10 killer new features in Word 2013

There's a lot to like about the new Microsoft Word 2013.

A word processor is indispensable for anyone who creates documents, be it for work, school, or writing angry letters to your representatives in Congress. Now that Microsoft has finally released Office 2013 to the general public, we're naming what we think are the 10 best new features in Word 2013. (We reviewed the whole enchilada last December, when it became available to Microsoft TechNet subscribers. You can read our opinion here.)

Word 2013 boasts new and improved features across the board, spanning document creation to reading, editing, and collaboration. What's even better is that Microsoft has made these advanced features easier for everyone to use.

1. The new Design tab

Document formats can be further extended by choosing Themes, Colors, and Fonts to use with them. If you come up with something you'd like to use all the time, the new Set as Default option allows you to make the current combination of formatting settings the default for all new documents.Word 2007 and Word 2010 added interesting features for styling a document, but the tools were scattered throughout the user interface, and they were difficult to use. The new Word 2013 Design tab consolidates all these tools onto one tab, so they're easy to find. Microsoft has also added a visual element to its Document Formatting tool that allows you to preview a document style before applying it to the entire document. You'll also find a range of new document format designs to choose from.

2. Alignment with Alignment Guides

If you have text wrapping set to an option such as Square, the Alignment Guides also show when the object is aligned with the top of a paragraph or to a heading.This new feature makes lining up images and other objects a cinch in Word 2103. When you move an object such as an Image, Chart, or SmartArt illustration around in a document, Alignment Guides automatically appear to show you when the object is lined up with other elements on the page. The guides also show you when the object is lined up to key page locations, such as the edge of the page and the left and right margins.

3. Comfortable reading in Read mode

If you use Word more to read documents than to create them, you'll like Word 2013's new Read mode. It automatically resizes a document to the full window. Click the on-screen arrows to flip through the pages, or swipe the screen from either edge of the display if you're using a touch-screen monitor. Switch to page view for vertical scrolling. Right-click on any unfamiliar words to display a definition without existing read mode. You can also click on any image, table, or chart to enlarge it for easier reading.

4. Smarter collaboration

If you collaborate with others on Word documents, you know how quickly conversations can become difficult to follow, because Word's comments tool treats every utterance as a new comment.

In Word 2013, you can reply to a comment within that comment by clicking the Comment Reply button. This captures the entire discussion of a given point inside a single comment box, which will appear as a small bubble in the document's margin.

You can also lock the change-tracking feature, so it can't be bypassed unless the collaborator provides the correct password.

And with the new Simple Markup option, you can hide complex markups and view the final version of the document. Switch between this and All Markup view from the Review tab or by double clicking the line in the left margin beside a tracked change.

5. Open and edit PDFs inside Word

  Word 2013 can not only open a PDF document, it also enables you to edit it--without need of a third-party application. You can also edit the data inside tables and move images around the document. When you're finished, you can save the document as either a PDF or a Word file. This is a must-have feature for anyone who works with PDFs frequently.

6. Discoverable layout options

You can also select Move with text or Fix position on page to control the location of the object. Click See more to open the old Layout dialog, which offers other options for positioning the object on the page.New layout options in Word 2013 make features such as wrapping text around an illustration much easier to use. When you click an image, a chart, or a SmartArt object in a Word document, a Layout Options icon appears outside its top right corner. Click it to select text wrapping options such as Tight, Square and Through.

As with the other applications in the Office 2013 suite, a formatting task pane opens when you right-click an object and choose, for example, Format Picture or Format Shape. This stays open as you work and shows formatting options relevant to the currently selected object.

7. New table border tools

Select a Line Style, Line Weight, and Pen Color; or choose a preset from the Border Styles list and paint the borders onto the table. You can also sample an existing border, using the Border Sampler tool in the Border Styles panel, and then use the Border Painter to paint that style elsewhere in the table.Formatting a Word table by adding different width and style borders has always been a pain point. Word 2013's handy Border Painter tool makes this task supremely easy. To access it, choose Table Tools, Design, Border Painter.

8. More new table features

Word has always had weak table tools, and Word 2013 finally addresses the problem. You can now add a new row to a table by hovering your mouse just outside the left edge of the table at the point at which the row is to be inserted. A small icon will appear; click on it and you're done. There's a similar icon for easily adding a new column. New Delete buttons on the Mini Toolbar make it easy to delete columns and rows; if the table itself is selected, the option lets you delete the entire table.

9. Collapse and expand a document

Long documents can become unruly to manage, especially if you're working in just a small portion of it. Word 2013 lets you collapse and expand a document, so you see only the portion you need. To do this, you must format the document's headings using the built-in styles Heading 1, Heading 2, and so on.

Switch to Print Layout view and you can collapse the document by hovering your mouse to the left of a formatted heading. Click the small disclosure triangle to hide the paragraphs between this heading and the next, leaving just the heading text visible.

Right-click a heading formatted with one of the heading styles to access the Expand/Collapse option, which gives you menu control for this feature.

10. Present a document online

Once everyone is connected to the service--which is run via the Microsoft Word Web App--they'll be able to follow along as you present the document. The interface supports comments being made during the presentation, and participants can create a printable and downloadable PDF of the document if desired.Office 2013's new Office Presentation Service allows you to present Word documents online. You must be signed into your Microsoft Account to use this feature. When you're ready to share your document, choose File, Share,Present Online, and click the Present Online button to upload your document to the cloud. You will get a link that you can email or share with others so they can join the presentation.

There's a lot to like about the new Microsoft Word 2013. The new features collectively will make your day-to-day work much easier to perform whatever that happens to be.

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