50 handy Office 2013 tips, tricks and hints
2nd Jul 2013 | 13:35
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.
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
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
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).
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.