Tips to Get You Started With Office 2013

Microsoft plans to roll out Office 2013 in the early part of the year. In the meantime you can try it out by grabbing the beta or the 60 day trial of the RTM (release to manufacturer) or by shelling out the money to buy the Windows Surface RT tablet. Regardless of how you get it, or if you wait for the public release, there are a few tips that can make your experience with the app suite a little smoother and easier to deal with.

In many ways, Office 2013 has not changed much from its predecessor, the 2010 version. The ribbon interface, once loathed by many users, is here to stay  and has grown on most of us. In fact, Microsoft likes it so much that the company incorporated it into the Explorer in Windows 8.

Start Screen

Microsoft loves its new Start screens. While the one in Windows 8 has proven to be a bit controversial, the one that appears upon launch of each Office 2013 app is less so. In fact, while I am sure not everyone loves it, I have not heard any real complaints.

The Start screen displays a list of frequently used and popular templates. That is great, but the list is not for everyone. Thankfully you can customize this to some extent. You can simply use the same template over and over until the program learns your habits, but there is an easier and quicker way.

office 2013 start screen

You may notice a small “pin” icon at the bottom right of each template icon — if you don’t then hover your mouse over it and the pin will appear. If the pin is pointing downwards then clicking it will unpin the template from this screen. If it is facing left then clicking it will pin the item to the screen.


You probably associate themes with Windows and browsers like Chrome and Firefox. However, while Office is not generally thought of a “skinable” app, the appearance can be somewhat customized.

To access this launch any Office 2013 app, click the “File” menu and look for “Account” in the left column. Here you will find a dropdown menu titled “Office Background”. In it are options for None, Calligraphy, Circle and Stripes and Circuit. There is also Clouds, which is the default theme when you first install Office 2013.

Cloud Storage

It will probably come as no surprise that, by default, Office 2013 utilizes Microsoft’s cloud storage service SkyDrive. SkyDrive is free for up to 7 GB of storage — it used to be 25 GB, but don’t get me started on that downgrade. If you need more storage then you can purchase additional.

You will need to run a user script provided by Google. To do so, head over to this site and follow the instructions.  It is easiest to this in Chrome, but you can easily find instructions for user scripts in other browsers online.

Alternatively, you can click “Save” and then “Computer” and navigate to your Google Drive. You can then save it there or navigate to another service such as Dropbox.

Create and Edit PDF Files

Office has toyed around with PDF files in past versions, but this time around Microsoft got serious. In the past you could save as PDF, but now you can actually edit. The new Word 2013 allows you to open PDF files, edit them there, and then save them as either DocX files or PDFs.

To save a file as PDF simply click “Save” and then use the dropdown menu to choose the .PDF option. It is one of the many file types you can choose here.

Customize the Quick Access Toolbar

The Quick Access Toolbar sits above the Menu bar and allows users to easily access such options as Save, Undo, Repeat, Draw Table and Open. However you can add more options and remove the ones that are there.

Options You Can Add

  • New
  • Open
  • Email
  • Quick Print
  • Print preview and print
  • Spelling and grammar
  • Touch mode
You can also click on “More commands” to find additional items to customize the app to your exact personal choices. In addition, you can also move the quick launch bar to below the ribbon menu.

Customize the Ribbon

Like the Quick Access toolbar, the ribbon can also be customized. To do so you will need to click the “File” menu and then choose “Options”. This pops up a box that has a number of choices in the left column. Choose “Customize ribbon” to find a number of commands and customizations.

While you are here you may also want to check out a few of the other things in the left column like “Proofing”, “Advanced” and Add-ins” to find other tweaks you may be interested in.

Read Mode

In Word 2013 Microsoft introduced a new “Read Mode” that formats your text to make it look and act more like a book. When you have a long document to read then you can switch to this and make it easier on the eyes. The feature also lets you page through a file just as if your are turning pages in a book.

To access Read Mode click on the View menu and you will spot the option at the left side of the ribbon.


Office 2013 is not tremendously different from the 2010 version, so users should not struggle to find their way. However, as you have seen above, there are a number of ways to customize the suite and there are a few nice new features. I have only covered a few  highlights here so explore around to see what else you can do.