Microsoft Word: Top 10 New Features in Word 2013

As the oldest of the Office applications, Microsoft Word was already packed with extensive word processing capabilities. So it’s a pleasant surprise that Word 2013 has new and improved features that are helpful in everything from creating documents to reading, editing, and collaborating.

1. A new look for Word

The first change you’ll see when you start Word 2013 is a Start screen instead of a blank document like in previous versions of Word. In the left pane, you’ll see a list of your most recent Word documents, as well as the option to open additional files. In the right panel, you can choose from various templates, such as blank, flyer, blog post, and many more, as well as search Microsoft’s online template library. If you’re a longtime Word user, this new landing page might take some getting used to, but you can turn it off if you prefer the old look.

The New Design tab

Word 2013 still supports the ribbon interface, but now the features for designing a document are combined within the new Design tab so they’re easy to find. Document formatting can be quickly defined by choosing Themes, Colors and Fonts to use with them. From here, you preview your options and can even save your format as the default for all new documents.

2. Easy chart alignment and layout options

New alignment guides in Word 2013 make it easier to align pictures and other objects. They are a visual way to show when an object, such as a SmartArt image, chart, or illustration, is aligned with the top of a paragraph or with a heading or other elements on the page.

Convenient design options

Select an image, graphic, or SmartArt object, and a handy new Design Options icon appears outside the top-right corner of the object. Click it to set text wrapping and placement options, all without moving to the ribbon.

When you right-click an object and choose, for example, Format Image or Format Shape, a new formatting task pane opens. This panel replaces the dialog from previous versions and stays open while you work, displaying easy-to-follow formatting options for the currently selected object.

3. Improved reading in reading mode

If you use Word more to read documents than to create them, you’ll like Word 2013’s new Reading Mode, which is clean and distraction-free. Switch to reading mode and the ribbon will collapse just like most tabs. This new view automatically resizes a document to the full window and displays your documents in easy-to-read columns. Click the on-screen arrows to turn pages or, if you’re using a touchscreen monitor or tablet, swipe from any edge of the screen. Right-click on any unknown word to display a definition without leaving reading mode. You can also click on any image, table, or graph to enlarge it for easier reading.

resume your work

Now when you reopen a document, Word 2013 remembers where you left off and lets you continue reading or editing right where you left off, even when you reopen a document online from a different computer or device. This feature supports multiple views, including reading mode and print layout, the default view in Word.

4. Smarter collaboration

Reviewing documents with change and comment tracking just got easier with the new simple markup view in Word 2013. From Simple Markup, complex markup is hidden and the final document is shown. However, you will still see indicators in the left margin where tracked changes have been made. When you double-click one of these lines, Word switches to All Markup view so you can see the full edits. Click the indicator line again and Word will return to Simple Markup.

Another improvement is that you can lock the Track Changes feature in Word, which means someone has to enter a password for Word to stop Track Changes. This is a great way to ensure all changes are recorded when multiple people review your document.

Comments are also better because they now have a reply button that gives users the option to have a conversation within a small speech bubble. Now it’s easy to keep track of comments right next to related text instead of creating a multitude of comments on one topic. And when a comment is handled, it marks it as done. It’s grayed out so it’s out of the way, but the conversation will still be there if you need to come back to it later.

5. Open and edit PDF files within Word

Opening and editing PDF files is finally a full feature in Word 2013. In previous versions, you could save a Word document as a PDF, but you couldn’t edit a PDF without converting it to a Word document first. Now just open a PDF as if it were a Word document and edit it as usual. Word handles just about any PDF you want to work with, even if it has multiple tables, large images, different fonts, etc., all without the need for a third-party app.

6. New and improved table features

Word 2013 finally addresses the frustration of formatting different width and style borders in a Word table. The handy Border Painter tool and Border Styles feature make formatting quick and easy.

Select a Line Style, Line Weight, and Pen Color, or choose a preset from the Border Styles list, and then paint the borders on the table. With the Edge Sampler tool, it is now also possible to sample an existing border and then use the Edge Painter to duplicate the style elsewhere on the table.

To add a new row to a table, simply hover your mouse off the left edge of the table at the point where the row will be inserted. Click on the little icon that appears and you’re done. There is a similar icon to easily add a new column. There are also new options for working with tables on the mini toolbar that appears when you select part of a table or right-click on a table.

7. Better management of large documents

Long documents can become difficult to manage, especially if you are working on only a small part of them. The new Expand/Collapse options in Word 2013 let you collapse and expand headings in a document so it’s easier to focus on just the part you need. To do this, you must format the headings in the document using the built-in styles Heading 1, Heading 2, and so on. To hide paragraphs, move your mouse to the left of a formatted header and then click the small triangle that appears, leaving only the header text visible. For the Expand/Collapse option menu control, simply right-click on a header.

8. Media Magic

If you design newsletters, flyers, brochures, or other graphic documents in Word, you can now add photos and web videos directly into a Word document. To add a video, choose Online Video on the Insert tab on the ribbon. This opens the Bing Video or YouTube search tools within Word without the need to switch between Word and your Internet browser. And, if you already have a video in mind, just paste the embed code. Please note that these videos will only play while your computer is connected to the Internet.

9. Get on the cloud

Like other programs in the new Office suite, Word 2013 is connected to the cloud anytime you’re online. OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud-based file storage service, is built into Word and is now the default storage location. (You can also change the default to save it locally on your computer.) After you upload files to OneDrive or SharePoint, they’re available for you or your colleagues to view or edit online from a variety of devices.

present online

The new Office Presentation Service in Office 2013 is a way to present Word documents online. You must be signed in to your Microsoft account to use this feature. Once everyone is connected to the service, which runs through the Microsoft Word web app, they can follow you as you present the document. The interface supports comments made during the presentation, and participants can create a downloadable, printable PDF of the document.

10. Touch screen functionality

Microsoft Word 2013, along with the entire Office suite, is designed with touch screens in mind. A touch screen isn’t required for Word, but if you’re using it on a Windows tablet or touch monitor, you’ll find navigation simple and straightforward. Touch images or graphics to zoom in or scroll through a document with your finger or a stylus. Press and hold (the touch version of right-clicking) on ​​a word and see various options for it, such as Font, Synonyms, etc. Expand or collapse sections of a document by tapping. Double-tap to zoom in and make the tables, charts, and images in your document fill the screen. To continue reading and zoom out, tap or click outside the object again.


With features that make your daily work easier, there’s a lot to like about the new Microsoft Word 2013. While it includes quite a few updates, you shouldn’t have a problem getting used to it because most of the menus, options, and tools behave like previous versions of Word. You’ll soon find that Word is more flexible than ever, allowing you to work more efficiently from virtually anywhere.

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