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Posted on July 17th, 2012 by Jonathan Bray

Microsoft Word 2013 review: first look

Word 2013's clean new interface

Office 2013 is the most dramatic change Microsoft’s popular office suite has witnessed since the Ribbon was first introduced. The question is, what is the effect on key apps — the ones you use to work with every day? Here are our first impressions of how the overhaul has changed our favourite Office app, Word.

The first thing that’s noticeable about Word 2013 is how clean the interface is. With the ugly Ribbon interface hidden away, you can really focus on the writing. A simple tap on one of the Ribbon headings brings it smoothly into view. Tap in the document area to start typing once more, and the menus slide away.

The new Read Mode strips this down further while still allowing comments to be added as you read. This is particularly useful in conjunction with the new ability to scribble “inked” comments on a document with a stylus.

Inked notes in Word 2013

One nice touch is how smoothly the cursor transitions from one character to the next as you type. It’s a very small thing, but it makes the whole experience of typing feel luxurious — it’s like writing on a well-engineered piece of machinery, not a word processor.

The Word 2013 Ribbon

It’s good to see that Microsoft hasn’t completely started again, though. The Ribbon menus themselves remain, and they’re organised in the familiar way. Although the look is dramatically different overall, existing users will not feel completely out of their depth. The key difference is that buttons are a little larger than before and have been spaced out, making it far easier to hit the controls with the touch of a finger than on Office 2010.

Office 2013 windowing

Although the look of Word 2013 is heavily Metro influenced, in many ways Word 2013 doesn’t behave like a Metro app. We’re convinced Microsoft wants us to run these apps full screen, but they can in fact be snapped to the left and right side of the desktop, and resized, and documents arranged side by side — just as with Office 2010. Think of it as a hybrid between Metro and desktop, rather than one or the other.

Perhaps the biggest problem to overcome in working with Word 2013 is the split between touch control and using it with a keyboard and mouse. In some cases, the hybrid approach works well: highlight a section and tap it with a finger, and the context menu that appears is horizontal, squeezing neatly between the onscreen keyboard and the top of the screen; right click the selection with a mouse and the context menu displays vertically.

Word 2013's "Live layout" feature

In other cases, it can be incredibly irritating. Tap the screen while you’re typing with a keyboard and up pops the onscreen keyboard, only to disappear once you start typing again. We hope there’s some way of disabling this behaviour, but this sort of user intervention shouldn’t be necessary.

And it isn’t all rosy when it comes to touch control either. Although the Ribbon buttons are nicely spaced out and fairly large, other controls are tiny. The windowing controls are too small, as are the icons on the Quick Access Toolbar in the top-left corner and the zoom controls and view shortcuts found in the bottom right corner — although these look as if they’re intended for mouse users, as zooming with touch can be achieved with a simple pinch of the fingers.

Overall, our initial impressions of Word 2013 are mixed. We like the minimalism of the Metro-inspired interface more than expected, and it’s good news that Microsoft isn’t forcing the full-screen approach of Metro on users. On the other hand, combining touch with keyboard and mouse use raises a number of irritating problems, and some of the touch controls don’t appear to be wholly suited to tablets, which could be a problem for users of Surface, which will come with the  new Office Suite built in.

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21 Responses to “ Microsoft Word 2013 review: first look ”

  1. Ryan "The_Scrote" thomas Says:
    July 17th, 2012 at 9:13 am

    It just looks so… anaemic. Where are the contrast and visual cues?

  2. David Wright Says:
    July 17th, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    The ribbon bar has always blended out of sight, when it isn’t being used, if you wanted it to. That is how I used Office 2010.

  3. John Fairhurst Says:
    July 17th, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    I presume that ‘The key difference is that buttons are a little larger than before and have been spaced out, making it far easier to hit the controls with the touch of a finger than on Office 2010′ is the reason that the menu names are all in SHOUTY UPPER CASE as well?

  4. JohnAHind Says:
    July 17th, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    It never ceases to impress me how Microsoft keeps managing to sell old features as new simply by making them the default! It’s like the Government announcing the same initiatives over and over again!

    It has always been possible to have the ribbons “hidden away” – just double-click on the tab. This setting is even sticky, so it will open next time with the ribbon hidden.

    Ink capability has been there for a decade or more – it’s just that you do not see it unless you have a pen tablet or a touch-screen.

