Microsoft Word remains the world's beefiest and most popular word processing program. It's no easy task to simplify an application that has accumulated 30 years' worth of features, but Microsoft has improved the 2013 edition in several key ways, starting with a polished Read Mode and embedded PDF edits.
That said, though, not all of the tool additions, interface adjustments, and feature shifts make the program easier to use. Some aspects of the new Word are puzzling, and others are downright painful. Here's a look at the most baffling of these changes--along with solutions to a few choice problems.
1. Live Layout falls short
Word's new Live Layout feature is supposed to simplify the task of positioning images and other objects on the page. That sounds great, because reliable image positioning has been a problem for many versions. Unfortunately, though, Live Layout falls short of its promise. Many Word 2013 users report that images sometimes don't stay where they're put--and occasionally jump to another page entirely.
There's no easy solution to this problem, unfortunately. Drag an image around long enough, and eventually it settles down where you want it to be--most of the time. Some users are avoiding this capricious behavior by reverting to an older version of Word, but we can't say that this expedient qualifies as a fix.
2. AutoCorrect is considered 'clutter'
One terrible call on Microsoft's part was its decision to remove AutoCorrect from Word's Spelling Error Context Menu. In Word 2010, if you right-clicked an incorrectly spelled word, the program invited you to choose from alternate spellings. That feature is still available, but you can no longer choose to have Word correct the misspelled word fixed automatically every time you accidentally type it. Microsoft says that this omission reduces "clutter in the spelling error context menu" and thus helps users find popular commands faster, as well as fitting the menu on the screen much better. (Somewhat surprisingly, Word treats New Comment and Hyperlink as more popular commands than AutoCorrect for the spelling error context menu.) Regrettably, Microsoft also removed this option from the new spelling task pane.
3. The Dictionary is dead
For the first time, Word ships without a dictionary. Before you can look up a word from within a Word 2013 document, you have to download and install one of a handful of Web-connected Apps for Word dictionaries available from the Microsoft Office Store. Only then can you right-click a word, choose Define, and see the relevant definition. Unfortunately, those dictionaries won't work if you're offline, so pull your print Webster's out of storage and put it back on your shelf.
4. It's too easy to embarrass yourself
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.