What you need to know about Outlook 2013

Last reviewed on December 12, 2013

Outlook 2013 iconOffice 2013 is available in several "flavors": Office 365 Home Premium, which is a subscription based product. It's $100/yr or $10/month (as of this writing) and can be installed on up to 5 computers or Apple & Android devices within your household. A subscription-based plan for business users is available, which can be installed on up to 5 computers or devices used by the subscriber. The business plan is available with or without Exchange Online email.

For those not into SaaS (Software as a Subscription), you can buy a traditional "perpetual license" for Office 2013, but the license is for one computer, not a desktop and portable as with previous versions. If you need it on a desktop and a laptop, you'll need to buy two copies. There is no upgrade pricing plan either. For more information, see Home Premium and non-subscription pricing.

Are all the "Office 365" offerings confusing? See Office 365, Office 365, and Office on Demand for more information on the naming convention.

Office 2013 is not supported on Windows XP. You need to use Windows 7 or Windows 8.

If you are upgrading from an earlier version of Outlook and are not installing the Click to Run version, you should uninstall Outlook before installing Office 2013.

If you decide to uninstall Office 2013 and are having problems, see Uninstalling Office 2013.

The majority of users will have one of the "click to run" versions, as all versions of Office 2013 available to retail customers, including the perpetual licenses, are click to run. (Only volume licenses are available as a traditional MSI.)

The click to run install lets you have two versions of Outlook installed. Officially, Office 2013 is not supported with Office 2003, however it works, but there may be issues if you switch between Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2003.

My Favorite Features Exchange 2003 Support
Features Removed

Profiles and Accounts

Outlook 2013 moves the profile key in the registry and profile created in older versions of Outlook will be migrated to the new key. Yhe Profile key was moved from the Windows Messaging Subsystem path to the Office path with all of the other preferences and options. It's now at HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Outlook\Profiles

If you were using the Outlook Connector for a Hotmail account and want to use an existing profile, you need to delete the account from your profile first then add it back as an EAS (Exchange ActiveSync) account.

Outlook 2013 uses a new compressed format for the offline data file (.ost), with the compressed version of the .ost up to 40% smaller than the .ost files used in earlier versions of Outlook. The older ost files are kept and can be opened by Outlook 2013. Administrators can use GPO to disable the creation of the compressed ost files.

Outlook 2013's EAS service works with Outlook.com (Hotmail). AutoDiscover should find the account and configure it, but if not, you will need to set it up manually. Use m.hotmail.com as the EAS server name (it will be updated in Outlook to reflect the correct server name for your account, such as blu-m.hotmail.com).

Outlook's EAS service will not work with Gmail or other web mail accounts. It only works with systems that licensed a newer version of Exchange ActiveSync. Additionally, administrators have the ability to block Outlook as an EAS client (as they can with any phone).

IMAP accounts no longer use a pst file. Like Exchange cached mode and Outlook.com, IMAP uses an ost file for the local cache. The Sent items folder is not configurable. Outlook automatically uses the server's Sent Items folder, if the server supports it, otherwise it uses the local Sent Items folder. For more information, see Configuring special IMAP folders in Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2013 and IMAP Sent folder, as well as What you need to know about IMAP accounts in Outlook 2013.

As I mentioned in My Favorite Outlook 2013 Features, you can control how much is synced from Exchange, IMAP, and EAS accounts, using the Sync Slider. If you have a small hard drive, you can keep only the next 1 to 6 months in Outlook and use search or web access when you need to view older messages. Note: EAS accounts are currently limited to either 1 month or all. Exchange and IMAP accounts have a larger range of options.


You can't change Outlook's color scheme. To paraphrase Henry Ford, you can have any color you like, as long as it's gray. You can add some decorations to the upper right corner (of all office applications). Big Deal. Outlook is still bland.

As the result of the large number of complaints in the Preview Microsoft added a light and dark gray color scheme. See Changing Office 2013's color scheme for screenshots and more information.

Good-bye orange; Outlook's application color is blue. While this means the icon looks similar to the icon used by Word and Lync, it also means that hard-to-see orange highlighting is now an easier to see blue. Overall, once you get used to looking for the blue icon, the color scheme will be perfect. If you really, really want the orange icon back, you can edit the icon pinned to the Taskbar. See Change Outlook 2013's blue icon for instructions.


Outlook 2013 includes an option to warn you if it thinks you might have forgotten to include an attachment. It can be disabled. The blank subject warning cannot be turned off.

As I mentioned in My Favorite Outlook 2013 Features, you can reply to messages in the reading pane and delete messages from the folder list.


Contact Activities are history. The Journal is still available (use Ctrl+8) but it’s a shadow of it's former self. To create new journal entries, you’ll need to use Ctrl+8,N. Anyone who is still using the Journal needs to find a new solution. Now. See Making the Journal work in Outlook 2013 if you want to continue using Journal.

Contacts are now People. Actually, they are still contacts but the Navigation shortcut is called People. You can pin your frequently used contacts to the People peek for easier access.

The contact cards that pop up when you hover over an address are a little more useful. If one or more contacts exist for a person, the contact card will link to all of the contacts. For example, my contact card links to Facebook & LinkedIn profiles, and a contact. You can also edit a contact from the contact card.

More information on People and the People Hub (aka the new People view) is at Understanding Outlook's new Contact Cards.

The Social connector lets you choose which social account should be default, falling back to the other social services when information (such as contact photos) is not available for the preferred account. If you want LinkedIn photos instead of Facebook, this setting will make you happy.


You can display the weather in the calendar module. It’s cute and useful if you use the calendar module a lot, but if you use Calendar peek, you won’t see the forecast temperatures and icons. Hover over the icons to see more details or click a link to see more weather online. You can add several locations and switch between them as needed.

The Holidays list includes dates through 2022 for movable holidays, 2031 for some holidays on fixed dates. It remains to be seen if any dates are wrong. It wouldn't be Outlook if the new HOL list didn't have at least one error.

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.

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