50 handy Office 2013 tips, tricks and hints

2nd Jul 2013 | 13:35

50 handy Office 2013 tips, tricks and hints

Explore Microsoft's Office suite

Whether you've bought the apps as one-offs, the whole Office 2013 suite or signed up for Microsoft's new Office 365 subscription package, there's lots to like about the new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

If you've taken the plunge with the new-look touch-friendly apps, these tips and tricks can help you go further with the software - from tailoring the interface to embedding online clips, there's plenty to explore.

We've tried to focus on the new features in Office 2013 (though you will find some tricks that work across the board), while providing a mix of quick hints and more in-depth tips to suit every level of user.

General tips

1. Stream Office anywhere

Use your Microsoft ID to stream copies of your Office apps to other PCs (Windows 7 or Windows 8). Log into the Office website to use Office on Demand.

2. Pin locations

Save your most-used folders to the Open screen in any application - use the pin icon to the right of a recently opened workbook or folder.

3. Save to SkyDrive

Office 2013 makes full use of your SkyDrive account, and you can save your files to the cloud, access them from anywhere and sync them across computers.

4. Use Flickr and Facebook pictures

Stream your apps to any Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer with Office on Demand50 handy Office 2013 tips, tricks and hints

Drop in pictures from the newly revamped Flickr or Facebook by connecting your account through the Online Pictures option under the Insert tab.

5. Change Office's look and theme

Access the Account page from the File tab in any app to reveal a selection of options for changing the background and theme of the suite.

6. Zoom with your fingers

Using a fancy touchscreen laptop or tablet with Office 2013? Use two fingers to zoom in or out of any document, just like on your smartphone.

7. Add apps

Office finally joins the app revolution - visit the Office website to find apps you can run on top of Word, Excel and Outlook. The store is labelled as US-only, but you can still make use of it.

8. Remove the Start screen

50 handy Office 2013 tips, tricks and hints

When launched, the Office 2013 apps show a dynamic Start screen by default. To see a blank new document instead, select File and Options, then untick the Start screen option on the General tab.

9. Get Skyping

If you've signed up for the subscription-based 365 flavour of Office 2013, you may not know that you get 60 minutes of Skype credit free each month.

10. Try a parallel install

You might have already noticed this, but you can keep older versions of Office running alongside the 2013 version, should you need to (with the exception of Outlook).

Word tips

11. Read more easily

Word's new-look Read Mode (under the View tab) makes browsing documents easier, and it supports touchscreen input too.

12. Embed videos

50 handy Office 2013 tips, tricks and hints

Load in online video clips from YouTube and elsewhere using the new Online Video button under the Insert tab.

13. Define words

Right-click on a word and choose Define to pick a dictionary and see its definition. You can even get help with pronunciation if you need it.

14. Reply to comments

Word 2013 enables you to reply to document comments, and even mark them as 'done', for a smoother workflow.

15. Get better borders

50 handy Office 2013 tips, tricks and hints

Table borders have been given some love in Word 2013, with additions such as the Border Painter tool (for copying border formatting), which is under the Design section of the Table Tools tab.

16. Edit PDFs

Fully fledged PDF editing finally arrives with Word 2013, though you might lose some layout settings. Edited documents can be saved as PDF or DOCX files.

17. Change the defaults

New documents use Calibri and double spacing by default. Change this by right-clicking on the Normal stylesheet icon and choosing Modify.

18. Benefit from live alignment

Click and drag and object on the page and you'll see faint green marker lines appear, DTP-style, enabling you to line up a series of elements more easily.

19. Try inline wrapping

50 handy Office 2013 tips, tricks and hints

Word's text wrapping options can now be found by clicking on the icon that appears at the top-right whenever a picture is selected.

20. Rearrange lists

Not a new feature, but still a good one - use Alt+Shift then the up or down arrow to rearrange items in a bulleted or numbered list, no cutting and pasting required.

Excel tips

21. Use Flash Fill

Give Excel 2013 some examples at the top of a column (such as names), and it can copy the formatting downwards. See Microsoft's Office Blog for a guide.

22. Take a peek

50 handy Office 2013 tips, tricks and hints

Highlight a group of cells then click the Quick Analysis icon (bottom-right) to see a peek of suggested charts, formatting and totals for the data.

