Office 2013's color scheme

Last reviewed on December 15, 2013   —  188 comments

I mentioned this issue in another article but because it is a big problem for many people, it generates a lot of questions *and* almost all comments are negative, it bears repeating.

The most frequently asked question to date is how to change the interface color. Outlook (and all of the Office apps) are so… white. Blindingly white. Hurts your eyes white.

Unfortunately, in the Preview, white is all you get. As bad as the blue, silver, black, or green color schemes were in older versions of Outlook, for many users they would be better than all white.

Following all of the complaints with the Preview, Microsoft added 3 color options to the final version. You can have any color you like, as long as it's gray... choosing between white, light gray, or dark gray.

You can also add a little gray scale decoration to the upper right corner of the application. It's cute eye candy, nothing more, and in the RTM build there are currently 14 designs to choose from.

Turning down the screen brightness will help, a lot. I've always kept the brightness set low and the white in Outlook 2013 RTM was livable. I didn't realize how bright the default settings were until I got a new tablet. Whoa! The default settings are really bright, even on the system that adjusts the brightness to match the room's ambient light.

Add lines to break up the message list

This tip is from James:

Go to View -> View Settings -> Other Settings and add some dots between the messages.

This is the same View Settings dialog found at the bottom of the menu when you right-click on "All Unread", or the sort order labels.

Advanced view settings for Grid lines

In the RTM screenshots below, I use a solid line to separate the messages - dots worked fine in older versions of Outlook but dots are all but invisible on my screens in Outlook 2013.

White Color scheme Outlook 2013 RTM

Outlook 2013 RTM - white color scheme

Light Gray color scheme

outlook-2013-light-gray

Dark Gray scheme

Outlook 2013 Dark gray scheme

Very White scheme Outlook 2013 Preview

Outlook 2013 Preview

Change the color or background design

To change the color scheme or the background design in the final version (not Preview), go to File, Account in any Office application (in Outlook, go to File, Office Account).

Change the color and background in File, Office Account

Written by

Diane Poremsky
A Microsoft Outlook Most Valuable Professional (MVP) since 1999, Diane is the author of several books, including Outlook 2013 Absolute Beginners Book. She also created video training CDs and online training classes for Microsoft Outlook. You can find her helping people online in Outlook Forums as well as in the Microsoft Answers and TechNet forums.

Please post long or more complicated questions at Outlookforums.

188 responses to “Office 2013's color scheme”

  1. Jonathan Elford

    I absolutely love the new office 2013 but the background colour is the one thing that I hate..... I find that the white background does hurt my eyes and I can't focus on anything for long. I always changed the office 2010 to have a black background which was great. Microsoft should give the users the control.

  2. Andrew Lawton

    This article says it all. Other than a make over, it seems like it is just my Office 2007. Based on the color or lack thereof, I rather just use my 2007. Not sure how long this trial will last, but I definitely won't be buying it.

  3. Bruce

    I like all the features of 2013, but the white used in the background is just terrible. My eyes are old and this color is not helping.

  4. Norm Farley

    I have to agree with Jonathan. This thing is a killer for the eyes, not to mention the overall bland feel of a white and light grey interface. I'm going to back up my home computer with Office 2010 on it, before I lose it!

  5. Manuel Bastos

    I like all the features of 2013, but the white used in the background is just terrible. My eyes are tired and this color is not helping.

  6. Tim

    You say the options are available in File...Account. I don't see any Office There box in my 365 preview. Are you referring to some other version?

  7. Rob

    I have just installed the final release and my initial impression is it is just BLAND...
    Even the Dark & Light Grey do not add any texture.
    And the Themes are also just some images in the task bar.
    Would love to see some choice in the colors...

  8. JessicaSeattle

    Hi guys - I let myself be snookered into migrating my Inbox to O2013/O365 2013. My work interface is ok b/c I'm still able to use the O2010 client. But my OWA view is the bright-white-on-white, and I cannot find a way to change that. Would be so grateful if anyone can offer tips for modifying my OWA/O365 settings.

    Many thanks, in advance!!

  9. JessicaSeattle

    Postscript - my IT gurus told me there is currently no way to customize the OWA/O365 color scheme (i.e., the way you can with the installed version of Outlook 2013). They suggested that I connect to my work email account via my home instance of Outlook 2010 and simply don't use OWA.

  10. Osama

    I am using the RTM version, and the white color is always there with all the different colored schemas!

    What ever color schema you use, the white color is dominant!

    This better change fast, otherwise people will not upgrade.

