Microsoft Office 2013 review

Updated: Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint get the touchscreen treatment, cloud storage and a bunch of new features.

£109 - £390
Clean interface; Multitude of templates; Inline replies for Outlook; Cloud syncing
Touch experience is mixed; Office 2010 is still adequate for majority of users
It's still the most comprehensive suite available - but do you need it? The most convincing argument we can think of for upgrading to Office 2013 will be for those that want to use Microsoft Office on a tablet. Office 2013's gesture supporting user interface is a definitely a big selling point, perhaps even pushing tablets into credible productivity devices rather than glamorous clip boards.

Microsoft has made major changes to all the popular programs within Office 2013 including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Office 2013 is the most dramatic change Microsoft’s office suite has witnessed since the Ribbon was first introduced.

The standout feature of Office 2013 is the inclusion of gesture support and an on-screen keyboard you can actually type on. This will sit well with organisations looking to deploy tablets as more than mere document viewers.

It is obvious that Microsoft's design cues came from the Metro scheme used for Windows 8 Phone. However those worried about a tiled interface can rest easy as there isn't a Live Tile in sight. The firm has retained its default colour schemes between Office 2013 applications with Word using blue and white while Excel uses green and white, and on the whole the firm uses a lot of white to create what is a pleasant and uncluttered interface.

The suite is available to download now from Microsoft and can be installed alongside an existing Office installation. We run through the key features you can expect to see in the preview.

Word 2013

The first thing you'll noticeable about Word 2013 is how clean the interface is. With the ugly Ribbon interface hidden away once you start typing, you can 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.

One nice touch is the responsiveness of the cursor; it transitions instantaneously from one character to the next as you type. It’s a 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.

There is a 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.

Ribbon remains

It’s good to see that Microsoft hasn’t completely started again, though. The Ribbon menus 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.

Embedding content

The Insert option allows you to search for online videos using Bing from within Word. You can also embed video code into the documents and then play them within the app too.

Another useful feature includes the ability to quickly embed a screenshot. Clicking Insert>screenshot will bring up a window with thumbnails of every window app on your desktop. Simply click the image you want, and it will be placed on screen. Best of all you can easy move videos and images around to wherever you want.


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.

In other cases, it can be incredibly irritating. Tap the screen whilst 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, but 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, 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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good going ITam, keeping up the quality, as per usual!

using Office on a windows phone is very painful, using office on surface is an entirely different story. no matter how hard Microsoft tries, i still think that the functionality is very limited for excel and powerpoint.

here is an other article discussing the upgrade from office 365 to office 2013 - pro and cons

Good article. The interface design of Office is getting cleaner all the time indeed. Is this what we can expect in Office 2016:

Apparently, the author is a paid representative of Microsoft, otherwise he would have made a very different review. He uses the words "clean" and "pleasant" to describe the interface, whereas every user among my colleagues uses adjectives like "blinding," "awful," and "difficult to see"; the best I've heard are "bland" and "washed out." Similarly, the author is oblivious to THE SHOUTING OF ALL CAPS IN THE TABS RIBBON, WHICH IS, AT THE LEAST, OFFENSIVE. Furthermore, most readers consider all caps far more difficult to read than proper case. Word shape is important for readability and all caps makes every word into a rectangle. Dyslexics, in particular, will find this interface virtually useless. And with a useless interface, Microsoft Office 2013 itself is useless, no matter how good the rest of the product might be.

A few features of MS Office 2013 are really irritating. The phrasing like 'Want to save your changes?' sounds like Microsoft have regressed to a state that they've forgotten how to use the english language properly. Why can't they speak in normal sentences like they used to? The ribbon does hide away, but I actually find this a bit annoying. I have to click it to bring it back each time I want to use it, then I have to click back in the document to make the document active again to continue typing. So several more mouse clicks each time. Finally, the capital letters for the menu headings look like we're back to the 80s all over again. One thing I'd like to see is the American language to not assumed to be the default language for all english users. Out of the 88 countries of the world that use english as a standard, Americans are the exception in the way that they spell words rather than the norm, the Philippines being the only other country that uses American english. There needs to be a way to easily change the english language being used to that of your particular location for all documents that you open, because this affects the spell checker. An MS Powerpoint presentation is particularly difficult to change because you have to change each slide and its notes one at a time.

the only reason I have it is I received a great deal through work under 20 pounds so why not , I just use word outlook and one note , good bargain but I would not pay full price for it

Got new Lenovo with it, and regretting every second I touch this laptop. Utter Rubbish compared to 2007. Can I upgrade (yes upgrade) to 2007?
Bill Gates is trying top copy Papa Steve Jobs so desperately, and doing a miserable job. What a mess this new version!

MS EXCEL 2013.. OFFICE 365 based version AVOID!
EXCEL 2013, very slow; prone to frequent crashes; useless when working with large data-sets;
basic tasks, i.e., adding rows, columnns locks up computer; moving cursor is painfully slow and experiences long lag; POWERPIVOT is not supported; POWER VIEW is not supported; ADDINS, ... SOLVER, GOAL SEEK... do not work.
DOES NOT get along well with ACCESS... importing is trial and error... try enough time, and fo inexplicable reason, finally it will succeed!
MS Support is incompetent. NO clue what the problems are or how to resolve.
AVOID the OFFICE 365 version.
If you need a reliable, effective, efficient business tool EXCELL 2013 cloud based version will create much dissatisfaction.
If you NEED frustration, aggravation, then EXCEL 2013 is a certain bet and one will not be disappointed.