23. See key tips

50 handy Office 2013 tips, tricks and hints

Press Alt to see letters appear over every entry on the ribbon menu - tap the relevant key to activate the option.

24. Get recommended charts

Use the Recommended Charts button under the Insert tab to see a selection of charts that Excel thinks suit the data you've selected.

25. Preview chart styles

Select a chart, click the brush icon and you can preview changes to the chart style and colours without making changes.

26. Filter by timeline

Excel 2013 enables you to quickly create timeline filters for any date column in a pivot table or chart (the option is under the PivotTable Tools tab).

27. Use manual formulas

Excel attempts to complete your formula's auto-suggest style by default, but you can disable this via the Formulas tab on the Options dialog, reached through the File menu.

28. Play with multiple windows

Excel 2013 joins Word and PowerPoint in opening each file in a new window (and taskbar window), making it easier to arrange them on screen.

29. Add watermarks

50 handy Office 2013 tips, tricks and hints

You can add watermarks to your spreadsheets, though they're only visible in Page Layout view - simply load an image as a header (Insert/ Header & Footer).

30. Do quick tallies

Select a group of cells to see the average value, the number of cells and the sum of all the selected values in the lower right-hand corner.

PowerPoint tips

31. Check out Presenter view

The Presenter view for secondary screens gives you far more flexibility, including the option to zoom into specific points on a slide.

32. Go widescreen

50 handy Office 2013 tips, tricks and hints

If your display is a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, make your slides 16:9 too, via the Slide Size drop-down under the Design tab.

33. Explore the Format pane

Open the Format pane (right-click an object and choose 'Format Shape') and it automatically adjusts to show the options available for the currently selected object.

34. Add background music

50 handy Office 2013 tips, tricks and hints

Set an audio track to play for the duration of your slideshow with the Play in Background option on the Playback tab.

35. Filter photos

Append "photo" to your searches from the Online Pictures dialog to filter out line drawings and clip-art from the results.

36. Export as a video

50 handy Office 2013 tips, tricks and hints

Select 'Export' from the File menu to save your PowerPoint presentation as an MP4 clip, complete with transitions and media files.

37. Tweak themes

You can choose slideshow themes from the Design tab, but you can also tweak the colours, fonts and effects used via the Variations box.

38. Customise shapes

Select two or more standard shapes then choose Merge Shapes under the Format tab to combine them into a custom shape.

39. Pick colours

From the Fill option through PowerPoint 2013 you can use the Eyedropper tool to pick a colour up from elsewhere in the presentation.

40. Embed slideshows

Head to the upgraded PowerPoint web app to embed your slideshows anywhere online, complete with transitions and animations.

Outlook tips

41. Reply inline

Try it out - replies now stay right in the reading pane. Click the Pop Out button if you want to go back to the old way of working.

42. Take quick action

50 handy Office 2013 tips, tricks and hints

Use the floating cross icon to delete, the flag icon to flag and the blue bar to the left to mark messages as unread, straight from the conversation list. These quick actions can be applied to multiple emails at the same time, too.

43. Link contacts

Combine data from Facebook, LinkedIn and other sources, just as you can in the Windows 8 People app - choose Link Contacts from any entry on the People screen to do so.

44. See more or less

Choose View then Message Preview to turn off preview snippets for your messages, or to reduce them to one, two or three lines long.

45. Make navigation more compact

Outlook's key components (Mail, Calendar, People, Tasks) now stretch all the way across the bottom of Outlook's interface. Click the three dots on the strip, choose Navigation Options and tick Compact Navigation to revert back to the icon approach.

46. Customise search folders

Choose Search Folders then New Search Folder from Mail to create a custom search folder that automatically updates as new matches come in - you can use keywords, contacts and more as criteria.

47. Preview links

50 handy Office 2013 tips, tricks and hints

Outlook's new navigation strip for Mail, People, Calendar and Tasks includes a preview feature: hover over any link to see it.

48. Filter emails

50 handy Office 2013 tips, tricks and hints

Use the Filter Email option on the Home tab to filter emails by those with attachments, by date, by sender or using a range of other criteria.

49. Save the view

Once you've got the Outlook interface set up just the way you like it, save the view configuration via View > Change View > Save Current View.

50. Restore the To Do Bar

Outlook 2013 hides the To Do Bar. Select the To Do Bar option under the View tab to bring it back.

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