  11. james

    MY GOD it's F**KING awful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    im going to revert back to 2010, i cant work like this its too bright, to boring! it feels like iv gone back 15years to a bbc computer basic bold horid colours.
    Was going to upgrade my main pc to windows 8 but if this is what microsoft have to offer no thanks!

  12. Aimee Bentolila

    I agree the background is awfull!!

  13. Gary

    ALL OF MY USERS HATE IT !

  14. Lars Von Panzerbjørn

    The colour scheme, and moreso the inability to change it, is shocking.

    I refuse to believe that this has gone through any kind of user testing or feedback reporting.

    I have been a Microsoft evangelist amongst friends and colleagues for some time, but I can't recommend anyone to upgrade to Outlook 2013. Personally I'll be returning to 2010 until those loathsome colour schemes can be changed to something that doesn't hurt my eyes.

  15. Shawn O

    I have been a tech guy for over 20 years and I also know users. I just upgraded to Windows 8 and thought I would try Office 365 Preview. The “white” background is a killer for me. Microsoft isn’t being responsive enough. When budgets are tight, an upgrade must have sufficient advantages to justify pulling the trigger to buy it. The preview white color is so bad, it is enough cause to justify not moving to Office 365. When an application is in beta, RTM or “preview”, the user experience is essential for success. Not having the ability to change the white background makes using the applications such an awful experience, I will go back to my Office 2010 and pass on this upgrade. C’mon Microsoft, where are your business analysts in helping you get the right features in front of the users; especially those who influence purchasing decisions?

  16. WARRZONE

    I will definitely be sticking with 2010. The colors are awful. WHY ARE THEY USING CAPS IN THE TAB HEADERS? It's just bad all around.

    P.S. Metro sucks. Bring back glass and the start button and maybe I will upgrade to Windows 8. Who am I kidding? They will be stubborn and stick with what they've got. I guess there will be no "upgrades" for me for a while.

  17. Ja

    I just like the backgound color not, it looks bad so bad the the MS Office itself has lost its taste of beating the 2013.

  18. DatChip

    The "Dark gray" background is not dark gray at all, but largely white with some pale lightgray areas. It's still a little bit more ergonomic than the entirely white theme.

    I would like a dark gray theme that is actually dark gray!

  19. Nate

    They surely didn't have Accessibility in mind nor the headache that’ll get from the color layout - I'm surprised but not shocked. I just spent an hour searching through msdn and online for any hint if there is a way to create themes programmatically as with skins or something - but I guess I should keep searching. Being in IT for a medium sized company I will definitely not recommended upgrading to Office 2013 because of the unfriendly interface.

  20. jan78

    Microsoft do not adapt programs to humans, humans need to make next big leap in evolution to adapt them selfs to Microsoft products.
    Microsoft motto - Bill is God, worship him or burn in hell.

  21. Mingomya

    I sure hope MS comes up with a patch to be bale to choose more colors. It really does suck!

  22. Rose Lewis

    This is awful! I just spent thousands of dollars upgrading my whole office and NO ONE likes the color schemes!!! VERY boring!! We need a patch to allow changes in colors!!!

  23. Dan McGovern

    MS is running a deal via my work for employees to get Office 2013 cheap since we are a large enterprise user so I grabbed it. I could not tolerate it for more than 2 days due to the lack of color and texture. I'm back to 2007. This is a really poor design choice by Microsoft.

  24. Carl Machin

    I like the new version but can';t help feel that it looks like one of those free downloadable email clients. A little more personal customisation would be nice. Especially the colour.

  25. zeubest34

    Office 2013 is made to sell on tv ads, not for users.
    As for Windows 8 : made for ponctual users with big fingers on small screens.

    Both are ugly, but compatible with low level hardware on tablets.

    By design ? We, by design, will go back to previous versions !

  26. James

    Go to File -> View Settings -> Other Settings and add some dots between the messages. That, coupled with the gray or dark gray option, is making it livable, but certainly not good, for me. If I didn't need one of the new features, I'd seriously consider reverting just because of this - I use email far too much for this to be so ugly and clunky.

  27. bob

    Ditto. Moved back to 2010 until there are options.

  28. Catui Suarez

    For Office 2013 to blend with Win8 as well as 2010 with Win7 EVERY Office product should have the SAME color/theme options as the Win8.

  29. rogerdavis

    I guess we could just adjust our monitor colors to show white as something different? Maybe that is what Microsoft was thinking. This we can control.

