Office 2013: the best features of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote

I’ve noted various things that I haven’t liked about Office 2013 in the past and in my PC Pro magazine column.

Office 2013: the best features of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote

Here, however, I’m going to concentrate on the best features I’ve found in Office 2013 over the past few months of testing.

Word likes

Images in Word show a new Layout Options tag that enables you to quickly set word-wrapping and anchoring options without having to switch to the Picture Tools | Format tab on the ribbon. In Word and PowerPoint, there are new magnetic alignment guides for images: when you move and resize an image on a page or slide, it will display dotted lines whenever it approaches various boundaries, such as the page margins, the centre of the page or other objects, and the image will then snap to this guideline, which makes lining up images far easier than guessing or having to turn on a background grid or marking.

If you hold down the Alt key, the image you’re dragging will not snap to the guidelines, which allows you to drag it accurately close to the guidelines before releasing Alt. On the other hand, holding down the Shift key while dragging increases the alacrity with which the image snaps to the guidelines.

Word’s read mode has been improved with new options to view comments and the navigator, and the ability to zoom in on illustrations such as embedded charts. While you’re reviewing a document you can type comments, and other people can reply to such a comment, simply by clicking on it – their reply is then kept inline with the original comment, so that they never become separated and you can always see the order of the replies.

You can also mark a comment or reply as “Done” once you’ve read or actioned it, which fades it to a light grey colour and shrinks it to a single line (this preserves the history of the document much better than deleting the comment). Also good for preserving the history of a document is the new ability to lock on Tracked Changes with a password – all changes are then tracked and only people who know the password can accept or reject changes, or turn off Tracked Changes.

Excel likes

When you insert a chart in Excel, either from Insert | Charts or the Quick Analysis tag that pops up next to the selected range, you’ll now see a live preview of your data in the selected chart type as you hover over the different types of chart. This enables you to pick the right chart type for your data without having to select one and then change your mind. Getting it right first time may save you only a few seconds each time, but it encourages you to experiment.

Formatting a chart is now easier, with tags next to the chart and the new Formatting task pane for controlling all the options, rather than the modeless dialog that was employed in Excel 2007 and 2010.

One thing that you have to remember when using the Formatting task pane and the Quick Analysis tag is that they’re effectively tabbed dialogs and that all their text and icons can be clicked on, even if they don’t look like buttons. The current tab is shown in green and other tabs you can click are grey. Yes, I do know that greyed-out text is usually reserved for indicating that something is disabled, or possibly an explanatory comment, but here virtually everything can be clicked.

Outlook likes

Outlook 2013’s Inline Reply feature works well, but it has limitations. Typing a reply to an email open in the reading pane happens inside the reading pane, showing a new Compose Tools | Message tab on the ribbon of the most-used commands. This helps to reduce the proliferation of windows in Outlook, but it doesn’t go all the way – it doesn’t work with Quick Steps, which always pop up another window, and the tools available while composing an inline reply are limited. You can’t, for instance, insert or format a table, picture or Smart Art.

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