Surviving your first hour with Office 2013

Woody Leonhard

If you’ve looked into Office 2013’s “improvements,” they might have struck you — as they did me — as largely gratuitous, cumbersome, and designed more to add to Microsoft’s coffers than to improve Office productivity.

Fortunately, there are ways rid yourself of Office 2013’s worst changes — if you know the tricks.

Getting started with the latest Office

Whether you’re upgrading an existing edition of Office or adding it to a new system, installing Office 2013 is unlike installing previous versions. If you expect to insert an installation DVD and run the setup program, as you’ve done in the past, you’re in for a surprise: Office 2013 doesn’t come on an installation DVD. Whether you buy Office 2013 or rent it through Office 365 Home Premium, all installation files come through the Internet. Better hope you have a good connection to the Web.

In the Feb. 13 Woody’s Windows column, “Software SmackDown: Office 2013 vs. Office 365,” I discussed the key differences (of many!) between buying Office 2013 and renting Office 365. The somewhat complicated details are poorly documented by Microsoft. In either case — buy or rent — all acquired Office components are installed on your computer. Despite what you might have heard, there are no obligatory Office 365 components in the cloud. All Office 365 apps run on your PC — as Office apps have since the start of time. There’s no operational difference between purchased and rented versions.

Office is, of course, designed with “New” Windows (the Metro interface) in mind. Start Word or PowerPoint, for example, and you’re immediately presented with a Metro-like Start screen containing a list of available templates. (In New Windows, everything seems to start with a Start screen.) Don’t be put off — just select a new blank document (or presentation or workbook) and carry on. The real surprise comes next: a truly jarring, spaced-out main screen. PowerPoint’s is shown in Figure 1.

PowerPoint 2013

Figure 1. As the PowerPoint main menu shows, Office 2013's new interface seems surprisingly shrill.

Once you recover from ALL CAPS SHOUTING menu tabs, you’ll find that Office 2013 looks and behaves reassuringly like Office 2010 — with two exceptions:

Click File/Open and try to find a file located on your computer. Instead of going to the familiar file-open dialog box you’ve used for the past — couple of decades? — Office 2013 takes you to a touch-friendly window that reeks of SkyDrive (see Figure 2).

Office 2013 File Open

Figure 2. Office 2013's new File Open dialog box doesn't make it easy to open a local document on your PC.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2013-03-07:

Woody Leonhard

About Woody Leonhard

Woody Leonhard is a Windows Secrets senior editor and a senior contributing editor at InfoWorld. His latest book, the comprehensive 1,080-page Windows 8 All-In-One For Dummies, delves into all the Win8 nooks and crannies. His many writings tell it like it is — whether Microsoft likes it or not.