  30. Nelson Highley

    Don't you know? Microsoft apparently feels that they know what color scheme you want. Perhaps if the FTC gets enough useability complaints from people with weak eyesight under the ADA they will impose a reasonable color scheme on MS. Try complaining - it might help is there are enough complaints.

  31. Dinu

    I was perfectly happy with the layout of MS Office 2007 (especially the Outlook). Mine is a light blue and very readable and easy to the eyes. This 2013 is horrible as white. I changed it to light gray (dark grey is too much). I still do not understand why other colors are not possible. If MS does not change this and quickly, this may become a killing point for their product.

  32. Dinu

    @Diane: I like also Win 8 but with the start buttons. To me, other than the start menu in Win 8 which is scaring for many, after 1st application running full screen like a browser by ex, all returns back to the Win 7 functionality. And I also have the start button, kind of, with an application called pokki, I do not know where it came from. Other than this the new Office 2013 background white is horrible....I changed it to light gray, but still horrible in my view.

  33. Dinu

    Agreed. A really poor design choice by Microsoft.

  34. helen

    This is driving me nuts!!! I found your post during my Google search because I can't STAND the changes. My laptop crashed recentely and the IT guy installed 2013 on my computer. I can't stand not having lines de-marking the various messages. I get 100+ emails a day and this is REALLY painful.

    Does anyone have any updated that I don't know about?

  35. Robert Doyle

    horrible - I can't believe something as simple as background appearance options are not available.

  36. james salisbury

    totally agree! sort it out Microsoft! darker grey please!!!!!!!!!!!! or even black like 2010. Does anyone have any idea how to change the background in the main window, surly some clever guy or girl can do it!

  37. harald10

    Even changing the background to dark grey it is horrible to the eyes.
    Hope MS will hear our complains. Windows 8 is doing the color changing depends the picture you have on the screen, so why not this way?

  38. Rory

    I never use the app start screen. The apps on my widescreen LCD mean I move my arm about 5 miles a scrolling around it.
    I found a little .exe called classic shell and now I have a start button (albeit in the shape of a shell) and windows key opens a start menu not the pointless App page.
    If i was on a tablet this'd be cool but I am old school keyboard shortcut person and rarely use the mouse and no touch screen makes it hard work which is worse than pointless.

  39. Michael P

    For Windows 8, Startmenu 8 from iobit makes it a whole lot better.
    AFA Office 2013...OMG...

  40. Tony Rico

    They should make the colors just like Outlook.com. That would be nicer. I had to remove 2013 and went back to 2010. My eyes were hurting and headaches.

  41. Dan

    yep always amazes me that we have high resolution monitors and tablets capable of 16 million+ colors and they design an interface like that.

  42. Cindy Marino

    Just installed 2013 for a client and he HATES it, did I mention that he HATES it. Why can't we have options....where is select all, the color mentioned is this articel...I found the grey but really, grey? I feel like I am looking at Outlook on the internet instead of in a program....

  43. Jesse Braswell

    I agree it is awful!! I just installed Office 2013 last night (2-20-13) and will go back to 2012. There are no great features I need and I can not stand the white blur.

  44. John

    Thanks for your valuable assistance. The background issue is, (I should say, "was") the only draw-back to 2013. I'm delighted with all the other improvements. I was a reluctant convert but now am a happy advocate.

  45. Frank Livacich

    Very disappointed in 2013 calendar - all months are white unlike in the past when every other month varied in color. - And they call this an improvement. To me it sucks and I am going to sell my Microsoft stock if this is any sign of the future.

  46. Rob

    Have to agree, the color choices suck. Hard to read, liked 2007 much better. Also, very disappointed in the flagging options for email. I could set dates to follow up on email in the past, now I can just flag the email. This needs to be fixed for the IMAP accounts, it makes Outlook 2013 a less useful tool. I feel like I wasted my money upgrading to Office 2013.

  47. Bob

    IT SUCKS

  48. Erik

    sure, who needs a gui? Maybe a CLI will be sufficient for Windows 9, but then why call it Windows

  49. ribye

    Guess they have apple envy you can have any color as long as its white or off white, this coupled with windows 8 = users get what we want them to have no flair or personal style choices. I do tech support for over a 1000 users most are just happy to have pictures of their kids on the screen, guess those users aren't hip enough to use Microsoft products

  50. Tom

    So - the part about the stark white that is killing me, is when I go to move an inbox mail to a folder, the folder color changes so minimally that I do not get any visual feedback on which folder I am dragging the e-mail to. I have put things in the wrong folder now way too much. This is just terrible. No matter how good the underlying s/w may be, this is right in your face bad.

  51. jed

    choose gray and lower the screen brightness to desired level...

