Now that the Preview has begun for Office 2013, it’s time to take a look at what has changed and why. The obvious starting point is Microsoft Word. For many people this can be the only truly vital part of their Office experience. Fortunately the newest changes will be incredibly simple to adapt to.
On opening the program, the first thing that will stand out is the updated home screen. Here, as with all of Office 2013, Microsoft’s new aesthetic stands out. The sidebar menu is very flat, new document templates are presented as tiles, and all of your options are clearly laid out. It is worth getting used to this screen, but you’re essentially looking at the same navigation system from Office 2010.
In the main document window, you’ll find that the ribbon remains the primary mode of control. It can easily be collapsed by selecting a small upward pointing arrow in the lower right of any ribbon tab. From that point on, the ribbon will collapse when it loses focus unless you choose to pin it open again using the icon in the same location as that collapse arrow. For those who know how to use the program well, this can virtually eliminate the ribbon from most tasks.
Probably the most interesting (if unsurprising) addition to Word 2013 would be the new Read Mode. Open any document in Word and select “Read Mode” under the View heading to enable this. Your document will now be uneditable, but a number of reading-specific enhancements will take effect. What this accomplishes is essentially the creation of an Office 2013 reading app.
Users familiar with the Kindle and other such eReading platforms will find the Read Mode configuration menu familiar. Under the View menu you can define your preferred column width, layout type, and color scheme. Your place in a document will even be saved and synced between devices, just like with any popular eReader. In this mode, the default settings also switch link click-through from CTRL-Click to a single Click. Menus are largely hidden in this mode and everything about the interface is minimized until you need it.
The obvious thrust of that addition is tablet users. If nothing else, the ability to swap to a white-on-black reading mode will definitely make things easier on the eyes and battery.
Another major editing feature addition is PDF Reflow. Word 2013 will interpret a given PDF document and reconstruct it to make editing easier on the user. Copying from a PDF, whether text or charts, is noticeably simpler.
Overall, this is a solid improvement with no glaring flaws. While some people might object to the changes in aesthetics that bring the latest Word in line with Windows 8, that’s about the only thing that is questionable. Everything else is incremental improvements in function or optional adaptations to allow for a better use of touchscreens. General Office 2013 changes like collaborative editing deserve some time here as well, of course, but that deserves a close look on its own.