    Read Mode is not new either – it’s present and correct in Word 2007 and yes, ink works on it too!

    So what is new? SHOUTY CAPITALS seems to be about it!

  5. Admin03 Says:
    July 17th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Looks not bad, but everything is just too white! Makes navigation somewhat more difficult.
    Maybe we’ll get used to this, but I hope they will introduce some options to customize colour schemes.

  6. Damian Says:
    July 17th, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    “and resized, and documents arranged side by side — just as with Office 2010.”

    Open word. Open word doc 1.
    Right click word, select Microsoft word. Open Doc 2.

    You now have two instances of MS word that can be viewed side-by-side.


  7. John Says:
    July 18th, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Have the accessibility issues that Davey Winder reported been fixed in this release?

  8. TerryB Says:
    July 19th, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Have they replaced the ability to modify the ribbon? That has always been the annoyance in 2010. You can completly hide a tab and replace it with a new custom one that you’ve built from scratch with just the bits you want. But you can’t just hide the bits you will never want from within the standard tabs.
    Which makes modifying the ribbon too cumbersome to be practical.

  9. zx6dude Says:
    July 19th, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    Too much white. I hope MS will give the option to add colours to the ribbon and background pages.

  10. Ali Says:
    July 20th, 2012 at 8:48 am

    I am going to sleep untill 2014 when hopefully micro$oft will have realised your average joe/tte in an office does not give a hoot for touch screens.

  11. Alan Says:
    July 20th, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Has the substance of what Word can do changed? Have some of the problem areas been fixed eg Moving from absolute to relative hyperlinks?

  12. Chad Says:
    July 20th, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    So far the only thing that I have smiled about in 2013 is the squared edges. I plan switching back to 2010 in a week and see if I miss 2013… that’ll determine if it’s worth anything.

  13. Andrew Rowland Says:
    July 25th, 2012 at 10:51 am

    As an Office 2003 user, I want to know whether the ribbon is up to 2003’s standard yet, i.e. can it be customised properly, can you add buttons for macros and change the button image, etc? And get to them with one click, not two?

    On another note, have they sorted out the utter mess that is styles and numbering? We’ve been waiting for it ever since Word 2.

  14. Tony Sim Says:
    July 27th, 2012 at 10:57 am

    I agree it’s way too white, and I don’t like the caps lock headings.

  15. Mojo Says:
    August 1st, 2012 at 7:05 am

    One word sums it up …. UGLY!!!

  16. James (Skyfall) Bond Says:
    October 27th, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    You could stick with Corel WordPerfect X6 until something better comes along in 2015.
    Why would anybody in their right mind want to use touch when they can do the same thing more precisely with a mouse?

  17. Jon Says:
    November 30th, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    Like Andrew above, I would like to know if MS has reinstated the ability to edit macro buttons – a huge negative in 2007 and 2010. Hopeless! I presume/hope that the quick access toolbar still works OK in 2013. The main saving grace of 2010.

  18. Ian Anderson Says:
    March 4th, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    I thought it was only me that noticed the rather captivating ‘cursor transitions’ smooooth!
    Agree that it does look anemic, a tad more contrast would make it feel less like the bookings screen in a hospital!

  19. JULIUS Says:
    September 10th, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    ms2013 looks awesome, very smooth but the other tabs difficult to navigate for ex: in sorting a names you had to go to layout option.. maybe i will switch back to 2010 :)

  20. Neil Robertson Says:
    December 20th, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Changed from Word 2007 straight to 2013. What’s happened to Publisher? By the way I’m a bit of a Dummy so no wisecracks please.

  21. Peter Andrews Says:
    March 14th, 2014 at 10:48 am

    Essentially I feel that there have been no real improvements since 2007. I really think that the ribbon is a useless waste of space and time, and totally unsuitevd to use on widescreen displays where you heed HEIGHT on your document not wasted space at the sides. Then on top of this you’re stuck with the ugly and hard to use white 2013 colour scheme and style. Microsoft must have wasted millions of hours worldwide with this, and to do what, make it harder to use than where they were a decade ago ? I really wish our IT team hadn’t been forced to upgrade. On the Plus Side at least Classic Menu can still give you most of the old controls back :

    PS : Nobody uses a touchscreen in an office, which ‘Hello Microsoft’ will always be where the main market is for all of the Office toolset.


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