  52. Jeremy Pinnell

    I just went from Office 2010 to 2013 on my Windows 8 PC. I am not a big fan of either products. I am predicting that Office 2013 will have stagnant sales like Windows 8 has. Both are boring with no flare. The Start menu in Win 8 isn't too bad, but I not a fan of the Metro interface. I have had Office 2013 on my computer for a few hours, but I can tell that it is pretty boring already. I liked the changes from 2003 to 2007 and from 2007 to 2010. Each edition seemed to be more progressive with the ribbon concept. 2013 is MS saying "Office 2010, meet Windows 8." There is no personality to it except for boring. The ribbon is like the Windows Explorer toolbar. Both are lifeless. They even changed the color of the File tab from gold to blue. They have basically wanted to see if putting Microsoft on a boring product will still sell. I have a feeling it won't.

  53. Ruud

    Why can't I import anything in adress-list mode? Everything in the "lint" is grayed out.

  54. John Mclaughlin

    The mandatory white stationery is cruel to those who suffer from Irlen syndrome.

  55. Pedro from Miami

    Does Outlook 2013 give me the ability to color-code my folders? I have dozens of folders with subfolders, and I would really like to have a way to color-code them.

  56. joan

    Not buying 2013 office - the crap themes hurt.

  57. Michael J Gardner

    First off... they've used the gold Outlook icon since 2000. Why change it??? Now its light blue and Word is dark blue. All the Office Icon's seem to have taken a turn for the worse in 2013. Actually, it seems like Windows 8 has also been downgraded in the "looks department". Windows 7 is by far the best looking (and functions pretty well) OS Microsoft has created. Why would they go from the greatest OS created, to something that maybe functions better than 7 but looks worse than Vista?

    And yes, Office 2013 looks like garbage.

  58. Mardig Sheridan

    I'd even settle for the gray, but everytime I change it, when I reboot it goes back to white. MSFT just can't get it right -- every. That's why they will never ever compete with Apple. It's stunning to me how incompetent this company is. Sad because every once in a while they do something great, like Surface Pro. Then they screw it up in the marketing. It's breathtaking how inept they are.

  59. mkanet

    I dont understand. Didnt Microsoft consult with normal people before designing a horrible user interface for both office 365? Why does it only limited to 2 colors? Instead of adding transparency effects with 32bit color gradients in the UI, they went completely backwards to the stone ages... Windows 1.0

  60. mkanet

    Okay, sorry, I meant 4 colors.

  61. Doreen

    I hope they do something soon to improve this.. it hurts my eyes and none of my users who have received it with a new PC like it at all!

  62. William Gisbert-Lawson

    Are these Microsoft Office developers quixotic or something? How can they be using a screaming white color in the desing with no alternatives! It is killing the users there eyes. They are really a bunch of idiots!

  63. DK

    Hi, I am using the new outlook 2013 and as I have approx. 10 email accounts configured it is very difficult to differentiate between accounts when scrolling through the list (especially when all the folders are expanded). Is there a way to change the format options of the main folder heading for each email account? e.g. make each email title bold or on a darker background? I am currently using the dark gray theme but that still has not made viewing easier. Thanks in advance.

  64. Tim Green

    It is not just the colors. The entire user interface design in Office 2013 is a complete disaster, and since this is based on Windows 8 it applies there as well, which is just as user-hostile as Office 2013. The designers failed to realize that the clear borders and contrasts in the old design are essential for being able to distinguish the elements in the user interface. This also applies to Windows 8 generally. The optimum interface is Windows 7 with the Basic theme and transparent Aero turned off.

  65. netra

    Hi everyone, Please refer the site http://www.thewindowsclub.com/change-or-dim-brightness-of-laptop-or-computer-monitor-screen-further
    . This might help you. I found it very helpful

  66. David

    I just purchased the 365 for all the computers at the office. Now I am sorry I did. This blinding white is horrible! Microsoft is going down the tubes if this is what they are putting out...

  67. Jeffrey Beardsley

    I just upgraded some of my users (and myself) to Office 2013. We are......disappointed to say the least. I'm curious which 8th grade programming class they used to design and code the GUI? This sucks!
    Have you heard of any possibility of "texture" being introduced?

  68. Andre

    I ahve to agree .. this is a BIG drwback "I could set dates to follow up on email in the past, now I can just flag the email. This needs to be fixed for the IMAP accounts, it makes Outlook 2013 a less useful tool. I feel like I wasted my money upgrading to Office 2013" MS PLEASE FIX IT!!!

