Office 2013: To upgrade or not to upgrade

By Marcus Austin on February 4, 2013, 8:30 AM

For many of us, Office 2007 brought some unsettling changes. The ‘ribbon’ interface was tough for some users to get the hang of, but brought an exciting new way to interact with word processing. Office 2010 refined the features of the ribbon interface further, and brought some slick tweaks to make it even more fluid.

Office 2013 is now officially here, and many consumers are wondering about upgrading to the latest version and the new set of features it is meant to provide. Branded as 'The New Office', 2013 is designed to work closely with Windows 8, as well as embrace the ever-expanding avenue of cloud computing with integrated Web versions of the productivity suite built-in. Windows RT is even provided with its own version of the new Office, and last but not least, 2013 is also available as a subscription-based SAAS package that couples the desktop software with cloud storage.

First impressions

Upon opening Office 2013 programs, an immediately noticeable change is the distinct lack of colour within the ribbon interface. This move comes in keeping with the minimalist Windows 8 ‘Modern UI’ scheme. This promises to have users focusing on their work instead of being distracted by pretty, pointless, special effects. Whether you were distracted by the previous layout or not, every user will certainly agree that the new style is not much to look at.

The start screen, though, is indeed a welcome change from the old interface, and is colour-coded to match the application you are using. From here, you have the option to create a new document, load a template from your hard drive or the web, or select from a list of recent documents. The 'Open' command has also been revised to include support for SkyDrive and SharePoint; good news for those of us who are fully embracing the cloud.

Microsoft has overhauled the Web Apps arm of Office 2013, giving you the power and flexibility to edit documents on the go. The auto-save function keeps track of changes as you make them, syncing even the slightest alterations across all your devices at once. Keeping in line with the cloud computing path, the Insert tab now supplies the user with the options not only to insert pictures from the PC they are working on, but from Flickr, SkyDrive, or even a Bing search.

What about usability?

Previous versions of Office have been notoriously difficult for touch screen users to operate. Office 2013 has addressed this problem by bringing itself in-line with Windows 8. ‘Flicks’ and ‘pinches’ can be used in Normal mode to smoothly scroll between pages, and the suite has a new Touch Mode to increase the space between the tiny ribbon buttons.

Like previous versions of Office, though, users confined to exclusive use of a touch screen will encounter problems when attempting to use the new Office. This is due to the use of tiny buttons, which are vital to the functionality of the programs.

Microsoft's programmers have been working hard to make some of Office 2013's more advanced functions easier to use. PowerPoint now supports a much simpler, yet more powerful system for making changes to pictures and objects, while Excel's chart function has seen a major revision. The new 'Recommended Charts' tab in the Excel Chart Wizard exists to guide inexperienced users to which of the baffling array of charts best displays their data. The Charts Wizard still allows you to customise charts to your every whim, but is no longer just for the advanced user.

While many of the features discussed so far are revamps and updates of those offered in previous versions, the PDF editor incorporated into Office Word 2013 is a truly inspired and novel feature. This alone is reason enough to invest in Office 2013 if you are a heavy PDF user.

Word 2013 supports opening PDFs in their native layout and formatting, making changes as you see fit, and saving the documents as a PDF or DOC/DOCX file. A PDF-to-Word converter built into the platform has huge advantages for every user who makes frequent use of these formats, and is especially useful due to the perfect preservation of the PDF elements in Word, an area in which many standard converters struggle.

How much does it cost?

Microsoft Office 2013 Standard comes in at $369, Home and Business at $219, and Home and Student (doesn’t come with Outlook) at $139. Subscriptions for each of these packages are available, advertised in at $15, $12.50 and $8.33 a month, respectively.

The desktop versions allow you to install the software on a single machine, while the 365 subscriptions are better suited to users with multiple machines or small work groups, allowing up to 5 installations on different devices. The subscription service also adds perks such as 20GB of SkyDrive storage and 60 minutes of international Skype calls per month.

If you work at a company that has bought a volume license then you can get access to the desktop suite on the cheap through the Home Use Program, allowing you to purchase the full Office 2013 Professional Plus suite for about $10.

If you are a serious user of Microsoft Office 2007 or 2010, you'll love the tweaks that Office 2013 incorporates. Windows 8 users will appreciate that Office now matches the Windows 8 style, and PDF users will be ecstatic over the integrated editor. All in all, an upgrade to Office 2013 promises to be a worthwhile investment, and although it’s not as perfect as it could be, the new platform opens the door to many more key advances in the near future.

