If you’ve taken the plunge and started using Office 2013, you may be getting used to the subtle but impactful changes to the way some information is displayed, particularly lists of emails in your inbox.

imageOutlook 2010 has a colourful Ribbon, emboldens folders where you have unread email, and shows everything in the mail list in the same font and with the same size (unless you create rules to tell it to do otherwise).

imageOutlook 2013, on the other hand, has a flatter looking, less colourful Ribbon, and by default, will show your Inbox with a single line preview of the message, and the sender’s name will be in larger text. Some of the “chrome” used in the window has been removed too – dividing lines, 3D-like edges to controls etc.

Maybe it’s all part of the Metrofication Windows 8 Modern/Native Application Design Style-ification of the Office 2013 UI. Just don’t go into the new “Full Screen” mode, then try to close the window by dragging the window down by the middle… it might look like the UI design language until recently known as Metro, but it’s still a full fat desktop app.

In some respects, changes like the new Inbox view take a bit of adapting to, may even seem like an annoyance: in Outlook, the impact of the change of view style is that fewer messages can be seen on screen at once. There are some things you can do to mitigate this fact, though…

clip_image004Minimise the Ribbon when you don’t need it

Office has allowed the user to make the Ribbon go away in previous versions, and in some respects it’s even more useful now if you want to maximise your screen real estate. Look on the far right of the Ribbon bar and you’ll see an upward pointing carat – click on that and the whole shooting match vanishes upwards. You’re still left with a menu bar, though, and if you click on a menu (the “View” one, for clip_image005example), then the Ribbon will re-appear. If you don’t like this modus operandi, just click on the pin icon at the bottom right and you’ll be back to normal working. Pressing CTRL-F1 toggles the Ribbon between hidden and pinned, but then if you’re a keyboard junkie, what need would you have with the Ribbon anyway?

clip_image006Adjust the preview

If you use the Reading Pane on the right, you might find you don’t need to worry about the one line preview below the message in the displayed view – you can tweak this by disabling the preview altogether, and you get prompted to choose if you’d like it just for this folder or for everywhere. Preview? Pah.

clip_image007Subject vs Sender

Some people recall messages based on their contents, others on when they were sent (hence why you get a by-default grouping based on age), and some on who the sender was – “that note from Steve last week” maybe rings a bell more than what it was called. If you prefer a good ol’ fashioned Subject first approach, then it’s possible – though not necessarily bleedin’ obvious – to switch them round again.

  • Go to the View menu, in the main Outlook window
  • In the Current View section, click on View Settings then Columns…
  • Select the Subject and Move Up
  • Hit OK to save… et voila!


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