Bypassing “Backstage” when opening and saving docs in Word 2013

May 21, 2015 at 12:08 pm

One of the most striking differences between Word 2013 and Word 2010 has to do with basic file-management tasks, including opening and saving documents.**  Those tasks were simple and straightforward, and worked more or less the same way, in nearly every version of Word prior to Word 2013.  To open a document, mouse users clicked a File menu (or a File tab), then chose “Open”; keyboard users pressed the key combination Ctrl O (or Ctrl F12).  Those methods produced an Open dialog within Windows Explorer (in all versions of Windows to date), where users could navigate to a specific folder and open the document of their choice.

In earlier versions of Word, users also could click the File menu or File tab in order to review and choose from a list of recently used files.  In Word 2010, it’s extremely easy to find recent files – and recently opened folders, as well – by clicking a separate, clearly labeled “Recent” category in the File tab’s Navigation Pane.[1]

To save a document for the first time in an earlier version, mouse users clicked a File menu (or a File tab), then chose “Save” or “Save As”; keyboard users pressed Ctrl S (or F12).  Those methods produced a “Save As” dialog within Windows Explorer, where users could navigate to a specific folder in order to save the document in that location.

In Word 2013, the processes for opening and saving documents have changed somewhat.

First Launch – Opening a Blank or Existing Document

When you launch Word 2013 for the first time, the program opens to what Microsoft calls the Backstage view, essentially a full-screen version of the traditional File menu.   (I sometimes refer to the Backstage view as “the File menu on steroids.”)  This “start screen” is very different from the new blank document that users ordinarily see when they launch an older version of Word.  And it can be somewhat confusing, especially on first use.  Already disoriented by an unfamiliar opening screen, people sometimes wonder how to start a new document, or even how to open an existing document.

Essentially, there are two choices:  You can start fresh by clicking a large blank document icon or you can retrieve an existing file by clicking “Open Other Documents.” There’s also an option to open a Microsoft-supplied template (not commonly used by people in the legal profession).

Once you’ve actually opened a document, you’ll also be able to select from a list of Recent Documents, but there won’t be any such documents displayed when you first start using the program.  Indeed, you’ll see a message in the File tab’s Navigation Pane, below “Recent,” stating that you haven’t opened any documents recently, and referring you to the “Open Other Documents” command.

Open Other Documents

When you click “Open Other Documents,” Word takes you to another portion of the Backstage view, the Open screen.  Again, this behavior is not what most people are accustomed to; in earlier versions of Word (as well as in most other Windows programs), clicking “Open” produces the Open dialog within Windows Explorer.

In order to open a document, Word 2013 needs to know where you’ve stored it.  So it asks you to choose among three possible storage locations:

  • OneDrive
  • Computer (or This PC, if you use Windows 10)
  • + Add a Place

OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud (web-based) storage system (previously called SkyDrive), is available for use with Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.X, and Windows 10.  (It is built into Windows 8.1 and later.)  You have to set up a OneDrive account first.  Once you have done so, you can save files to the cloud and then open them for editing – either within Word on your everyday computer or within a browser-based “lite” version of Word on any computer that has Internet access.

NOTE:  Word 2013 is configured to save files to OneDrive by default (although with this default setting in effect, the program will still prompt you for a “Save” location each time).  However, if you prefer to save to your computer by default, you can change this setting by doing the following:

  • Click the File tab, then choose Options.
  • When the Word Options dialog opens, click the “Save” category at left.
  • With “Save” highlighted, you should see a category at the right labeled “Save documents.”
  • Navigate to and check “Save to computer by default.”
  • Save your change by clicking the “OK” button (do not close the Word Options by clicking the “X” in the upper right-hand corner, or Word will not save your modified settings)

NOTE TOO:  Changing the default save location in Word 2013 changes it in Excel 2013 and PowerPoint 2013, as well!

+Add a Place – Typically, this option is for adding Office 365 SharePoint (if you / your organization subscribe[s] to Office 365 and use[s] SharePoint) or another OneDrive account.  In theory, it’s also possible to add a location such as DropBox, but doing so is somewhat complex and is beyond the scope of this article.

Bypassing the Backstage View When Opening an Existing Document

Opening an existing document takes you to the Backstage view, not to the Open dialog in Windows Explorer.  That happens regardless of whether you click File > Open, press Ctrl O, or press Alt F, O.

However, there are a couple of ways to bypass Backstage and go directly to the Open dialog in Windows Explorer:

  • Click the Open icon on the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT);[2] or
  • Press the keyboard shortcut Ctrl F12.

