2013 grid bars & keyboard shortcuts.
You originally mentioned, "Will Word 2013 maintain formats in columnar newsletters ...".
I'm using Word 2013 Preview, and don't have any problem with columns. However, in my docs, I underbar the Heading area, and overbar the footer section - the lines made using the grid sections (over, under, left, right, in between, and none - don't know what these are called). I've never had a problem with these until "2013 Preview" where these bars extended to the right edge of the "paper", past the right margin.
My solution was to magnify to 200%, then drag the right tab from the right margin/right indent to the left where it stopped, and then, holding Alt, dragging the right tab back toward the right margin/right indent to as close as I could get, but still not as far as those locations (thus the magnification to 200%, to get finer resolution in moving the right tab). The under and over bars no longer extended past the right margin.
I have not observed this problem (bar extending beyond margin or right indent) since December 2012, sometime. Since I'm using 2013 Preview, maybe I'm getting updated code periodically.
Another thing you mentioned was "learning the ribbon". After over 20 years of being a very accomplished Office user, my productivity was instantly crippled by the ribbon. I can see how this might be a wonderful thing for anyone who doesn't know how to navigate menus, and I"m all for improving UI - User Interfaces - (Look at our Android devices today!). But to not provide the ability to use the traditional, static (or automatically hiding of options) menu interface so that decades of thoughtless muscle memory could continue to be exploited, was a severe change. As a result, I still use Office 2000 98% of the time.
I'm an old IBM Mainframer, and when terminals were introduced, keyboarding was the only UI. I eventually had to make muscle memory adjustments as emulators supplanted physical terminals, but I was still keyboarding 99% of the time, and beating anyone using a mouse, especially after locating keyboard shortcuts in Office, and improved my speed immensely with Office apps.
Well, if you've been using keyboard shortcuts in Office 2000, you're in luck. Office 2007, 2010, and 2013, while having their own, visible shortcut paths, will also respect the older shortcuts, but without any prompting. You have to know them well. For example, "Alt, t", while not visible in 2013 as a pick after hitting "Alt", will display a little "tool tip" encouraging you to continue with your keying from "an earlier version of Office" - but with no visible feedback of any kind - until you've arrived successfully at the end of the command. You've really got to have them down.
I've tried using the newer shortcut keys, but when you've made beautiful music on the piano - any piano - for 20 years, you can't suddenly play "Chopsticks" on a steel drum.
I've read the progress and tribulations with your main problem, and I appreciate the time you've spent helping your fellow man with the wealth of perseverance and experience available from Honored Citizens (Portlandia for Seniors). Good luck.