  69. John Carey

    MS Office 2013 - you've gotta be kidding? This is such a backstep from 2010 and 2007 in on screen presentation there is absolutely no way I'm not going back to a previous version.

  70. jebswebs (@jebswebs)

    The Dark Gray is much better, but still is very bright. The other "effect" is that this new version is very "flat." There is very little texture brought through the subtle use of shadow lines. In the new version there is none of this. I'm wondering if this is what Window 8 looks like. What's the point of having a HD monitor if everything is going to look like it was created in 1995?

  71. Stacy

    I really appreciate finding your forum on: "Changing Office 2013's color scheme". Altho I do not use Outlook I've been a power user of MS Word, Excel, and Powerpoint for years. I realize that there are "newbies" and "web designers" out there that fiercely defend their preference for white on black, and other glitzy color displays, over us fuddy-duddies that prefer plain black on white (chocolate on vanilla). Maybe it's because I took my first computer course in 1957 and know where we all came from, and can appreciate the simple things in our computer lives. I still prefer all the old "Classic" menus. As to the "color scheme' I hope that all the MS 2013 software versions add a few more options for the use of who suffer from astigmatism that renders light colors on dark backgrounds virtually unreadable without using the magnifier. The Personalization has some good features but the "high contrast white" mixes the "good" black on white contrast with the "bad" white on black contrast on the mouse overs and highlights, whereas I prefer the former exclusively.

  72. mleimnek

    i just got Office 2013... i was pretty excited about it... but the i open outlook and everything was a failure!!!!

  73. Ian N Campbell

    I have managed to change all my colours by using High Contrast in the "Display" option where you personalise your screen options. You can have any colour you want!!! :-) Ian

  74. Cyprus Schurr

    Go to Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Personalization

    Click on the second icon from the left on the bottom row that says: Window Color

    Select from the 'Item:' dropdown, Window.

    Change Color 1 to be what you want.

    You can change almost any color you like in this area and customize several displays from here.

  75. Joe Fuzzy Cool

    I just love the new scheme. The sheer pain in my eyes at the end of the day is delightful. I can tell that many developers and testers put a lot of thought and effort into getting these kinds of features included in this new version.

  76. Jean

    I have an option to buy Office 2010 but I wait to long. I have only the 2013 choice. I am very, very, very, very, disappointed with the Wow three great GRAY shade. Can I have the choice to received the 2010 in place... I think I cut colour paper and I scotch it on my screen.

    Very bad, I feel bad and in the beautiful world of informatics, the choice are supposed to be more accessible but really not!

    Jean

  77. Sam

    This 2013 outlook and overall office sucks. I bought it and sure sorry to pay for this garbage. All the good things from the previous versions are gone and annoying and most unfriendly user are taking over. This version stinks. MS Software designers should take note for dull software they create. Of course MS only know how to buy competitors and build on it. When they design and produce something them self it is like office and windows. Always update and stuck in the mud.

  78. Tech with B

    Good question my friend? Their business analysts is retired. Mr G..
    I can tell you based on what happening in all MS Products after he left, I am tech with 18 yrs.and deploying MS product inclding server level product Exchange ,SQL... but can say that common sense is gone with Mr. G

  79. Greg Estep

    And with any luck the market will crush Microsoft and the will go the way of SUN arrogant jerks that they are.

  80. D. McLaren

    I dug into View Settings a bit more and set up a bunch of conditional formatting. E.g. unread email is one format/color, email from my wife another, unread email another etc. Unfortunately you are still limited in color choices (the standard office color palette is not available??) nor are font sizes (you are limited to s-m-l etc. cannot specify font size by pts.) which is a real head scratcher, but at least it starts to break up the blandness into quickly recognizable, differentiated items.

  81. Nick

    Do you happen to work for the Office 2013 development team?

  82. Bob Hollon

    I went to control panel, personalization, display, calibrate color, then went through that process. I found that the default gamma level on my system was way to high to allow any real contrast in the "world of white." When I set that to much lower levels (around 50%) for each color to maintain balanced greys, my screen balance was significantly improved. Never had to do that with earlier systems or versions of Office, but at least I am not wearing sun glasses to use Office now!

  83. Bob Hollon

    Sorry - that should be "too high . . ."

