Should you Upgrade to Microsoft Office 2013?

Microsoft Office 2013: For Tablets, Clouds and People who Like Clean, Simple Design

Early on in my blogging I wrote a post looking at whether you should upgrade from various versions of Office. I see people have been reading that post a lot lately, which suggests to me people are really looking for something about whether they should upgrade to Office 2013.

I have been using Office 2013 for a little while now, so, given the interest, I am ready to share my thoughts on upgrading and the new suite in general.

It is Not Necessary to Upgrade to 2013, but it is a Nice Program

I won’t hide the lead from you, if you have Office 2007 or 2010, there is no need to upgrade to 2013. I upgraded not because I felt the need to do so, but because I recently switched to Office 365 for Business. Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud based service.  It includes all of the Office 2013 suite, as well as other features, depending on what you buy. But just because there is no need to upgrade doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider doing so all the same.


Your mileage may vary in terms of cost.  Looking at Amazon, Office 2013 costs $139.99 for Home and Student ($98.98 with key card,) Home and Business is $219.99 ($169.98 with key card,) and $399 for Professional ($275.98 with key card.) The cheapest cost on Office 365 is  between $99 and $150 per year, but includes use on 5 devices and full use of the online apps.

Office 365

It is necessary for me to mention Office 365 in this review, because it is clear that Microsoft programmed Office 2013 with this service in mind.  Microsoft wants us to move to the cloud, and why shouldn’t it? Pay $9.99 to $15.00 per month, and now instead of buying the Office suite just once, we are paying at a minimum, $99 per year per person for it.  In addition, many people hang on to old versions of Office, I know plenty of people still using Office 2003, and Microsoft probably wants to push people to newer versions of the software more rapidly. There are benefits to Office 365, and I will write about them in a separate post, but you can certainly see where Microsoft is coming from in terms of attempting to improve its bottom line.

Office 2013 is Very Clean Looking

What I like about Office 2013 is it is probably the cleanest version of Office that I have seen, well, ever. I also think that in this version of Office, Microsoft made some solid changes that might make it worth the upgrade to some. It is clear that Microsoft went for an uncluttered design. In some cases it works very well. In other cases you have to go hunting for tools that you are used to finding in a specific place. Luckily, most things can be fixed, since you can adjust the ribbon. Others just take getting used to.

Use on Tablets

The Microsoft Surface and other tablets and touchscreen laptops are capable of running the full Office 2013 suite, and this software works very well on those devices. For tablets not capable of running Office, Microsoft has Office Web Apps.

If you have been wanting to use Word, Powerpoint and Excel on your tablet, instead of some inferior tablet app, Office 2013 combined with Office 365 and Office Apps is the answer for you. This is a solid reason to upgrade, since I, personally have not found one app that is even close to Office for use when I am working on my tablet. I know there are a lot of good apps, but none of them did it for me. Especially for Powerpoint. The full version of the Office Apps work very well, and I am happy to have something I can really use on my iPad.

Touchscreen Specific Changes

Office 2013 allows for the ability to use gestures on your touch screen and puts in a good on-screen keyboard. Word is very readable, and contains a new design that allows for flipping the document from side-to-side instead of up and down. Very tablet friendly.

Outlook 2013

Until I sat down to write this post, I didn’t consciously notice how many changes Microsoft put in Outlook 2013.  What I did notice is that I liked how it was organized. It immediately seemed very intuitive to me. When I looked more closely, I suddenly realized why I felt this way.  The new Outlook is more functional in terms of jumping around to different features. By this I mean you don’t have to click quite so much to do things. For example, you can reply from the reading pane without actually opening an email. Moving around between contacts, calendar and tasks is also much quicker.

One specific example, is that searching for people, which used to require jumping back and forth between screens, is now easily accomplished.  If I am in my calendar and want to search for a person I hover my mouse over contact and up pops a box allowing me to search.  (Click the image for a larger size.) I really like the new Outlook.

Outlook 2013


Word 2013

What I like about the new Word is some of the features Microsoft added in terms of working with PDFs along with images and videos. Interestingly, I switched from Office 2010 to 2013 in the middle of writing a document that has a lot of screen shots. The difference in working with the images in Word 2010 and 2013 was pretty extreme. I didn’t have any problems moving images around in 2013.  Previously, I found working with images in Word pretty frustrating.

Powerpoint 2013

I like to make simple presentations that get my point across. I do not like to spend a lot of time struggling with how my final presentation will look, and so I rarely adjusted colors or played around with the various options. There is a reason the majority of my presentations were black and white. I found 2007 and 2010 serviceable, but in terms of design options, pretty annoying. I find 2013 easier due to the addition of a new formatting pane, SmartGuides and a better color tool. I prefer this new Powerpoint.

Excel 2013

I almost never use Excel, so I am not really in a position to tell you much about it, except it got the same makeover as the rest of the software. Also, Excel has added tools to make it easier to enter, analyze and present data. A new feature called Flash Fill detects patterns and attempts to auto-complete empty fields.

Use Across Devices

Microsoft has made it very easy to work with documents stored in the cloud and on various devices.  SkyDrive is an option right from the beginning, but you can easily add other tools such as DropBox or Spideroak as quickly accessible locations from within Office 2013. I was easily able to open and work on a powerpoint on my laptop, continue work on my iPad, and then finish up on my desktop without any difficulty or struggling to find the documents I wanted to edit. I used Office 2013 on my laptop and desktop, and Office Apps on my iPad. No formatting issues, no problems. It was wonderful. If you are wondering what the Web Apps look like, check out the screen shot of the Powerpoint Web App. (Click to make it viewable.)

Powerpoint Office Web Aoo


Want More Detail?

I am not going to give you a very detailed review, because there are a lot of reviews available pretty much everywhere you look.  You get the sense of what I think already. If you want more details, here are some reviews that I thought were very good:

 The Bottom Line

  • If you are still using Office 2003, it is time to upgrade.  You are going to face way too many compatibility problems with your documents. Spend the money now.
  • If you are using 2007 or 2010 you certainly don’t need to upgrade, but if you want something that works well on tablets (capable of running it) and has greater ease of use (especially compared to 2007) consider spending the cash.
  • If you want full access to Office Apps and plan on having Office 2013 on several computers, consider Office 365 for seamless work on documents no matter whether you are using a tablet, desktop, laptop or something in between.
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