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Because I spend more time in Word than any other Office application, I was very curious to see whether Microsoft could improve on this already-excellent word processor. I shouldn’t have worried: Word 2013 is a solid upgrade that offers impressive new and improved features for both reading and editing.

Key new and improved features include:

Read mode. With a simple, columnar presentation that dynamically reflows based on the size and aspect ratio of the Word window, the new Read mode turns Microsoft’s word processor into a fairly ideal and distraction-free document reading solution. In this mode, editing tools are gone, but you can still access handy reading tools such as Define, Search on web and Translate.

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Reading a PDF in Word 2013

View and edit PDFs. You can view PDFs in Word 2013, using the Read mode’s auto reflow capabilities, and even edit PDFs, just like traditional Word documents.

Object zoom. While in Read mode, you can now zoom in on tables, charts, and images in a Word document—by clicking with the mouse or, on a touch-based system, by tapping your finger—and see the object larger, and more clearly, in a pop-up. Just click (or tap) again to close the pop-up and keep reading.

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Tap an object to view it larger

Expand and collapse sections. A new widget appears next to headings, allowing you to quickly collapse or expand the text in that section of the document.

Improved navigation pane. The new navigation pane is more attractive than its predecessor, providing a simple way to navigate through a document using its headings structure or a page thumbnail view, and search for text within the document.

Live layout. When you insert photos, videos, or shapes and then reposition them within the document, the text will flow around the object in real time so you can see how it will look before releasing it.

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With live layout, you can move objects around a document and watch the text auto-flow around it in real time

Design tab. A new Design tab on the Word ribbon places all of the application’s design-related tools—themes, style sets, colors, fonts, and more—in a single place.

Present Online. Similar to the feature that debuted in PowerPoint 2012, you can now freely “present” a word document online to others, even those who don’t have Word. Microsoft generates a hyperlink you can share with others so they can view your presentation in a browser.

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Word now supports a free Present Online feature so people can read along as you speak

Reviewing improvements. Microsoft has made a number of nice changes to Word’s useful reviewing features, which support multi-author collaboration and comments debate and tracking. Documents can be stored online in SkyDrive, SkyDrive Pro, or SharePoint, and shared via a hyperlink while ensuring that only one copy of the document is edited, rather than many as is typical via email. But for those doing traditional reviewing work, a new simple markup view provides the most attractive reviewing experience yet. And you can now mark comments as Done.

Video support. You can now embed videos in Word documents, including online videos (YouTube, manual embed codes, or via Bing Video Search). If you embed an online video in a Word document, you can watch it while reading the document, as long as you have an active Internet connection.

But wait, there’s more. In addition to the features listed above, Word 2013 also includes a number of new and improved features that are common across several Office 2013 applications. You can find out about these other new features in New Features in Office.