Office 2013 has an online app store containing lots of useful add-ons and tools. Learn how to access them.

In the last five years or so, we've all become familiar with apps. There are apps for mobile phones, tablets and even Windows if you have the latest version installed on your PC. An app is a mini application, and although they generally aren't as powerful or packed with as many features as desktop software, they can provide useful functions and features, and even entertainment too. It is not surprising that apps are as popular as they are, given that many are free and often they're really useful or simply good fun.

Microsoft Office is the latest platform to get in on the popularity of apps. They come in many different forms, and they're basically like add-ons or extensions that work within some framework, and in this case it's the Office applications Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Project and SharePoint. Many apps are specific to one application, but a few are shared, such as a dictionary.

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You probably wouldn't have imagined that Office was a platform for apps, but if you have the latest version, then buried within its ribbon toolbar is a function to access an online app store. You can browse the apps get more information on ones that might interest you, download and install the apps you want, and run them within Microsoft Office applications.

Adding apps to Office is easier than you might think, and many of them are free of charge. Not all are free, but the prices for paid ones are generally quite low, as is common for apps on other platforms. Let's take a look at how to install and use apps for Office.

The Apps for Office Store

If you haven't used Office apps before, you might be wondering where to get them from and, as mentioned earlier, there's an online store. One way to browse the store is by going to the Office website using a browser. Go to http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/store/ , and the front page displays a small selection of featured apps. Using the menu at the top or the links at the bottom of the page, you can go to each Office application's home page, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and so on.

Word is a word processor, designed for handling text, so an app that runs in Word is very different to one that runs in Excel, which is a number-crunching spreadsheet application. This is why there are separate sections in the Office Store for each application.

Although you can use a web browser to access the store, you can also do it from within each application. Start Word 2013, for example, and select the Insert tab in the ribbon bar. If the Word window is sufficiently wide, there's a Store button in the Apps section. If the window isn't wide enough to fit all the ribbon icons on, click the Apps button and then Store from the menu that appears below.

It's the same procedure with the other Office applications: you go to the Apps section of the Insert tab of the ribbon bar and click the Store icon. This displays a pop-up window that shows the Editor's Picks. All app stores have featured or recommended apps. and Apps for Office is no exception. There's also a More Apps link too. This opens a web browser window to show the relevant store section.

If an app in the store is free, there’s a simple Add link to add it to the relevant Office application. If it's a paid app. though, there’s a Try link so you can try it before buying it. Clicking the app icon in the store opens an information page that displays a description, a rating from people that have used it, privacy/ security information and a button to install it.

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This button doesn't have Install or Download on it; it has Trust It instead, and you will see a notice that the app can read and make changes to your documents and can send information over the internet. Should you be worried by this? It's unlikely that there would be a malicious app in the store, but security and privacy is certainly something you should think about. It's hard to see how many apps could work if they cannot access your documents, though, and frequently they require Internet access too, as we will see when we look at a few apps. If you're concerned, there's a developer's link, and clicking this displays information about them. Bad developers can be reported using the Report a Violation link, app scores show what other users think of each app, and there are links to the developers' websites so you can check them out.

As you add apps to Office applications like Word and Excel, they're added to the ribbon bar. Go to the Insert tab, the Apps section, and click the My Apps button to display a popup window that lists all the apps that are available in that application, or click the down arrow to see recently used apps. If you have Office installed on more than one PC, the apps you install on one are synced to the others and are automatically added. This is a useful feature that saves you having to individually configure each PC. Install an app once and it's made available everywhere.

Use an Office App

The way that apps are accessed depends on the Office application and the nature of the app. Some apps can be accessed by right-clicking the mouse in a document or on an object. For example, there's a Bing Dictionary app, which enables you to right-click a word in a Word document and select Define to see a dictionary definition.

Apps can add icons to the Apps section of the ribbon bar on the Insert tab, and you might be able to start an app by clicking the icon. If the icon is grey, though, it means that it cannot be accessed for some reason. This might be because it does not apply to the current situation, or it could be because you need to select something first. An app in Excel, for example, typically works with the data in cells. You might therefore need to select a range of cells before an app's icon can be clicked in the ribbon bar. This is sometimes the case with Excel apps that display charts or perform some sort of analysis on cells.

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Yet another way to access certain types of app is by creating a new document and selecting the template the app has installed. The PayPal Invoicing app for Excel works this way, and creating a new spreadsheet and selecting the PayPal template opens a new sheet with the app activated. An Outlook app might only be accessible when an email message is displayed. The Bing Maps app, for example, is activated if an email contains a postal address.

Not having a standard way of accessing an app can be a bit confusing at first, but if you cannot find an app or access it after installing it, it may help to think about what function the app performs. Does it work with data? Is the right data selected? And so on.


Add a Dictionary

There was a time when Microsoft Word came with a built-in dictionary but things are different now. There isn't a dictionary, and the first time you try to access it by right-clicking a word and selecting Define, you're taken to the Office Store so that you can choose a dictionary app. In the store are several and you can choose the one you prefer.

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Bing Dictionary is an obvious choice and after adding it to Word, you can right-click a word in a document and select Define on the menu that is displayed. This opens an app panel on the right to display the dictionary definition. Click the See More link and a lot more information is displayed. You can hear the word spoken out loud; a thesaurus provides synonyms which are all links to more dictionary definitions; and there is a collection of sample sentences and phrases in which the word is used.

The dictionary information provided by the app is actually superior to that displayed in previous versions of Word that had the dictionary built in. It might seem like you're getting less with no dictionary but once you've added an app, you actually get more than you used to. It is an essential app to add to Word.

