If You Use Office 2013, It’s Time to Move

April 2023 Ends Security Updates for Office 2013

Message center notification MC357842 (April 12) highlights the fact that it’s time for those who continue using Office 2013 to move to something more modern. This isn’t the first news on this topic as Microsoft told people that it’s coming a couple of times previously. On April 11, 2023, extended support for Office 2013 ceases, which means that Microsoft will no longer provide security updates for Office 2013.

Losing security updates doesn’t mean that software stops working. Take Outlook 2013 for example. If upgraded to version 15.0.4971.1000 (Service Pack 1 with the October 2017 update), Microsoft won’t block connections to Exchange Online (for now), with Microsoft’s caveat that “after October 13, 2020, ongoing investments to our cloud services will not take into account older Office clients.” In other words, for the last 18 months, Microsoft has ignored Office 2013 when designing new features for Microsoft 365.

Embrace Modern Authentication

Modern authentication is another issue. Office 2013 supports modern authentication, but the capability must be enabled. It’s likely that some Outlook 2013 clients still connect to Exchange Online using basic authentication. Given Microsoft’s avowed goal of phasing out basic authentication for email connectivity protocols in October 2022, change is coming for these clients soon. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to move to a more supportable Office version as soon as possible.

Office Upgrade Options

MC357842 lists the options:

Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise used to be called Office click-to-run or Office ProPlus before Microsoft brought it into the Microsoft 365 brand. Essentially, these are desktop versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint paid for on a subscription model. Products like Office 365 E3 and E5 include the right to use these apps.

Office 2016 and Office 2019 are perpetual versions. In other words, you make a one-time payment for the right to use the software. This is very much the traditional approach.

When I’m asked to recommend an Office version, I invariably select Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise. This isn’t always possible for some organizations, but if you can handle the changes which Microsoft introduce regularly, it’s the best option for people working in a Microsoft 365 tenant.

Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise the Best Choice

The reason is simple: Microsoft 365 apps for enterprise exploit the functionality available in Microsoft 365 in a way that the perpetual versions do not. Features like sensitivity labels don’t work with Office 2016 or Office 2019. Innovations like Loop components (available for Teams chat and due to be available in OWA and the Office desktop apps) are likely to be restricted to the subscription version.

If you use Teams, you need Outlook click to run to use the Teams integration features like Send to Teams (actionable messages won’t work either). The AutoSave feature in Word (Figure 1), Excel, and PowerPoint is something I depend on heavily as all my work is in SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business. Using a version of Office that couldn’t save as smoothly as AutoSave can would be difficult after coming to depend on it.

Word click-to-run supports sensitivity labels and autosave

Office 2013 migration
Figure 1: Word click-to-run supports sensitivity labels and autosave

Given that Microsoft produces more than 300 updates for Microsoft 365 annually, the gap between the subscription and perpetual versions of Office is likely to continue to grow. This is both a benefit and a problem. The benefit comes from access to new features over time; the problem is keeping up to date with constant change, something that not every user is comfortable with.

Constant Change in Microsoft 365

People often advance the change problem as justification for not upgrading. Although this might have been true in the past, it’s unlikely to be the same for anyone who works with Microsoft 365. For example, Teams updates its desktop client automatically and new features show up all the time. The same is true for apps like Yammer, Planner, OWA, and OneDrive for Business. Change happens all the time. It’s part of working with Microsoft 365. With that thought in mind, why would you want to stay working with Office 2013? Just asking.

So much change, all the time. It’s a challenge to stay abreast of all the updates Microsoft makes across Office 365. Subscribe to the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook to receive monthly insights into what happens, why it happens, and what new features and capabilities mean for your tenant.

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