When it comes to Microsoft Office, I’m a pretty easy sell. I love technology (geekiness is in my genes), and I enjoy learning and using new features, especially if they fit something users really need and want. Office 2013 has been a good, if not life-changing, release, and it includes a number of new features and techniques worth checking out. Whether those additional features are enough to spring the cost of the upgrade (or to entice you to sign up for the new monthly subscription model available through Office 365) is your call. This article points out a few of the things you can try to see whether Office 2013 is something you’ve got to have.
Some Extra Help, Right from the Start
Whether you’re using Office 2013 with Windows 7 or Windows 8, as soon as you launch one of the applications, you will come face to face with what Microsoft calls “the Start experience.” This initial screen appears automatically when you start Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, and it is designed to give you quick access to the files and tools you may want to use right off the bat. The intention is to get you into your files faster (and to provide a little extra help if you are new to the software and aren’t quite sure what to do next). Figure 1 shows you the Start experience for PowerPoint 2013.
Figure 1 The Start experience gives you tools to open a file you’ve worked on recently or start a new one.
On the left side of the Start screen, you see the Recent list, which shows you all the files you’ve worked on recently using that application. At the top of the screen, you’ll find a search box, which enables you to search for templates related to a word or phrase you enter (for example, you could type lesson plan to find any templates that could help you with the online learning module you’re creating). You can also scroll down through the list and click or tap the template that looks good to you, or choose one of the Suggested Searches (just below the search box) to display templates by category.
Read Mode in Word 2013
Word 2013 now offers Read Mode to help you review documents quickly using a touch device or your desktop computer. Read Mode displays the file in a view with a minimum of screen clutter so you can focus on the document text. You can page through the document by clicking or tapping the arrow keys on the right or left sides of the screen, and change the way the text is displayed by using the options in the View menu (see Figure 2). You can’t edit the document in Read Mode, but if you want to make a few changes, you can switch to Print Layout view by clicking the Print Layout tool in the view controls in the bottom-right corner of your screen.
Figure 2 Read Mode enables you to focus on the text and move from page to page easily, using a touch device or a traditional computer.
Weather in Outlook
It’s the simple things in life that make the difference. When you’re curious about the weather report, what do you do? Check an app? Do a search on the web? Use your phone? Now Outlook 2013 makes it possible for you to add the weather right to your calendar, so when you’re making plans you know what to expect from Mother Nature.
Display the calendar by clicking Calendar in the lower-left corner of the Outlook 2013 window to get started, and then click the weather area in the top center of the calendar display. Choose the location you want, and Outlook does the rest. You can add multiple locations and switch among them (a nice trick if you’re traveling) and see a more detailed weather report by hovering the mouse over the current conditions (Figure 3).
Figure 3 You can add the weather conditions to your calendar to help you plan out your week.
Analyze Data Quickly in Excel
Excel 2013 has a few timesaving and analysis-boosting tools to help you crunch numbers, whether you’re a new Excel user or an experienced one. My favorite is the Quick Analysis toolbar, which appears as a small tool whenever you select data on your worksheet. When you click or tap the Quick Analysis tool, a toolbar appears, giving you a number of tools you can use to analyze the data you’ve selected: Formatting, Charts, Totals, Tables, and Sparklines.
Click the category of tool you want to use, and the toolbar changes to display the tools related to your selection. In Figure 4, you see the tools available for formatting the data selected on the worksheet. You can experiment with the different tools to get just the effect you want, or undo your changes by pressing Ctrl+Z.
Figure 4 Excel’s Quick Analysis tool enables you to display and analyze your worksheet data quickly, without needing to hunt for tools in the ribbon.
Take Charge of Your Presentations with Presenter View
Most of us are at least a little nervous when we have to give a presentation. Chances are that before you get up in front of your audience, you’ve gone through the presentation at least a half-dozen times, trying to make sure it all flows smoothly and you’ve included all the information you need to share. PowerPoint 2013 now includes a great tool called Presenter View that enables you to manage the presentation with more confidence. Presenter view enables you to easily control the display of slides on the screen, see which slides are coming next, read your presenter notes, and even annotate the slides as you go along.
To display Presenter View, choose Slide Show view (or press F5) and then tap the options button on the far right end of the slide show controls in the lower-left corner of your screen. Click or tap Show Presenter View in the list that appears. Presenter view appears on your screen (but only on your screen—your audience is still seeing the regular presentation). You can use the tools below the current slide display to draw on the slide, display all slides in the presentation, zoom in to an area on the slide, fade the presentation to black, or move to other slides out of sequence. You can also use the navigation tools at the bottom of the view to move to the next or previous slide (Figure 5).
Figure 5 Presenter view brings all the tools you need for presenting into one handy place—and that can help dissolve your performance jitters.
In the top-right corner of Presenter View, PowerPoint shows you the next slide coming in the presentation, so you can make the transition smoothly for your audience. And any presenter notes you’ve entered for the current slide appear in the box on the lower-right portion of your screen so that you can get tips and reminders as you work your way through the slide show. You can change the size of the font used to display the notes by using the tool in the lower-left corner of the notes panel. When you’re finished presenting, click or tap End Slide Show at the top of Presenter View to close the view and return to the PowerPoint window.
Weighing It Out
These are just a few of my favorite new features in Office 2013, but there are more, including threaded comments, PDF editing, Flash Fill in Excel, video support in Word, and more. If you regularly read documents, analyze numeric data, schedule appointments, or give presentations, you may find that the new features in Office 2013 make your life a bit simpler. Office 2013 is available as a free one-month trial at http://office.microsoft.com, so give it a test drive and see what you think.