Marcus Austin works for Firebrand Training as a Technical Author. Marcus has over 25 years’ experience in the technology and business sector. His recent work includes constructing a mobile strategy for the Guardian Media Group, together with writing and editing for magazines and websites including TechRadar, Internet Retailing, IT Perspectives, and Santander Breakthrough.




User Comments: 29

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2 people like this | lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

For the students out there, there's an even better deal than the ones mentioned in the article: [link]

It's called Office 365 University. For $79.99 you get the entire Office suite plus 20GB of SkyDrive storage (added to whatever amount you already have if you have SkyDrive), and 60 minutes of Skype calls every month, for 4 years.

Yeah...

Also, Office sucks for touch. Microsoft hasn't "addressed" anything. But you know what? They don't really have to.

Microsoft does not deserve any credit for this version of Office being advertised as Touch-friendly. It isn't. But I won't also say Office was ever meant for touch. It just won't be. I think they did a good enough of a job adapting a M/K interface for touch as much as possible without breaking what works. But I don't expect the next version of Office to be anything of what most tech journalist envision: a complete, touch-friendly suite.

A stripped-down, cheaper, touch-friendly version, however, doesn't sound far-fetched.

Personally, I upgraded but I took advantage of the Home Use Program, so I got it for only $10. Here's the link for those who work for a large business: [link] Sign up with your corporate email.

Lastly, I recommend you upgrade if you're still on 2007. If you are on 2010, only upgrade if you can take advantage of the aforementioned deals. Otherwise, there's no real reason.

treeski treeski said:

A striped down, cheaper, touch-friendly version, however, doesn't sound far-fetched.

I think this is exactly right. They have already outed a (incomplete, IMO) metro version of OneNote.

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

Reminder:- If it isn't broken, then don't fix it!

Unless you have a touch panel system, IMO you will never need Office 2013.

treeski treeski said:

Reminder:- If it isn't broken, then don't fix it!

Unless you have a touch panel system, IMO you will never need Office 2013.

Errrm... the majority worthwhile enhancements with Office 2013 have nothing to do with touch.

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

The key word was NEED - - and by definition, enhancements are not needs. the new surface systems however NEED 2013.

But given that I am extremely conservative, my needs are very limited

cmbjive said:

I'll take a look once an employee discount comes along.

lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Yhe key word was NEED - - and by definition, enhancements are not needs. the new surface systems however NEED 2013.

But given that I am extremely conservative, my needs are very limited

OK, so this is going to sound like I'm being a ****, but trust me I'm not. This is just what coffee and a day off do to you. I'm genuinely curious as to what reasoning you used when writing your comments.

You said unless (<-key word here) you have a panel touch system (which is commonly just called a touchscreen, but I digress...), you won't need Office, to which tresski responded that the real enhancements to the suite have nothing to do with touch. Right? Fair enough.

But now you go on to say that, "by definition", enhancements are not needs. Well, that doesn't make sense, mostly because it is implied. But you can't say cars are not TVs. You could, however, say cats are not dogs, seeing how both are animals. "Enhancement" and "need" are not comparable. You could have said "want" is not "need", as both are comparable terms. And yes, I'm being literal.

Even then though, in this particular case, one makes the other possible seeing how (software) enhancements are often implemented in the first place due to needs. What you incorrectly implied was that if you don't need the enhancements implemented in Office 2013, you therefore don't need a touchscreen to begin with seeing how the enhancements in Office 2013 are made for touch. That's not true, my friend.

Even assuming the enhancements in Office 2013 were made for touch, wouldn't that then imply there was a need for their inclusion? Granted, that would also imply that, as you first said, only someone with a touch screen would find it useful, but wouldn't that mean that that need had to arise for the enhancement to be implemented?

All I'm saying is you didn't read the article.

SNGX1275 SNGX1275, TS Forces Special, said:

PDF editing and better/easier charts sound nice. I'll probably stick to 2010 though.

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

All I'm saying is you didn't read the article.

YAWN - - I did and I just don't buy into mass marketing and hype. Heck I still use a 3g Flip phone from Nokia and

I "don't need" an overly expensive smartphone (it has Java, GPS, texting, email, browser, contacts and calendar)

{btw: the sole feature I do wish it had was a QR reader}.

