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10 Microsoft Word 2013 headaches and how to cure them

Elsa Wenzel and Helen Bradley | Feb. 15, 2013
Microsoft Word remains the world's beefiest and most popular word processing program.

Edited documents no longer display bright-red altered or deleted text. Instead, Word's new Simple Markup feature hides tracked changes, marking them with nothing more than a subtle vertical line in the margins. This shift may soothe your ego if an editor has ripped your prose to shreds. But after you save and share a document, those hidden tracked changes could all too easily wind up being viewed by the wrong person--in some cases endangering your reputation.

Although Word 2013 has a setting that will warn you that you're about to save a marked-up file, you must activate the setting manually. (Why didn't Microsoft make it active by default, or at least park the option in an easier-to-find location?) To reach it, select File > Options > Trust Center > Trust Center Settings > Privacy Options. Then choose the option to have Word pop up a warning message before you save, send, or print a document that contains tracked changes.

5. Compatibility Mode is complicated

When you open a .doc file from an older version of Word in Word 2013, the label "[Compatibility Mode]" will appear after the file name in the document's title bar. You can convert an older document to the new Word 2013 mode and to the new .docx format, but doing so is undesirable if the documents belongs to someone else--especially if that person is working with an older version of Word.

To know which specific features Compatibility Mode is blocking in a given case, you must know which version of Word the document is compatible with. To find this out, choose File > Info > Inspect Document > Check for Issues > Check Compatibility. Next, click Select Versions; the version of Word that your document was created in will be checked. Microsoft provides extensive details about the process online, but couldn't the company display this information in the document title bar?

6. PDFs break in Word

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.


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