Bypassing the “Backstage view” when launching Word 2013
Whether you are upgrading from an earlier version of Word or moving straight from WordPerfect to Word 2013, you’ll notice fairly quickly the rather unusual way the program handles basic tasks, including common file-management functions such as opening and saving documents. But even before you open or save a document, you’ll experience a dramatic difference from the way most Windows programs work. Indeed, the very first time you launch Word 2013, you’ll encounter what Microsoft refers to as the “Backstage view” (and what I like to call “the File menu on steroids”), the screen that ordinarily appears when you click the File tab in modern versions of Microsoft Office. That is because unlike most Windows programs, Word 2013 typically opens not to a new blank document but to the Backstage view.
Even long-term users of Word might be perplexed by the Word 2013 “start screen.” How do you get to a blank document? Does the Backstage view appear every time you launch Word? Is there a setting you can change to make the program open to a blank document instead?
In my experience, people who are new to Word 2010 (the first version of Word that used the Backstage view) often can’t figure out how to return to their document after clicking the File tab. In fact, sometimes they accidentally close the document, or even exit from Word, while trying to escape from the Backstage view. (I teach newbies that there are at least three ways to get back to the document editing screen in Word 2010: You can click any tab, click the document icon at the right side of the “Info” screen, or press the Esc key.)
To me, the process is even less intuitive in Word 2013 than it is in Word 2010. For one thing, you can’t see the tabs from the Backstage view in Word 2013, and there is no document icon to click. Thankfully, pressing the Esc key still works, and you also have the option of clicking the left-pointing arrow (enclosed in a circle) at the top of the Navigation Pane within the Backstage view. Although the arrow isn’t labeled, Microsoft clearly intends it to serve as a “Back” button.
In addition, after you have opened / saved at least one document, the Backstage view displays an icon for a new blank document. So you do have the option of clicking that icon to go to a blank document. That works fine, but requires an extra step simply to start a new document.
Does that mean you have to click the “Back” arrow or press the Esc key (or click the “Blank document” icon) every time you open Word – even if you just want to start working on a new blank document?
Not at all. You can, in fact, configure Word 2013 to open – by default – to the familiar blank document screen we’re accustomed to seeing in nearly all Windows programs. Here’s how:
- Click the File tab, then click Options.
- When the Word Options dialog opens, you should see a Navigation Bar at the left (with “General” highlighted in blue) and, at right, the “General options for working with Word.”
- Locate the section labeled “Start up options” at the bottom of the General options screen.
- The very last choice, “Show the Start screen when this application starts,” is what causes Word to open to the Backstage view. It is enabled (checked) by default. To disable that option, uncheck it.
- Finally, click the “OK” button at the bottom right side of the Word Options dialog.
CAUTION: Do not close out of the Word Options by clicking the “X” at the top right side of the dialog, or Word will not save your changes.
The next time you open Word, it should take you directly to a blank document screen, not to the Backstage view.
Exiting From Word
Incidentally, exiting from Word works differently in Word 2013, as well. You will notice that there is no “Exit” command on the File tab (i.e., in the Navigation Pane of the Backstage view).
So how do you close out of Word? This once-simple task can be especially confusing because many law firms “locked down” the red “X” in the upper right-hand corner of the Word 2010 screen in order to prevent users from accidentally exiting Word rather than merely closing a document (in Word 2010, if you have only one document open, clicking the red “X” closes both the document and the program). As a result, some users aren’t accustomed to using that method to exit from Word. Rather, they got into the habit of clicking the File tab, then clicking “Exit” – a choice that isn’t available in Word 2013.
There are at least four different ways to exit from Word 2013:
- Click the “X” in the upper right-hand corner of the Word program window (it’s not red in this version); or
- Press the key combination Alt F, X; or
- Press the key combination Alt F4; or
- If it’s available, click the “Exit Word” icon on the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT).
The “Exit Word” icon is not displayed on the QAT by default. To add that icon, do the following:
- First, either right-click in a blank area of the QAT and choose “Customize the Quick Access Toolbar” or click the drop-down arrow to the right of the last (right-most) command on the QAT and then click “More Commands.” NOTE: When you hover over the drop-down, you’ll see the label, “Customize Quick Access Toolbar.”
- When the Word Options dialog appears, navigate to the drop-down (toward the top left) labeled “Choose commands from.”
- Click the drop-down, and instead of “Popular commands,” choose “File tab” (or, if you prefer, “All Commands”). Wait a couple of seconds.
- Next, position your cursor in the command list below the drop-down and scroll to “Exit.”
TIP: If you selected “All Commands” in the previous step, click to position your cursor within the command list, then press the letter “E” to move quickly to the first command that starts with that letter.
- Either double-click “Exit” or click once and then click the “Add” button toward the center of the screen. Either of those steps will add the “Exit” icon to the box on the right side of the screen, which displays the icons that have been added to the QAT.
- Once you have added the “Exit” icon, you can change its position on the QAT by clicking it, then clicking the Up or Down arrow at the right center side of the screen. The Up arrow moves icons to the left on the QAT; the Down arrow moves icons to the right on the QAT.
- When everything is to your liking, click the “OK” button at the bottom right side of the Word Options dialog. CAUTION: Do not close out of the Word Options by clicking the “X” at the top right side of the dialog, or Word will not save your changes.
Now you can click the “X” on the QAT to exit from Word. (As always, you will be prompted to save any open documents that you have revised but not yet saved.)
 In an upcoming post, I will provide instructions for bypassing the Backstage view when opening and saving documents in Word 2013.
 The Backstage view appears by default when you open Word 2013, but if your firm has changed the default setting, you might indeed see a new blank document when you launch the program.
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