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What's New with Microsoft Word 2013

Discover the best new features for your charity or library from the latest version of Word

What’s New with Microsoft Word 2013 
Ginny Mies - February 08, 2013
The newest version of Word, Microsoft's ubiquitous word processing application, has a host of helpful new features that go beyond its shiny new look. Eligible nonprofits, charities, and public libraries can now request donated Office software through TechSoup.

The revamped Microsoft Word 2013 has a new interface and several useful updates that will help nonprofits, charities, and libraries create professional-looking documents, share and collaborate more easily, and do work more efficiently. To learn more about the entire suite of new Office software, see Microsoft Office: What Your Organization Should Know.

A New Look for Word

The first change you'll see when you fire up Word 2013 is a new landing page (rather than a blank document, as in older versions of Word). In the left pane, you'll see a list of your most recent Word documents as well as the option to open previously viewed documents. In the right pane, you can pick from various templates, such as blank, invoice, blog post, and so on. You can also search through Microsoft's library of templates using certain keywords, such as "fundraiser" or "proposal." The new landing page may take some getting used to, but will prove helpful in accessing templates you might have otherwise overlooked.

Microsoft Word has a new landing page.
Microsoft Word has a new landing page.

Word has cleaned up its menus and options, giving more space to your documents. Microsoft's Ribbon interface, introduced in earlier versions of Office, organizes tasks and tools by activity type. The Ribbon bar returns in the newest version of Office, and now an arrow on the far right allows you to collapse the toolbar into a simple menu of links across the top. There's also a new tab on the Ribbon, the Design tab, which incorporates formatting and page background tools, as well as new themes and templates.

The updated Ribbon has a new tab called Design.
The updated Ribbon has a new tab called Design.

Sharing, Collaboration, and Editing

When multiple people are responsible for creating, editing, and approving documents, you'll find the new sharing and collaboration features in Word 2013 very useful. You can now share a document with a colleague directly from Word via SkyDrive. Word shows you if another person has opened the document and whether changes have been made.

Another handy sharing feature is that you can share documents with people who might not have Word installed on their computer. This might be useful if you are sharing documents with volunteers, contractors, or other colleagues who might not have the same tech environment as your organization. After you upload the document to SkyDrive, you'll get a dedicated link for sharing the document. When your contact opens the link, they'll be able to view and edit it in their browser via Office Web Apps.

When a document is edited by multiple people, Tracked Changes and numerous comments in different colors can be hard to follow. Word 2013's Simple Markup view solves this issue by displaying the final version of a document. Lines in the margin indicate where changes have been made. When you click a line, Word switches to All Markup View so you can see the full edits. Click it again, and Word goes back to Simple Markup.

Word now deals with comments more elegantly. You can reply to comments within a document rather than just leaving a comment nearby another. Word 2013 displays comments as a thread — similarly to Facebook or an online forum. In Simple Markup, small speech bubble icons signify when there are comments in the document. You can click on the icon to open up a separate window containing the comments. If you've already addressed a comment, you can mark it as "dealt with" and gray it out so it isn't distracting.

You can reply to comments and mark them as "dealt with."
You can reply to comments and mark them as "dealt with."

You also now have the ability to lock Track Changes on in Word, which means that someone needs to enter a password to make Word stop Track Changes. This is useful if your document is going through multiple hands and you want to ensure that all changes are recorded.

Get on the Cloud

Like other programs in the new Office suite, Word 2013 is connected to the cloud. SkyDrive, Microsoft's cloud-based file storage service, is now the default save location (you can also change that default to save locally to your computer). After you upload files on SkyDrive, you (or your colleagues) can view them or make basic edits using the Word Web App via an Internet browser. This is useful if you need to open a document on your smartphone or tablet, or if you don't have the latest version of Word installed on your home computer. When you go back to your work computer, you can open the documents you saved to SkyDrive directly from Word.

SkyDrive is integrated into Word.
SkyDrive is integrated into Word.

Read Mode

A new feature called Read Mode removes all of the menus in Word to provide a minimalist, distraction-free view of Word. You can tweak how Read Mode displays your document by adjusting the columns or setting the page color to sepia or white on black. Text reflows automatically in columns, making Read Mode ideal for reading a Word document on a Windows laptop or tablet when you're on the road. Read Mode isn't a feature in Office Web Apps, however, so it won't work if you're using a non-Windows tablet.

You can adjust the column width or change the background color in Read Mode.
You can adjust the column width or change the background color in Read Mode.

If you start reading a document, but then suddenly need to do another task, Word will save your place in the document so you can pick up later — even if you're reading the document on another device (like your home computer or Windows tablet). You don't even have to hit "Save" or insert a virtual bookmark; Word does all the work for you.

Multimedia

If you design newsletters, flyers, brochures, or other multimedia documents in Word, you'll be pleased to learn that working with images is now easier than ever. Word 2013's new alignment guides (tools that pop up when you click on a piece of media) make it easy to quickly position your images or video within your text. You can drag an image around the document, and text will automatically re-format to wrap around it. If your organization has a Facebook or Flickr account, you can insert photos from your albums into a document without leaving Word.

Another new addition is the ability to add web photos and videos directly into a Word document. This feature is helpful if you prefer to format media-rich blog posts or articles in Word first, or if you want to spruce up a proposal or letter with a multimedia element. If your organization has its own Flickr or Facebook account, you can grab pictures from those albums and put them directly into your Word documents. You don't need to leave Word and open up your browser nor do you need to save them to your computer first.

To add a video, you simply choose "Online Video" from the Insert tab in the ribbon. In the new Word, the Bing search engine integrates directly into the interface, so that you can search Bing Video or YouTube within Word without having to toggle between Word and your Internet browser. If you already have a video in mind, you can also paste in embed code. Just be aware, however, that these videos will only play while your computer is connected to the Internet.

Integrated search saves time when inserting YouTube or other web videos.
Integrated search saves time when inserting YouTube or other web videos.

Editing PDFs

Opening and editing PDFs in Microsoft Word has always required extra plug-ins or workarounds, but it is a full-fledged feature in Word 2013. In past versions of Office, you could save a Word document as a PDF, but you couldn't edit a PDF without converting it to a Word doc first. Now you can simply open a PDF as if it is a Word document — and edit it as such. Word can handle just about any PDF you throw at it, even if it has multiple tables, large images, different fonts, and so on. This is a huge bonus for organizations that have to deal with contracts or forms that are sent as PDFs. If you want to restrict others from editing the PDFs you send them, you must use the Restrict Editing with Password tool in Adobe Acrobat XI. For more information, see Adobe's tutorial on Restrict Editing.

Optional Touch Screen Functionality

Microsoft Word 2013 — along with the entire Office suite — is built with touch screens in mind. A touch screen isn't required for Word, but if you're using it on a Windows tablet or touch-enabled monitor, you'll find that navigation is simple and straightforward. You can tap on images or charts to zoom in, or scroll through a document with your finger or a stylus. You can also press and hold (the touch version of right-clicking with your mouse) on a word and see various options for it like Font, Synonyms, Translate, and so on. You can also expand or collapse sections of a document by tapping, and tap pictures and charts to open them in a new window.

Conclusion

While Word 2013 packs in quite a few updates, your staff should have no trouble getting accustomed to it. Most of the menus, options, and tools function similarly to previous versions of Word. After adapting to the changes, you'll find that Word is more flexible than ever, allowing you to work more efficiently — from just about anywhere.