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Microsoft Office 2013 review

Verdict

Still the best office suite on the market and better value than ever, but it won't be for everyone

Review Date: 21 Mar 2013

Price when reviewed: From £110

Buy it now for: £333
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Ease of Use
5 stars out of 6

PCPRO A-List

Word 2013 review

Microsoft Office 2013

Microsoft Word is probably the most commonly installed productivity app on the planet and, as such, any upgrade is a sensitive subject. Yet despite major cosmetic alterations, our working days have barely changed since installing Word 2013.

In some ways, that’s a good thing. With a word processor, you want the main focus to be the document, and the new minimalist design certainly does nothing to change that. If anything, it’s a little better, with a new, flatter and more streamlined design than before, and the ability to entirely hide the ribbon, leaving just a grey strip across the top of the screen.

In other ways, it isn’t so good. Many of the new features are aimed at making Office better for touchscreen devices, yet we’ve found ourselves rarely wanting to use them, even while working on a tablet. That isn’t necessarily because they’re badly implemented – the new read mode makes touchscreen reading more pleasant – but we bypassed it most of the time, especially since you can now pan, zoom and scroll just as easily in edit mode. The inking system is awkward, too, allowing notes only to be written on the page or in margins. It’s also a pain to remove notes from a document if you want to clean it up.

Microsoft Word 2013

The touch mode has been hugely improved since we first looked at the software; it enlarges icons significantly, instead of merely adding space between them. However, we still found ourselves poking daintily at tiny icons on the screen, and reaching for a mouse and keyboard as soon as any serious work came calling. Typing and editing documents using the onscreen keyboard isn’t a bad experience, especially with the ribbon entirely minimised, but as soon as you pull it down to access a menu feature, you’re left with a tiny strip of document between it and the keyboard.

The non-touch-specific changes are more successful. We like Simple Markup. Tracked changes are now indicated with coloured vertical lines in the margins, which is a major improvement. The ability to lock tracked changes with a password is handy as well.

Microsoft’s new collaborative comments and editing system is a boon, allowing users to respond to comments on shared documents via SkyDrive, mark them as closed, and edit those documents simultaneously.

The touch mode has been hugely improved since we first looked at the software

When you reopen a document, you’re now able to pick up where you left off with a tap or a click. Present Online provides a fast and straightforward way of showing documents over the internet to anyone with a browser. It could be more fully featured, but works well.

You can now add apps to Word, via the Apps for Office option. Add the Encyclopaedia Britannica app to a document and every time you select a word, related entries are automatically displayed in a side panel. We can’t wait until someone develops one of these for Wikipedia.

Meanwhile, the online picture tool is excellent; at a stroke, it provides a way to add impact to documents without the rigmarole of having to switch to your web browser, search for an image, save it and then import it into Word.

Again, though, there are issues. Anyone who uses Word as a glorified DTP tool will be pleased to discover that the layout tools have been improved. Text reflows as you drag images and graphics around, and new alignment guides fade into view when images and graphics are dragged in line with major page and text structures. The changes don’t go far enough, however. We expected to be able to align graphical elements with each other in this way, and resize them too, but to do this you have to use the old alignment tools.

Word 2013 can now open PDFs and reformat them as Word documents, but it copes poorly with complex layouts. It’s best viewed as a means for importing text and/or graphics from PDF files, rather than a business PDF workflow tool.

Finally, the new File screen, which places SkyDrive to the front and centre of the open-and-save-file process, is a disaster. It wouldn’t be so bad if Microsoft had gone wholesale over to a full-screen file browser. It looks as though it has at first, but after selecting the destination where you want to open or save files, you’re punted off to a dialog box.

Word 2013 is a strange mix. It remains the most powerful word processor around, and there are a lot of new features in this version. If you have a touchscreen device, it’s your only option. And yet not all of these new features are successful – and some, in fact, are aggravating. Ultimately, if you already run the previous version and don’t have a touchscreen, there isn’t enough here to warrant the outlay.

Microsoft Word 2013

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User comments

Table of Contents

Hi
Be interested to know if Word now deals with contents better.
Previously, word (even with autoformat turned off) would have a habit of making an awful mess of 'insert contents' when you closed and reopened the document word would re-designate 'outline level'/TOC levels and all the contents. There seemed no easy way of making word accept the way I wanted a contents to look (even with autoformat turned off)
I know a workaround was to use outline view but I wanted to do that with contents and there have numerous posts across about this problem even in word 2010.
Do you know if this problem has been addressed with word 2013?

By simontompkins on 25 Jan 2013

Ribbon hiding...

That was in Office 2010, why is it suddenly such a big deal in 2013?

By davew80 on 25 Jan 2013

No Major New Features in Excel? Really!

How about having PowerPivot built in so that you can analyse hundreds of millions of rows of data incredibly quickly or Power View data visualisation including animated charts? Also the new timeline control. For data analysts this puts Excel miles ahead of it competitors. I can't believe these were omitted from your review!.

By Pedro on 25 Jan 2013

Office 2013 Face-plants out the door

What an abomination of a product. The Word application does not appear to use threading as the entire application locks up after clicking anything. A friendly message pops up at the bottom right saying "Office may appear unresponsive...We're streaming a few required files in the background. This shouldn't take long." Here we are 45 minutes later still locked. On one of Word's crashes, an error message popped up for Microsoft Outlook. Hope this software wasn't developed in Washington or Colorado.

