close to $300.00 for this horrible mess of software and now going back to Office 2003 so I can get back to work.

    • Christian Cawley
      February 2, 2015 at 8:28 am

      I canonly partially agree - custom menus were brilliant and it defies logic why they were removed. However, the old style menus were too long to and feature-packed in the 2003 version, so it makes sense, in hindsight, why they were replaced in 2007.

      But seriously, if you haven't got used to a change in menu system from 8 years ago, you should probably be using OpenOffice instead.

  9. Judi
    January 14, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    Much faster wa of getting rid of the start up screen (apologies if anyone beat me to this) - options > general> untick "show the Start Screen when this application starts" - you will need to do this in each MS suite programme

    • Christian Cawley
      January 18, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      Mentioned above, Judi, but one of those things that cannot be repeated enough, I think!

  10. Stuart Duncan
    April 26, 2013 at 10:36 am

    You can actually disable the all-caps titles in one go using the batch file here:

    Soooo much nicer to have normal Sentence Case back!

    • Christian Cawley
      April 26, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      Nice link, thanks Stuart - always good to have options!

      • Joel
        July 24, 2013 at 2:19 pm

        For the save dialogue box when you haven't made any changes, I found a registry change that cures that. It appears excel does this because it is set to recalc all formulas when it opens a doc created in a previous version of excel. Thus, now there are changes. You can disable this by creating a new DWORD in


        3. Insert a new DWORD value:
        - Value name: FullCalcOnLoadOldFile
        - Value type: REG_DWORD
        - Value data: 0

        This came from

        But I have tried it out and it works. No more annoying save dialogue when I close a document I didn't make any changes to.

  11. Manide
    March 16, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Several annoyances and problems that can't be fixed... I'd better stay with LibreOffice.

  12. hazem elsaiegh
    March 16, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    i don't think there is a reason for upgrading from office 2010 , i think the changes made does not deserve the shift at all :)

  13. Lim3Fru1t
    March 16, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    I have not tried the new office version yet, But i keep this page saved in case i change to this version

  14. Bill Hancher
    March 16, 2013 at 10:32 am

    A Registry Hack huh...
    As far as the Start Up Screen, I prefer to just turn that feature off in the Options menu instead of doing a registry hack.
    Options - General Tab - (Bottom) Start Up Options and then uncheck it

  15. Alan Wade
    March 16, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Ahh Christian, you forgot the sixth and most important way to disable annoyances with Office 2013!

    Dont Install It!

    • Nick
      March 16, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      Alan, that's a stupid sentiment.

      I've been using 2013 for quite a few months, and it's by far head and shoulders above 2010. I even liked 2007 more than 2010.

      You get used to some of the minor things that are brought up here. Over all those things are tiny tiny infractions in a MUCH better experience.

      The new flat color scheme is MUCH better than the gaudy shininess of the old skeumorphic design that Apple oh so happily loves. I'm glad MSFT eschewed that, it was played out in 1999.

      2013 is ridiculously productive and useful. You can get work done much better and faster.

      Mind you I hate the SkyDrive default. Let me add a place specifically to my HDD, i.e. my dropbox folder!
      Also, the find/replace being not a pop up box is annoying, but livable.

      • Alan Wade
        March 16, 2013 at 5:09 pm

        You missed my attempt to be witty! Let me re-phrase it a little.
        If you find it annoying then dont install it.
        I tried the demo version a while ago and just didnt get to grips with it but in all fairness and I put my hands up in honesty - it wasnt on my system very long at all, less than two days!
        I mean its to each their own right? I really like 2010 over 2007 whereas my wife prefers 2003 over all of them.

        • nick
          March 16, 2013 at 6:27 pm

          My apologies for misjudging your intent. Too many people bash the new thing because "IT SUCKS" or "ITS JUST TOO NEW" when really it's "ITS JUST DIFFERENT THAN I'M USED TO".

          I used to be like that, and hated the new ribbon when they went 2003 to 2007. I used to like 2007 a lot, and even used 2010 for some time.

          That being said 2013 is way cleaner and more minimal in appearance. No distractions, clean, and very, very functional and elegant.

          If you use it consistently and for an extended period a lot of this new MSFT stuff is better than reviewers say.

          I was rankled by win8 ... but I used it and 2013 for a while together and it.... just makes sense now.

          that win8 start screen? soooo much faster than the start menu
          that being said, the start screen on office 2013 is quite annoying...

    • Christian Cawley
      March 16, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      I'm torn, to be honest. Like Nick says, it is hugely productive - but there is a hell of a lot in there that is promoted as new that isn't.

      I've been using 2010 so much over the past three years that I don't think there is enough for most users to feel as compelled to upgrade to 2013 at this stage unless they get student/bulk discounts or pre-installed on a PC.

      • Nick
        March 16, 2013 at 6:30 pm

        I never used 2010 to that extent... sort of went 2007 with intermittent 2010 use straight to 2013.

        That being said, 2013 feels quite more mature than 2010.

        I saw the sales for 2010 and I thought to myself that people seeing that should hold off... 2013 is a more mature, minimal, clean 2010 with extra goodies.

        That being said, I wouldn't even upgrade from 2010 if I just bought it. I would rue my purchase, but I wouldn't have upgraded.

        Office is, and always was, an iterative product. everything is a bit better than before. But my point was that 2013 is not bash-worthy, not like Vista was (and I lived a couple years with Vista until Win7)

      • Linda Carol Rodriguez
        May 25, 2013 at 10:12 am

        I suppose I'd like to know what hugely productive consists of.

    • Kevin Dondrea
      January 25, 2015 at 10:31 am

      That only works until you start getting errors with older versions. Office 2003 will be and always will be the #1 MS Office version ever made.

  16. Bill Hancher
    March 16, 2013 at 10:29 am
  17. Alexis Ceroleni
    March 16, 2013 at 5:04 am

    I only installed Office 2013 because Excel 2013 is touchscreen-friendly.

  18. Josh
    March 16, 2013 at 1:34 am

    What would be nice to know is if additional color schemes can be added to the suite. In Office 2010 you could choose between black, blue, and silver. For some reason that wasn't good enough for 2013 and MS changed it to white, grey, and a very slightly darker grey. Problem is, none of these really differentiate the background from the "paper". It's not a high enough contrast for me to see.

    • Kevin Dondrea
      January 25, 2015 at 10:30 am

      100% YESSSSSSSS!!!!! I was complaining about this same thing. Office 2013 although nice it will never be as good as Office 2003. If Office 2013 was a website (which it pretty much is) it would make the list of "Websites That Really Suck" website. #1 reason Websites Really Suck, color scheme. In the minds of the designers they look their own mind. When it comes to being practical they are at the bottom of the list. Productivity is degraded when you have to waste time trying to see the end of the paper.

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