  84. la2tricoteuse

    I AM 57 and A PHOTOGRAPHER ... what you say it is meaningless and more over trying to justify something IDIOT and far from the real life .
    Just a GREAT IDEA OF AN UNDERCULTURED TEAM OF GUYS who never studied how eyes and brain perception of them works + never understood ERGONOMICS
    Ezio Lucenti Senior IT Manager (formerly IBM 25 years long)

  85. tegglet

    What a relief!!
    Having just changed to Office 2013 and awarded it five chocolate teapots I did wonder if it was me being too stick in the mud but find that I am not alone. When will Microsoft learn - if it ain't broke don't fix it. Having the ribbon foisted on us is bad enough but this is down right stupid especially for old eyes belonging to someone who is mildly dyslexic.

    On the other hand maybe MS realised the ribbon is crap so are trying to hide it!

    To me the whole thing is a case of the "The Emperor's New Clothes".

    As for Windows 8, great for fat fingers but we need an alternative interface more suited to keyboard use.

  86. Andrew Paquette

    I set my monitor brightness to 20% to work with office 2013. I really hate these color choices. Now I have to constantly change the monitor settings whenever I switch to any other program, and I do a lot of color sensitive work in Photoshop. I may just throw this software away and go back to 2010 because of this UI. I should add that I have my UI set to "Dark Gray" AND my monitor is set to 20%. The dark gray option is still far too bright. Whoever picked these colors isn't human.

    AP

  87. sue robert

    Thank you - that was very helpful!

  88. Michael

    I customize the color and even make it a larger font to create a bit more contrast

  89. Sue

    Thank you, very helpful

  90. Harley

    No matter how many complaints Microsoft gets they will not comply, they already have your money, so why would they invest anymore from their pockets.

  91. Margaret

    Thanks - that was quite a bit of help! Between the fonts and colors, I was able to make it a bit easier to look at.

  92. Jerry Boyd

    The Office 2013 colors both suck and blow. At the same time. Absolutely horrendous to look at.

  93. IT Helper

    Will Microsoft ever hear our simple request to have more color appearance schemes available? Three schemes that look almost identical and are hard on the eyes is as much a good idea as six Windows Updates that were released before rigorous testing... hoping for Microsoft to learn from these examples in the future and be thorough before releasing updates or major programs like Windows OS or Office.

  94. Doug Bohrer

    I'm blue/black colorblind, so I wrote to Microsoft about the color scheme of office. They told me that I should try a high contrast theme in Windows. It works! You can get office to use most of the colors of your Windows theme, including the title bars and menus. Try it. It beat the heck out of struggling to read the options.

  95. Lisa Schouten

    I'm so disappointed in the Office 2013 "color" schemes. I'm always the last to upgrade because I think that useful features are taken away more than they are added. Once again, Microsoft has proved my worst fears correct. Maybe they can prove me incorrect and listen to the complaints instead of ignoring them.

  96. elmer fudd

    I got office 2013 cheaply through work, and only because my other half need to get used to the ribbon for her new job (We use Open Office exclusively at home)

    The FLAT, white/light grey medium grey colour scheme is complete garbage! I'm glad I only wasted 11 dollars on it. AND WHY DO THE RIBBON MENUS SHOUT AT YOU IN CAPITALS? DO THEY NOT UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS VERY VERY ANNOYING?
    Fortunately I found a hack to change the case back to standard. Anyway, it's back to Open Office for us.

  97. Jon R

    I have selected "white" as the background color in my new installation of office 365 - Word, Excel and Outlook, but the background remains grey. My wife, who also has 365 installed on her laptop is not having this issue, can anyone help me?

  98. Rubberhobo

    2013 Office backgrounds and themes are pathetic, all as boring and as lifeless as the authors

  99. Bob

    I have read this over and over.. what were the developers thinking?

    Outlook 2013 needs background and foreground color themes. I just upgraded from Outlook 2010 and looking at a white background is extremely difficult for us guys in our50's. Not everything is gray or white !

  100. danfinazzo

    I believe the reviewer is being compensated by MS to quiet all us lemings!!!

  101. LM

    I may as well hook my computer up to my old black & white TV... I can't imagine why, with the number of things that ARE customizable in the Office suite, they would force us to look at greyscale monochrome... kind of defeats the purpose of my HD monitor! Especially after seeing how colorful Windows 8 is by default!

  102. JL

    I sure hope Microsoft sees these posts and issues an update to allow more contrasting colors. I don't know what they were thinking. Sales will certainly be off for those that learn of these color schemes before purchasing. Doesn't Microsoft have a specific feedback submission page that we should all be complaining at?

  103. Nancy Hudson

    Please can you tell me how I change the artwork in the ribbon to choose something different from their selection of 14?