By SteveH3032 on 26 Jan 2013

Error Messasge

Problem Event Name: AppHangXProcB1
Application Name: winword.exe
Application Version: 15.0.4454.1000
Application Timestamp: 509a4ea6
Hang Signature: 97e7
Hang Type: 128
Waiting on Application Name: integratedoffice.exe:FF_INTEGRATED_Pipeline
Waiting on Application Version: 0.0.0.0
OS Version: 6.1.7601.2.1.0.274.10
Locale ID: 1033
Additional Hang Signature 1: 97e71dfe10bcaa68cbcbc86c377ab897
Additional Hang Signature 2: 12c7
Additional Hang Signature 3: 12c70a0ace46f3abf1453c74248047f9
Additional Hang Signature 4: 97e7
Additional Hang Signature 5: 97e71dfe10bcaa68cbcbc86c377ab897
Additional Hang Signature 6: 12c7
Additional Hang Signature 7: 12c70a0ace46f3abf1453c74248047f9

By SteveH3032 on 26 Jan 2013

@Pedro

> For data analysts this puts Excel miles ahead of it competitors.

Nobody sane does serious data analysis in Excel. For that you need a proper programming language. (R or python or MATLAB or SQL or SAS. VBA doesn't count. Because yuk.)

The important questions are, "do the numerical routines in Excel no longer suck?" (see http://www.jstatsoft.org/v34/i04/paper) and "can Excel draw useful charts yet?" (Try drawing a histogram with a log-scale x-axis or a box and whisker plot.)

By rupert_giles on 28 Jan 2013

Warnings

I think you have missed a few warnings that you should make people aware of....
The licensing is cheaper, but now is one user, one device and non transferable for things like Home and Business - where before it was one user / covered one desktop one laptop. (Effectively returning to OEM licensing).
And also, Outlook 2013 does not work with Exchange 2003.

However, Office 365 plans have also just announced their compatability with RDS.

Regards
Jules

By JulesWilko on 31 Jan 2013

Not the same price

Another misleading review of the new Office pricing. Office Home & Student is selling the single user edition only, and for close to the same price that the three-user edition of 2010 went for, at least in the States. Which means that those of us with a desktop and laptop are out of luck on this one. Strange that you didn't mention any of that.

By genegold on 31 Jan 2013

@simontompkins

I've been using Word since 2.0 and I've never experienced the problem you mention.

Could it be something to do with the styles you've set up or a problem with the .dot or .dotx behind the documents? I know I've had a couple of corrupted .dot files over the years, which have caused havoc.

By big_D on 31 Jan 2013

Way too expensive

I think most of the private users won't need half of the applications when they choose subscription - most of them will only need Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

If they decide to buy Office 2013, they pay a lot of money for just one license which btw. is tied to the hardware:

http://office-watch.com/t/n.aspx?a=1782

For the majority of users much cheaper (or even free) alternatives would be pretty sufficient.

As Microsoft Office formats are a standard, I would suggest to check out SoftMaker Office Professional, because this is the only Office I found to handle all Microsoft formats brillantly, without any loss or problems. You get word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software, and mail client for a very reasonable price which includes three licenses.

I tested several alternatives of Microsoft Office and find this the best one, I miss no single feature.

By Todd_J on 7 Feb 2013

No major new features for Excel?

Simply opening sheets in independent windows, so I can scatter them across my screen and look at them side by side is enough to make me want to upgrade.
It should have been there years ago, and I'm glad it arrived this time around

By hminney on 12 Feb 2013

Office 2013 pro

i have purchased office 2013 and am using outlook 2013 but cannot receive mails since i have loaded the softwaare. I have windows mail on another PC and can receive emails without any problem. Is there a problem with outlook 2013 software!!!!!!!!!!!!!

By varsani on 30 Mar 2013

Worth the upgrade

Boasting a host of new features, most notably within Excel and PowerPoint, I'd say it's definitely worth the upgrade.

Recommended charts, sparklines and more in Excel are a great new way to visualise your data. Plus in PowerPoint, I just love the new presenter view. It really is a great way to save embarrassment.

For a full list of what's in and what's out in Office 2013, this infographic is pretty spot on:

http://www.microsofttraining.net/sharing/3-whats-i
n-and-whats-out-in-office-2013.html

By TerenceNoah on 13 May 2013

Access

Where's the Access review?

By Andymel2 on 20 May 2013

£8.99 for two licences

I just picked up two copies of Office 2013 Professional for £8.99 via my employer and the MS Home User Program. It seems pretty good.

By grimerking on 19 Jun 2013

Awful Retro?

My first encounter with MS Office 2013 and it looks awful. So bad that I will probably stick with Office 2007. The 'clean' appearance makes it look like a DOS or web page version. If I want to be bored I can watch TV but in the Office suite I want it to engender interest, to enthuse, to use colour to waken me up. I'm sorry but its a no go for me.

By blanco on 5 Jan 2014

Office 2013 Rocks!

I really love my Office Home and Business 2013.

I got it from Designertechsoftware.com for $144.99 and the thing I love about it is how well it interfaces with my mobile!

The touch interface is simply sweet.

By RubyChristian on 27 Mar 2014

Office 2013 Home and Student

I've been browsing Designer Tech Software and I picked up Office 2013 Home and Student.

It seems like GUI's are finally evolving these days.

I really like the user-friendliness of it all and how it helps me in my tasks as a Commerce student.

I feel like I can take on the world!

By Regie on 31 Mar 2014

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