Recent Documents

After you have opened one or more documents, those documents will appear in the Backstage view as “Recent Documents.” But unlike in Word 2010, there is no “Recent” category in the Navigation Pane; instead, you will find Recent Documents under “Open.”[3] When you click “Open,” you’ll see the same choices outlined above (OneDrive, Computer / This PC, and +Add a Place), along with up to 50 recently used documents.

The default number of Recent Documents displayed on the Open screen is 25; to change that number (the maximum is 50), do the following:

  • Click the File tab, Options.
  • Click the Advanced category.
  • Scroll to Display and choose (click to check) “Show this number of Recent Documents,” then type any number between 1 and 50.
  • Finally, click “OK” to save your changes and close the Word Options dialog (CAUTION: Do not click the “X” in the upper right-hand corner of the Word Options dialog, or the program won’t save your changes).

Quick Links to Recent Documents

In addition to viewing recent documents when you click “Open,” you can display a few recent docs directly within the Navigation Pane.  An advantage of doing so is that you have easy access to a small number of your recent docs from anywhere in the Backstage view – i.e., without having to click “Open.”

To enable this option, do the following:

  • Click the File tab, Options.
  • Click the Advanced category.
  • Scroll to Display and choose (click to check) “Quickly access this number of Recent Documents.”
  • You can change the number of recent docs to show in the Navigation Pane by typing any number between 1 and 20 (the default, I believe, is 4). Note that the higher the number, the more difficult it will be to see the entire list without scrolling.
  • Finally, click “OK” to save your changes and close the Word Options dialog (CAUTION: Do not click the “X” in the upper right-hand corner of the Word Options dialog, or the program won’t save your changes).

One more point about working with recent docs:  After you have opened one or more documents, you’ll also see a list of Recent Documents within the initial Backstage view “start screen” whenever you launch Word.

Saving Documents

The saving function has changed dramatically in Word 2013.  Perhaps the most obvious manifestation of this change is that “Save As” does not take you directly into the Windows folder structure, even if you have configured the program to save to the computer by default.    (See above, under “Open Other Documents.”)

Instead, Word takes you to a full screen “Save As” menu, where you can choose among Computer (This PC), OneDrive, and +Add a Place (on the left); click a recent folder (on the right); or click “Browse” (bottom right) to navigate to a folder that isn’t already displayed.  Note that “Save As” brings you to this screen even if you have chosen a specific default folder in the Word Options (File, Options, Save, “Default local file location”).

Bypassing the Backstage View When Saving

If you prefer to bypass the Backstage view and save documents by going directly to the “Save As” dialog in Windows Explorer, you can configure Word to do so by default.   Just do the following:

  • Click the File tab, Options.
  • Click the “Save” category. You should see a “Save documents” section.
  • About halfway down that section, you will see an option labeled “Don’t show the Backstage when opening or saving files.” By default, it is unchecked (disabled).  Click the checkbox to enable it.
  • Finally, click “OK” to save your changes and close the Word Options dialog (CAUTION: Do not click the “X” in the upper right-hand corner of the Word Options dialog, or the program won’t save your changes).

Changing this setting will bypass the Backstage view each and every time you click File, Save As.

If you prefer, you can bypass Backstage by using the keyboard shortcut F12 for Save As.  Or you can add a “Save As” icon to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) by doing the following:

  • Click the File tab, Options.
  • Click “Quick Access Toolbar.”
  • In the command list under “Popular Commands,” scroll down to “Save As.”
  • Either double-click the “Save As” icon or single-click it and then click the “Add” button toward the center of the Word Options screen.
  • Finally, click “OK” to save your changes and close the Word Options dialog (CAUTION: Do not click the “X” in the upper right-hand corner of the Word Options dialog, or the program won’t save your changes).

For some reason, clicking the “Save As” icon takes you directly to the “Save As” dialog in Windows Explorer.

_______________________________________________________________

**For the most part, the information in this post also applies to Word 2016.

[1]  When I refer to the “Navigation Pane,” I’m speaking of the blue or black vertical band / menu that runs along the left side of the File tab / Backstage view.  It contains commands for working with files, including Open, Save, Save As, Close, and Print.  Each of those commands, in turn, produces a full-screen menu of options.

[2] In Word 2016, clicking the Open icon on the QAT actually takes you to the Backstage view, unless you have configured the Word Options to bypass Backstage permanently when opening or saving documents, as described in the “Bypassing the Backstage View When Saving” section of this post.

[3] Another change:  Recent Folders, which in Word 2010 appears in the “Recent” category along with Recent Documents, is found under “Save As” in Word 2013.

NOTE:  This post has been updated as of November 27, 2015.

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