Productivity

10 Microsoft Word 2013 headaches and how to cure them

6. PDFs break in Word

Good luck keeping a PDF polished in Word 2013.

Now that you can edit PDFs from within Word, why spend hundreds of dollars for Adobe Acrobat? The premise seems awesome: When your boss asks you to fix up her draft of tomorrow’s big report, you simply open a PDF file of that draft in Word 2013, tweak the text, add a new cover image, and send it back.

The reality, though, is that when you tinker with a PDF on a PC other than the one it was created on, forms and charts often break, and the fonts in the original version of the file may not match what you see on your PC. The wisest approach: Unless you own all of the fonts that the original PDF uses, avoid using Word to do anything more than editing basic PDF files; and leave the heavy lifting to your graphic designer.

7. The cursor lags behind your typing

Word 2013 adds an animation effect that follows your cursor as you type—at least, it's supposed to. This video from Windows expert Paul Thorrott shows how the effect works out-of-sync with the cursor's true movements. This may be especially troublesome if you're a speedy typist working with a slow PC. If your eyes (and inner ears) are sensitive, watching what you've typed appear just a little bit asynchronously with your actual keystrokes can even make you feel a little dizzy. You can disable the animation effect throughout Office 2013 with these steps from the Within Windows blog, but the Registry tweak isn't friendly for amateurs.

8. Windows litter the screen

You can give Word a tabbed interface, but doing so will cost you.

This complaint isn't about something Microsoft has changed, but about an opportunity it has missed to introduce a change that would benefit users. When you open a new document, Word 2013 behaves as Word always has: It opens a new window. As a result, if you're juggling a dozen projects, Microsoft makes you juggle the same number of open windows. That's a lot to keep track of, even if you're using more than one monitor. At least you can Alt-Tab through the myriad windows.

But why can't Microsoft Word act like any contemporary Web browser, and organize your open files into tidy tabs? Surprise, it can—but only if you pay $25 for the Office Tab add-on from Extend Office.

9. Collaborative editing is quirky

Document collaboration has improved, but it doesn't go far enough.

Hooray, you can share a document with a coworker without having to email the file back and forth. First, you save the document to your SkyDrive account (and from the browser, you can invite others to do so). From the Word 2013 document itself, go to File > Share. There you'll find a bunch of choices, including the option to invite individuals via email, and the option to obtain a URL for sharing the document. Choose Invite People, in order to add a note to one or more people and to grant them either view-only permission or editing permission. Thankfully, the person you share with no longer has to sign in to make edits.

What's the headache? Well, unless you're working in a corporate SharePoint environment, Microsoft pushes your co-authoring to the limited Word Web App in a browser, not to your local, full-featured Word 2013 program. (If the same document is open in the browser and in Word, too, changes do sync between the two.) Furthermore, two people can't alter the exact same part of a document online at the same moment—something that competitor Google Docs allows. Instead, with the Word Web App you see another person's changes once they save them.

Microsoft justifies the arrangement it adopted as enabling team productivity "without intruding on one another’s work or locking out other users." Google's way may be riskier, but it's also more straightforward. After all, why grant someone permission to edit your document if you don't trust what they'll change?

10. Stark design is hard on the eyes

Side by side, from light to dark, Word's three grayscale Themes don't differ much.

Microsoft has sucked the color and the curves out of Word. Welcome to sharp corners and seemingly endless white space. Features are harder to find in the flattened ribbon toolbar, and working in the ultrapale Word 2013 environment all day can strain your eyes. This is a purely subjective assessment, of course, but it reflects a common complaint.

One user describes the appearance as "a barren, Boot Hill-esque, cold wasteland...with grey and white tumbleweeds and gravestones." (It also clashes with Windows 8, which the same user likens to "Teletubbies land.") To adjust the look and feel of Word 2013 slightly, visit File > Account and choose Dark Gray from the Office Theme drop-down menu. Adjusting your monitor's brightness and contrast settings may provide some additional relief.

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