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A few months ago, I had a great opportunity to get a drastically discounted copy of Microsoft Office as part of a corporate discount program. When I went to purchase the product, I assumed it would be Office 2010, which is what I’ve been using at work for the past two years. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was actually a discounted license of Office 2013. Thinking that I was extremely fortunate to get one of Microsoft’s cutting-edge versions of office for so cheap, I hurriedly downloaded and installed it, looking forward to diving into the experience of Microsoft’s latest and greatest Office offering.
Boy, was I ever in for a surprise. It doesn’t take much Googling to come across negative feedback out across the Internet about Office 2013. The most common complaints circle around how different Office 2013 is than Office 2010. There’s the odd splash page when you launch Office apps. There’s the strange menu bar without the ribbon that you became accustomed to in Office 2013. There’s the fact that saving takes a few extra steps, because apparently Microsoft is now using its Office products to try and promote SkyDrive.
MUO readers were well warned about these problems right from the beginning. Christian described a lot of the issues you could expect with Word 2013 back in 2012. Christian then went into even more depth by writing a full guide to what’s new in Office 2013. In March of this year, Christian then offered a few tricks and tips to get rid of Office 2013 annoyances, and then apparently got so fed up with the whole thing that this month he’s started warning people not to buy Office 2013 at all.
Making Office 2013 More Like Office 2010
Let’s take a step back here – is Office 2013 really that bad? After all – it is still Office, and has all of the same functionality as Office 2010 did. Just check out our Office 2013 guide to see what it’s capable of. So do we really need to throw the baby out with the bathwater? Instead, I wanted to see if there were any tweaks that could be done in Office 2013 to make it look and feel a little more like I was used to with Office 2010 (which, to be honest, I’d hardly even got used to after using Office 2003 for so many years).
Well, let me just say that trying to make Office 2013 look like 2010 really isn’t all that hard – it just takes a little bit of poking around, switching a setting here and there, and sort of forcing the applications to open by default with the behavior and appearance that you liked in Office 2010.
What You Want Office 2013 to Look Like
Taking a look back at Office 2010, it’s pretty easy to see what people miss when they upgrade to Office 2013. The ribbon that took such getting used to after the earlier Office products suddenly grew on you. Once you learned how and where to find everything, it just became second nature, right?
Every Office 2010 product had that ribbon bar. Once I learned how things were organized under each menu item, I honestly became much more productive using the last couple versions of Office than any other.
Then along came Office 2013 – and all that was laid to waste. When I first opened Word, I thought that it would be like starting all over again – trying to relearn everything.
Office 2013 Isn’t Really Much Different
When I first started using Office 2013, it really was shocking. First, there was that big huge splash page with all of the templates. My first thought was, “what the…??” After a few moments of hunting, I found the blank document that I wanted. How annoying!
And if you want to browse to a document to open it, you have to scroll waaaaaay down to the bottom of the left navigation area to find the browse option, except it isn’t called “Browse”.
Then, when the blank document opened, I thought maybe I had opened the wrong application. Microsoft Word had suddenly transformed into some cheap mutation that looked like a cross between WordPad and Notepad. Seriously – this is considered an improvement?
Finally, clicking on one of the menu items, I saw the ribbon bar that we’re all so familiar with. Not pleased, I struggled through creating and saving my first document – a letter that I was writing to someone. Not pleased with my first experience with Office 2013, I actually contemplated returning it for a refund.
Thankfully, it wouldn’t come to that. There are a few tricks you can follow to set things back in order, and get Office 2013 looking and behaving as much like Office 2010 as possible.
Tips to Revert Office 2013 back to 2010
The first is to disable the start page. In his article on getting rid of Word annoyances, Christian mentions getting rid of the start page using a registry hack. You actually don’t have to do that. Just click on File and then choose options Options, and finally click on the General tab. About halfway down the page, you’ll see a setting to “Show start screen when this application starts.”
Just deselect it. The next time you launch the application, the start page will never show up again!
Secondly, the ribbon bar. I really don’t like the ribbon bar disappearing on me. I want it visible and accessible at a moment’s notice. You can actually make it stay pinned down by going over to the lower right side of the ribbon bar and pressing the little “pin” icon.
Another way to do it is to click on the window icon with the up arrow in it, and choose the selection to “Show Tabs and Commands”. This will set the application so the ribbon bar is always accessible and visible, just like in Office 2010.
So, here’s my newly modified editing screen where I’ve opened a new document. The ribbon bar opened up automatically and stayed there. Now that’s a beautiful thing. I might keep Office 2013 after all…
Then there’s the save option where SkyDrive is relentlessly promoted. Every time you click Save As, it defaults to SkyDrive, and you have to click on Computer to see your local directories. It’s Microsoft’s effort to push the cloud, but this sort of in-your-face pushing of technology is not the way to get on the good side of consumers.
Well, never fear, because there’s a fix for that too. Go to File, Options, and click the Save menu item. On this page, you’ll see a setting to “Save to Computer by default“. Select that box.
Now, when you go to “save as“, it defaults to your computer, and there’s the browse button on the right side. One click on Save As, and you’re there. Hey, saving clicks is what it’s all about, right?
So there you have it, with three little tweaks, you’re able to get rid of the annoying Start Splash page, keep the ribbon bar in place just like in Office 2010, and default the Save As option to browse your computer. The marketing of SkyDrive in Office 2013 was a huge complaint from everyone, so that particular checkbox is very much appreciated.
Now, I use my Office 2013 products all the time. With the tweaks above, it feels almost exactly like when I use 2010 at work, except there are plenty of little hidden features to discover, if you’re into things like saving to the cloud or using these apps on a touch screen display. Whether those features work well or not is another story entirely, and one meant for another article, another day.
Are you an Office 2013 user? What changes did you make to make the experience more tolerable? Do you love or hate Office 2013? Share your thoughts and advice in the comments section below!