  104. Jerrytt

    It's a year and a half later in 2014 and nothing has been done to elevate the awful color scheme lack of choice in Office 2013. Is MS making that much profit and running away with it that it can't devote some of its spare chance to satisfying its customer base? Even the Word spinoff free program, has more taste than this later version which took one step forward and 200 steps backward.

  105. igor

    im going back to office 2010, because this design is awful... i feel like im using excel for the first time and i feel very confused because of this bland colours.

    + this, that 2013 version is crashing a lot on my pc. going back to 2010 for sure!

  106. Jim Davis

    I don't know where MS gets it's engineers from, but I don't understand how Office 2013 made it out the door... while it has some neat features, the gray color scheme gives me a headache from eyestrain... I am 62 and it very difficult to see the scrollbar in Excel, etc. because of the low (non-existent?) contrast... I've done all the recommended things to no avail, I am re-installing Office 2010 on all 3 PC's today... MS needs to address this issue and take a hard look at who their audience is...

    J. Davis

  107. Roland

    To keep this thread alive: These 'color schemes' of white, light gray and dark gray are a great joke! I hate this discouraged design decision to offer Microsoft clients a make-believe modern software. First of all in Outlook everything disappears on this endlesse white surface. Please, make an update to offer us the possibility to change the colors the way we like.

    R. Eckert.

  108. Mauro Giller

    Thanks MS I´m going to Open Office for Good Now!!!

  109. Kimberly

    "MY GOD it's F**KING awful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
    I second this.

  110. ac47puff

    Since Microsoft is already allowing high contrast colors to show from the Windows theme settings, how hard can it be to insert an option that lets any theme colors be used instead of the current hard to read choices in office. They don't have to change any other appearance features as long as they let the colors come through.

  111. Thomas Fischer

    Microsoft made a mistake with the GUI interface for Office 2013. It lacks the richness of say 2007, which I prefer more than 2013. It look like a square box on Windows 2007, not the best choice. With graphics processors constantly improving, you would think that Microsoft would move forward, not backward with Office graphics. This is like viewing something on Windows 3.0.

  112. Mark

    You can set it to any color you choose.... as long as your choice is white...

  113. Tom Pike

    I was excited that we were upgrading to Office 2013 today. After spending an hour looking for the color theme options, I knew I was just missing somewhere it so I came here for help.

    Here I was looking forward to being able to color the folders so in Favorites so I could locate special folders easily or group projects folders together. How about green flags for the things I'd like to do and red ones for the ones I have to do (and blue ones for the ones my boss wants me to do)? I have vision problems in one eye and color schemes help to provide some reference points on the screen and ease my reading. I agree with the consensus that this interface is a step backwards and instead of becoming a more productive tool it is much less so...

    Color me disappointed. :(

  114. David Wheeler

    I want my old title bar back. Outlook becomes much harder to use when they blur the title bar with the rest of window. Is there some "classic view" that can be set, or do I ask to be set back to 2010?

  115. Philip Leicester

    Wish I had not upgraded. My 50 year-old eyes need more contrast. The absence of proper title bars is really daft. I've lost email windows sitting on top of a maximised outlook client. Designers, we are not all you. Stop configuring us.

    If i went back to 2010, will documents saved in 2013 format still open?

  116. John

    For me, with a new job, it came bundled with a new machine. It works and is stable. It seems better than 2010, which I used for 20 months. But this new version just sucks to look at it, and I can't stand it anymore. Here I am working in HR, and this is giving me an attitude. WRONG.
    Changing to a High Contrast color theme bought time, but that's less than ideal too.
    There's only three weeks' worth of work on this machine, so it will be easy to transfer data into other software like OppenOffice. I'm starting tonight.

  117. Lew

    I think we learned in grade school with Crayolas, that light gray on a white background is useless. Gray on gray is even worse. That Microsoft did this suggests that their graphic artist are beyond stupid. That the design was approved by someone in management (hopefully), suggests that the only plausible reason for such a terrible design must be because someone on the Board of Directors must have a financial interest in the optical eyewear industry. I would venture to say the Outlook is probably the most used application in the world. That Microsoft has not fired everyone involved in designing Outlook 13 (maybe they did but doubtfull) and that they have apparently not taken immediate steps to make critically needed improvements shows that Mircrosoft is totally out of touch with their customers.

