1. Computing

Should You Upgrade to Microsoft Word 2013?

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That seems to be the question that I am hearing all the time! I have to ask you one simple question and then I will give you two very simple answers. Then I will explain the pros and cons of upgrading to Microsoft Word 2013.

Question: Do you want to use a tablet for word processing?

If your answer is yes: Upgrade

If your answer is no: Don’t

See – I told you that it was simple! Now we will explore why.

Why Upgrade?

If you own a tablet or are contemplating purchasing a touch-screen laptop, then Microsoft Word 2013 is the way to go. Why? Because this is the FIRST word processing software designed to be equally compatible between a touch screen and a keyboard. However, to take full advantage of this feature, you need to subscribe to Office 365, Microsoft Office’s Cloud environment, which is a smaller part of Microsoft’s SkyDrive. In simple terms, cloud computing means that you store your documents on a server on the Internet. That way, you can access them on any device simply by logging into the server. Most cloud services do require a subscription, and Office 2013, also sometimes called Office 365, is the same. For information on pricing, make sure to read Office 365 Subscription Prices. It looks like it will cost you about $100 per year, as an average home user, to subscribe to the cloud. Businesses can look at more substantive costs.

But you don’t need to subscribe to the cloud. You can purchase the desktop version and still benefit from Microsoft Word 2013.

How Did Microsoft make Microsoft Word better for touch screen users?

Microsoft really did a great job streamlining Office 2013. As a user, you can move seamlessly from your PC to your tablet or even your smart phone. You need to login to Microsoft’s Cloud to accomplish this, but there is a huge benefit in reviewing a document on your computer and then being able to pick up where you left off on your phone or tablet.

My first reaction to Office 2013 was that it was not as colorful. It seems like they took all of the extras, like color to the Ribbon, out. However, color really isn’t everything. The Ribbon is a familiar navigation tool for me. The first startup screen does not even resemble a traditional Word program, but after just a few clicks, it is intuitive. I will go out on a limb and say that the transition from Office 2010, even Office 2007, to Office 2013 will be easier to adapt to than the transition from Office 2003 to Office 2007. It is essentially the same environment with just a tweak or two to the look and feel.

Along with being able to use Microsoft Word with a touch screen, there are a couple of benefits that really stand out to me:

Better wrapping with Live Layout and Alignment Guides: with Word 2013, when you insert images, tables, Smart Art, and even videos, you have better control of the layout. Not only are Layout Options available to the right of the object, but there is a new feature called Live Layout. Other versions of Microsoft Word have similar features, but they are not as user friendly as Live Layout. With Word 2013, when you resize or move an object, the rest of the document automatically adjusted to the changes. Not only does it automatically adjust (which let’s be honest, it always has), it also gives you Alignment Guides! These guides are simply a line that you can use to make sure your objects are all aligned properly.

Resume Reading: I adore the concept of Resume Reading. I often leave the office with a document in the works; either I am writing a document or I am editing a document when I have to run off to my daughter’s basketball game or a meeting. This means I lose my train of thought with the document. However, with Resume Reading and a Cloud subscription, I can easily and seamlessly take the document with me.

Easier Headers and Footers: I will be completely honest here. The Headers and Footers in Word 2010 really annoy me. I do not like having half a million, or even 30 different choices in style and look and feel. Generally, all I want to do is insert some basic information about the document. I used to be able to do this in older versions of Microsoft Word. It is amazing that they brought this feature back!

I can now easily insert my document title, author, file name, and file path with just a couple of clicks of my mouse, or even better, taps of my finger!

Things That Seem Cool But the Jury is Still Out

There are a few things that sound interesting, but I am not sure how useful they will be. I think these need a bit of time to see how useful they really are.

Enhanced Reading With Read Mode: Another disclosure, I do not like the Reading Pane. I have never, ever used it with my computer. I disable it at every opportunity. However, Microsoft really enhanced this feature. If I only worked on my computer, I would still never use this feature. But now, I work on my computer, my tablet, and even my phone. This means that I might have to take another look at the Reading Pane, which has been retooled as Reading Mode.

Reading Mode will automatically resize the document area to fit the viewing screen. This means that I might have a document that is one page on my PC, and it will automatically be reformatted to four pages when I read it on my phone. Read Mode provides us with a nice, distraction free document environment.

I can definitely see a use for this; however, I have yet to get excited about it. With that said, I am sure that a document will arrive via my Inbox any day now that will change my mind.

Inserting an Internet Video: Maybe it is the old-fashioned word processor in me that cringes when I read Video in the same sentence as Microsoft Word. Once again, this is a feature that I can see a use for, but it just doesn’t sit right. In my mind, videos belong in presentations, not Word documents. Ok, ok, call me old fashioned. If you want to imbed Internet videos into your Word documents, then you need to upgrade.

PDF Reflow: My last ‘Jury is still out’ element is PDF Reflow. This could be because I use Adobe’s PDF Writer all the time. I also have always loved being able to transform a Word document into a PDF. But that is not what PDF Reflow does for us. Instead, PDF Reflow allows you to open a PDF document in your Microsoft Word program. However, not all of the PDF features are available, but PDFs do translate better into Word 2013 versus earlier versions of Word.

Why Stick With a Prior Version?

As much as I love the new features of Word 2013, if I did not subscribe to Microsoft’s Cloud, I would probably not upgrade. I could even be persuaded to upgrade if I used a tablet for heavy duty word processing. But if you do not subscribe to the cloud and you do not plan on using a tablet or a smart phone to work on word processing, then I would hold off on upgrading.

What Do You Think?

What are your thoughts on the latest release from Microsoft Office? Please share your reasons for staying or your reasons for going!

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