Frankly, I am using Open Office Suite and I dropped Office when I upgraded to Win/7 Pro (yes I needed it as the prior XP/Pro died a violent death). There isn't a single "productivity enhancement" that I don't already have in Open Software or 3rd party offerings NOR do I need any of it altogether. This makes Office 2013 and Office 365 redundant in MY case, hence NOT NEEDED.

I am sure we will differ on this subject forever, so I've had my say and thank you for contributing yours and nominate we agree to disagree

Discussion is healthy

Best wishes.

1 person liked this | tonylukac said:

You might know the free open source Libre Office (formerly Open Office) was editing pdfs quite a while ago.

Amal Perera said:

For one thing the inability to set a local PST to download mail in outlook is a major negative for me. If I'm required to use office 2013 I probably will keep on using Outlook 2010 alongside the new word, excel etc.

ypsylon said:

Who in the right frame of mind still need MS Office? Last useful was version 2000. After that only OO and now LO.

W00kie said:

Keep in mind the compatibility issues with outlook 2013and exchange 2003. If your organization is still using exchange 2003 you cannot use outlook 2013. You will have to stick with 2010.

SNGX1275 SNGX1275, TS Forces Special, said:

Who in the right frame of mind still need MS Office? Last useful was version 2000. After that only OO and now LO.

Almost anyone in an academic setting. Maybe undergrads can get by with Google Docs or OO. But, when you have to write research papers or progress reports to be submitted to you advisor for comments/edits you need to have it in MS Office format. Sure, one could write it in something else and export it to Word format, but often times the formatting gets all screwed up and time is much better spent improving your writing or doing more research than it is screwing with getting the formatting to look good in Word (especially if you have to go use a public campus computer to use Word since you don't have it installed). I have no doubt you can do more than just simple formatting in the free office suites but converting over to Word gets screwed up. Opening an edited Word document where there are comments created in there by several different people may also not work smoothly.

When I was working, before coming back to grad school, I was also preparing progress reports and presenting data to my bosses. They used MS Office, keeping things consistent is the only logical way to do things.

For purely home use, sure something free will work fine, but when you are collaborating with many other people, trying to use something else is just a bundle of problems or potential problems that need to be avoided.

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

For purely home use, sure something free will work fine, but when you are collaborating with many other people, trying to use something else is just a bundle of problems or potential problems that need to be avoided.

I have had great success saving Open Office in Word 200 format (.doc, .rtf) or spreadsheets in Excel .xls - - the files are fully compatible as best I can tell (but then I don't do a lot of charts/graphics either).

lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

All I'm saying is you didn't read the article.

YAWN - - I did and I just don't buy into mass marketing and hype. Heck I still use a 3g Flip phone from Nokia and

I "don't need" an overly expensive smartphone (it has Java, GPS, texting, email, browser, contacts and calendar)

{btw: the sole feature I do wish it had was a QR reader}.

Frankly, I am using Open Office Suite and I dropped Office when I upgraded to Win/7 Pro (yes I needed it as the prior XP/Pro died a violent death). There isn't a single "productivity enhancement" that I don't already have in Open Software or 3rd party offerings NOR do I need any of it altogether. This makes Office 2013 and Office 365 redundant in MY case, hence NOT NEEDED.

I am sure we will differ on this subject forever, so I've had my say and thank you for contributing yours and nominate we agree to disagree

Discussion is healthy

Best wishes.

We are not disagreeing on anything, you don't have an argument I counter-argued... I simply showed you your first comments were fallacious.

Hell, we are not even talking about your needs, which are of course subjective. We were talking about your first comment, which broadly stated that unless you had a touchscreen you wouldn't need Office. This implied that the enhancements in Office were mostly (if not only) for touch, when that isn't the case as treeski pointed out. You then replied to tresski with the following: "by definition, enhancements are not needs." Which, literally speaking, doesn't make sense.

On your second comment you ended by saying your needs were conservative, implying you were talking about yourself all along. That's all fine, but still doesn't explain why 1) this version of Office wouldn't be useful to you seeing how its enhancements have nothing to do with touch (and thus nullifying the reasoning behind your first comment) and 2) how your first comment didn't specify you were talking about yourself when you said:

Unless you have a touch panel system, IMO you will never need Office 2013.

I hope you understand now.

XLS Super User said:

Office 365 is REALLY NOT a good idea for now...

too much bugs not fixed...