  118. bluecollarcritic

    @Dianne

    How is it a titan in the tech industry with decades of experience and knowledge that has already been thru several User fiascos (The Ribbon, START free Windows 8, Windows Millennium and Windows Vista) make such a monumental and easily remedied mistake like this white-washing of Outlook?
    If it were me and I was in charge I would have certainly learned after the failure of Windows Vista and the User Ribbon Revolt of 2010 that maybe, just maybe it would be a good idea to do as users ask instead of doing as we want and assuming the users will just come around to my way of thinking. In my office we are stuck with this spawn of satan known as Outlook 2013 b/c an upgrade with LYNC and Exchange requires OL 2013. For several days my eyes have been hurting and I had no idea till today it was because of OL.

    I realize that for legal reasons you have to tread carefully when speaking openly and honestly about Microsoft but certainly there has to be some level of user resistance and hate towards a new product that carries enough weight to force a decision maker at Microsoft to say “we messed up and it’s time for an update to fix this for our users”. It would be one thing is this was free but it’s not free software. Makers of free software are smart enough to realize how self-destructive it would be to make a design decision like this.

    This is just so frustrating. First Microsoft attacks user productivity with a forced change to the interface (aka the Ribbon) in which there is no way to undo this (until some crafty third party developers came along with add-ins that let you revert OL back to working without the stupid Ribbon) and now they go after us with an attack on our vision with eye strain and induced headaches. Does Microsoft despise its customer base or what?

  119. C Brownlie

    The colour schemes suck. Outlook is the worst. I normally have all my folder arranged neatly with various rules. I cannot concentrate when I use Outlook. Everything is chunky, greyscale, doesn't scale well on a laptop screen and gives me a blinding headache. I'm at the point where I just avoid using my laptop for emails unless absolutely necessary. Considering reverting to office 2010 or even 2007 so I can actually get some work done.

    This is an appalling setup. The colour schemes are not user friendly, especially for those who have mild to moderate dyslexia. Is there any update in sight that would allow more user control for the colour schemes/sizes?

    1. mcswell2001

      Maybe it's been mentioned, but the 2010 version made it hard to tell whether an Office app had focus by the color of the title bar. 2013 is even worse in this respect: afaict, it's impossible to tell. I've changed my Windows color scheme to one of the "High Contrast" schemes (designed for people with visual impairments, which I don't have) for precisely this reason--the title bar actually changes color.

      Also, the borders (frame) of the 2013 windows are tiny, maybe only one pixel. That makes them nearly impossible to grab with a mouse and drag to change the size.

      Both these things are "ease of access" problems, IMO. I can't imagine why Microsoft would make their products harder to access. My only guess is that they're really aiming for The Interface Formerly Known As Metro, where these sorts of issues don't (I gather) come up--everything being full screen or tiled. (I'm still on Windows 7, with no intention of moving to 8, so I could be wrong about these issues for Office 2013 in Win 8.)

  120. isaac newton

    @Diane...you speak with enough authority and regularity to be on the payroll from MS. Who else would spend so much time dominating the dialogue for 2 years? I recently had 2013 installed on my office laptop and asked to have it withdrawn 60 minutes later. These color schemes are adolescent in design. I will look to see if I can find someone building a class action lawsuit and just join the crowd. Enough fretting.

    1. bluecollarcritic

      The true measure of an applications sucess or failure in the area of a specific feature or function can be found in how many after-market/3rd party work-a-rounds are developed especially when they are pay-to-use and not free.

      If for example someone like MAPILabs were to take the time to create an Add-In that fixes this OL 2013 design flaw (just as so many 3rd party add-ins brought back the menu/tool bars b/c the Ribbon was so hated/despised) they certainly would not do that unless there was enough demand to warrant it.

      In the case of the Office Ribbon fiasco from Microsoft a few years back more then 1 vendor came up with pay-to-use solution to get back the menu/tool bars and nix the Ribbon in as much as was possible.

      Change is not good when its done for the sake of Change or when done to justify the cost of the price to upgrade.

  121. Bill Maccannixx

    Wow. Really. This is design? Must have just engineers and no artists or architects. Have you noticed the uptick in prices and the buying of Windows 7 and Office 2010 as people have W8 and O2013 foisted upon them. T'was a time when Office had to be better when it had serious competition. Now they just dictate... The king needs better clothes.

  122. Ed_from_NY

    Blinded by the light. Is there a way to tone down the white background? I have turned the monitor downto 60% bright but that is not a great solution.

  123. Pat

    Ok Microsoft where is your pride - you are hurting our eyes - put some color option in outlook - we all could use a little color in our eyes.

  124. Maria Tandberg Nygård

    Thank you very much! Do you by any chance know how this option can be set in VBA? I would like the Light Grey Office Theme to be the selected option when I open a workbook. Then, each time I send a document to someone, I know that my hided areas are displayed properly in grey and not white.

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