Send Invoices
PayPal invoicing is a very useful app for anyone that accepts payments through their PayPal account. It can be used by small businesses, sole traders and home users to generate invoices for products they've sold or services provided. This extension is designed for Excel, and it's added to the spreadsheet application in the usual way through the store.

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After installing it, you might be a little confused because accessing it on the Insert tab in the ribbon bar doesn't get you very far. It's an Excel template and it's accessed by clicking File> New and then selecting it in the template gallery. This creates a new invoice that you can simply edit. It's more than just a simple invoice template, though, and on the left side of the window is a PayPal Invoicing app panel. This is used to log into your PayPal account, and then you can use the management features. There are four tabs: invoices, drafts, unpaid and paid invoices.

Clicking the New Invoice button automatically adds your email address to the invoice template, sets the invoice number (it auto-increments), sets the currency to pounds and adds today's date. All you then need to do is to enter your business name, the recipients email and invoice due date. There's a dummy entry that you overwrite with the product or service being invoiced for, and you can add extra lines for however many items you need. Shipping and discounts are optional, and the grand total is automatically calculated. You just need to click the Send Invoice button when you're done.

PayPal invoicing does not require an email program or require you to mess around with creating an email, attaching a saved invoice file and so on. Just click Send Invoice from within Excel, and the app does it for you. It is a handy time saver and you'll see in the app panel when the invoice has been paid. It's free to use.

Quote From Wikipedia

The free Wikipedia app works with Word and other apps but is clearly more use in Word. When you're writing a report or document of some kind and need some information, you can easily add it from Wikipedia.

Of course, you can do this by having a web browser window open at the same time, but it's easier and quicker with the Wikipedia app for Word. Install it from the store, then open the Wikipedia app panel by going to the Insert tab on the ribbon and clicking the W icon in the Apps section. There's a search box at the top of the app panel, which is used to look up encyclopedia entries just as you would at the website.

The advantage of the app is that it's very easy to copy text and images from the Wikipedia entries. Select an image, for example, and a plus button appears next to it. Click it, and the image is inserted into the Word document at the cursor point. A nice feature is the photo credit that is automatically added to the photo and the hyperlink back to the website. Text is the same, and you can select any word, phrase or paragraph in the Wikipedia panel.

A plus button appears, which inserts the selected text into the document at the cursor position. Quotes are automatically placed around it, and a credit and hyperlink are added too.The Wikipedia app isn't for ripping off huge chunks of text and lots images of course, but it is a great time saver when you need to add the odd quote or illustration to your documents and reports.

Picture Data with People
People Graph is a free app for Excel built by Microsoft, which can be used to visualize the data in a spreadsheet. It's basically a customized chart with limited capabilities, but its simplicity is actually an advantage, and with the right data it looks superb. After installing it, go to the Apps section of the Insert tab in the ribbon and click the People Graph icon. This inserts a chart with default settings and dummy data.

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You can then customize it. Click the data icon and a panel opens that enables you to enter the title of the chart. There's also a button to select the data for the chart. Click it, move the chart out of the way by clicking and dragging it if it covers the cells you need, and select the rows and columns. It requires two columns one with labels and the other with values. Click the Create button, and the people chart is displayed.

It's basically a horizontal bar chart with people icons making up the bars so this is best where the data represents people in some way, such as the number of people buying certain products or services, the number of people visiting an attraction on each day of the week and so on. Click the settings button and it can be customized to show many other types of data.

In addition to people icons there's a selection of other shapes like boxes, computers diamonds, money bags, clothes, clocks and so on. There are several different themes to choose from, which these change the foreground and background colors and there are three different chart types. The customization options enable a wide range of data types to be displayed, and the display it creates is a lot more interesting than plain bar charts.

Map Your Data
Bing Maps is another great free app from Microsoft designed to show numeric data on maps. It needs a table of cells with one column containing locations and one or more columns containing data. For example the spreadsheet might contain sales data for different areas of the country, population figures for different cities and similar geographic information. Select the cells of the table and click the icon in the ribbon to insert a map of the world in the current spreadsheet.

There are several icons in a toolbar at the top of the map, and clicking the first shows the locations on the map. Small pie charts are drawn at the locations to indicate the values, such as sales. Clicking a pie chart shows the numbers in a pop-up information panel. You will probably need to zoom into the map before you can see the data properly, and double-clicking or spinning the mouse wheel magnifies the view. UK cities can sometimes be confused with US ones where the name is the same, so you might need to make a slight change to the source data. Use 'Manchester, UK' instead of just Manchester for instance, because there's a Manchester in the US.

There's a filter button, which can be used to select the regions or cities to show on the map. You might want to filter the data if there are lots of locations, and you can just show the ones you want by ticking them on the filter list. The settings button enables you to choose between a road map and a satellite view, whether to draw the data as circles or pie charts, and to select the colors for the pie pieces.

Create Word Clouds
Pro Word Cloud is a free app that creates fascinating images from your Word documents. The images are word clouds and they show the most common and frequently used words. It's an unusual way to visualize the content of a document. You might have seen similar things on websites where they have a tag cloud that shows the tags that are linked to web page content, and the bigger the font for a word, the more articles are tagged with it.

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Pro Word Cloud is similar. A tag cloud is created by selecting part or all of the document. Then go to Apps on the Insert tab in the ribbon click My Apps and click Pro Word Cloud. There are several options: you can choose the font to use (about a dozen are on offer) and the colour scheme. There are several different layout options such as Mostly Horizontal. Mostly Vertical, Higgledy Piggledy and others. The word case can be selected and the maximum number of words to include in the word cloud.

The result is an image, and the size can be set and the image saved to disk afterwards. It could be used for illustration purposes, an advert and so on. It's a really good app, but you should use it sparingly and certainly not with every document you write.