I've intensively worked with Excel 2013 for about a week and I just uninstalled the complete suite with the Microsoft " FIX IT TOOL" THAT WAS PROBABLY DEVELOPED BECAUSE OF OTHER UNSATISFIED USERS LIKE ME...

and Outlook 2013 has way too much visual change with no added value

from my point of view, Win8 & the Office 2013 suite are only a user friendly for NON-PROFESSIONNAL PEOPLE (maybe old people but I doubt as it's confusing without any advantage...)

Excel Super User & Demand Forecast planner

DJ_Rothenberg DJ_Rothenberg said:

I prefer 2010?s interface.

As a student I have the University version of 365 which gives me four years Skydrive and online editing (maybe I would get that anyway but I don?t know).

I definitely do not like Outlook 2013?s handling of IMAP email. While older versions would let me choose whether to download headers only or body as well, 2013/365 only allows me to download complete messages within a predefined (by me) timeframe; if I choose not to download all my emails anything older than eg 3 months it is if does not exist and is inaccessible. I have GMail and older email is archived under various labels. I used to download complete messages in my Inbox and only headers for the rest so all my mail was accessible. Now it is not.

Any solution to that would be very much appreciated. Or should I just stay with 2010? (I have both as originals ? with student discounts :-) )

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

if I choose not to download all my emails anything older than eg 3 months it is if does not exist and is inaccessible.
That is controlled by the email server, not the IMAP client software. Many people will neglect old files (on their PCs) and old emails (both on the PC & the server) and they just accumulated. This is particularly an issue with the IMAP form of email. The email server administrator typically handles this by a procedural dump of archaic files older than so many months.

JuanC2 said:

I was updated to windows 8 and Office 2013. To be honest I hated Office 2013 due to it's infinite options and multiple clicking I needed to go trough to accomplish some of the simple things I was used to do on Office 2007. Oh well, I accepted it as a hassle I will have to endure with the "new" system. But then I tried to use Microsoft Document Imaging, surprise! the genius at MS decided to kill it. I have a need to scan and save new documents and insert them on an specific place in a file containing more pages.

I wasn't even able to modify the dozens of files I had in my "old" computer. Yes, I was able to view them with picture viewing, but I always need to modify them. So I had office 2013 removed, I don't care to find out what else MS decided to remove. Some "tech" guy recommended OneNote. Yeah, right.

kradoow said:

This is all just a scheme to push folks further and further from desktop apps..."the cloud" too many folks have their heads in the cloud to understand we are all going to paying lots more....

Guest said:

The tech guy was right you can scan an image to Onenote and it is converted to text duh

Guest said:

Too 'MANY' bugs not too "much" bugs!

chugo said:

That's rubbish . . . if you don't have a touch screen you don't need Office 2013 . . . the whole thing about enhancements is that it addresses issues that have been identified in current or previous versions . . . therefore if you are a user of MS Office and want to make use of the enhancements because they have been lacking, then you do 'need' to upgrade . . . the fact you say you don't use advanced features and are using open source automatically discredits your comments because you wouldn't know what others 'need' . . . it is subjective . . .

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I'm happy with Office 2010 H&S (64-bit). I don't have a need in getting a new version or larger edition.

DJ_Rothenberg DJ_Rothenberg said:

There is another free option 100% compatible with Microsoft Office: OneDrive (the rebranded SkyDrive) has a free lite version of Office available for use from within your browser. There is nothing as compatible as the original :-)

Kathrine Kathrine said:

For one thing the inability to set a local PST to download mail in outlook is a major negative for me. If I'm required to use office 2013 I probably will keep on using Outlook 2010 alongside the new word, excel etc.

I have been using a local .pst for years to download my mail to on ALL versions of Office and just recently bought a new laptop and bought Office 2013 and am still using a .pst for mail delivery. You just create the pst file and then set it as your default in your data files. I am a System Admin so I like all the new stuff. If you don't know how to do it, google it!!

Kathrine Kathrine said:

This is all just a scheme to push folks further and further from desktop apps..."the cloud" too many folks have their heads in the cloud to understand we are all going to paying lots more....

I bought a WDMyCloud and have set it up and can connect anywhere to it at NO additional charge. I have my own cloud for under 200.00. You have to set it up correctly and update the firmware and software when it comes out to fix issues but now everything is saved on it and I use a MyDrive to back it up in case it should ever crash. Been looking for years for this type of reliable setup and technology is only going to get better.

Guest said:

The office 2013 is best office suits ever, you need to upgrade to the latest version, it is great , and I only spent 39.99 USD on xxxxxx.com ,amazing

Removed link - see instead: [link]

--LNCPapa

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