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How To Change the Office 2013 Color Theme

Customize the color scheme of Office 2013Changing the Color Theme in Office 2013 including Outlook 2013 and Word/Excel was not possible until the final RTM release which is not available on Technet and Volume Licenses sites at Microsoft. This has been a very sore subject with the Office 2013 Preview as the default White theme has been quite painful on the eyes. So changing the colors was actually the first thing I checked on after installing the RTM and I’m excited to announce it IS possible and here’s how to do it.

Again – This only works with Office 2013 RTM “Release to Manufacturer”. You cannot change the theme colors in the Preview.

Launch Outlook 2013 (or Word or Excel…) and Click File, Options

office 2013 change color theme - click Fileoffice 2013 change color theme - click options

On the General Tab, click the down arrow under Office Theme to choose a new Office Color. White, Light Gray and Dark Gray are the available options.

office 2013 change color theme - click color

Once you choose a new Color Theme, it will take affect in all Office apps including Outlook 2013, Word 2013, Excel 2013 etc… Here’s a few screenshots of the new look.

Click to enlarge:

office 2013 change color theme - white theme office 2013 change color theme - light gray themeoffice 2013 change color theme - dark gray theme

Personally, my favorite is the Light Gray however I was also getting quite used to the White Color Theme also. Microsoft is obviously trying to maintain a specific look here being that the colors are fairly limited vs. Office 2010.

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42 Responses to How To Change the Office 2013 Color Theme

  1. Austin Krause November 10, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    Thank goodness, the default white is terrible! The light grey is much better, but I prefer the dark grey myself.

    • Steve Krause November 10, 2012 at 11:39 am #

      Agreed. Funny they left this out of the preview. Glad it’s back.

      Btw — dark gray??? Yuck!!! :)

  2. Sjan November 13, 2012 at 6:18 am #

    Where do you get the RTM? I have Preview

  3. Funbit November 19, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    Thanks, you made my day

  4. Tommy P. Orndorf III January 29, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

    Theme choices are a complete joke, white, grey, dark grey. Really? Horrible. Im using it in dark grey mode mainly because I must, my clients will be using this soon so I have to know the in’s and out’s but i really hope Msoft gives more color options, this is awful…

  5. VitaminRuckus March 4, 2013 at 6:34 am #

    Wow! Three options (which is still a 200% improvement over the original)is pretty disappointing. If we were still using Comodore 64′s this would be acceptable. LIke Tommy, I’m going to have to roll this out to my client base. I wish Microsoft would simply realize, when they make these kinds of changes, the IT Support staffs get blamed for their decisions.

    Kudos to the GroovyPost team for this fix.

  6. Anon March 4, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    White, Grey Dark Grey, its still to white

    Include the option for any color the customer can use for Office themes.

  7. TuffGuy March 12, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    Yeah this colour thing is total rubbish. As too is the whole flat 2 dimensional retro monocolour look of both office 2013 and windows 8. I know I said goodbye to this crap back in the mid nineties when windows 3.1.1 disappeared. Did not like it then and don’t like it now. And to put up this rubbish AND remove all customising choices just sucks. No, white, light and dark grey are not choices, even when it is only a small part of the screen area.

  8. Wilma The Fierce March 17, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    Wow. I agree. Three options. At least it’s better than the black/white color choices for cars in the olden days. Come on, I am very visually oriented and I like soothing backgrounds. I want the colors options back.

  9. Wilma The Fierce March 17, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    BTW, thanks for posting the path to make the change. You are not the one making the color choices so my distain is not for you ;-) I found another post which takes you through FILE –> Office Account…. either works.

  10. Sean S April 17, 2013 at 3:53 am #

    Wow, they gave us the option of white, mostly white and slightly less white.

    Nevertheless, thanks for posting.

  11. TuffGuy April 17, 2013 at 5:36 am #

    In addition to my previous comment I am also colourblind (red/green they say) and I find the all-white look very straining on the eyes. Something Microsoft in their wisdom have given zero thought about. Personally I have found a light green (to me anyway) causes less strain and is much easier to look at for long periods.
    Since I am also seriously avoiding that other piece of crap software they call Windows 8 does anyone know if this has also become a Windows issue too?

    • Steve Krause April 17, 2013 at 7:36 am #

      Windows 8 actually gives you more options so no, however the new “color” standards are set throughout Office 2013 including LYNC.

      They need to give back the options from 2010 I think.

      • Chuck May 1, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

        I’m really curious how Msoft can make such poor choices – shades of white? The color theme for Office 2010 were real good. This is just flat and totally unattractive. So bad that I’ll go back to Office 2010.

        Thank you for your comments here. The dark grey works better, but still crummy.

  12. Steve F May 6, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    What’s the problem, they’ve done away with 3d, removed colours, and made a new UI that doesn’t have windows, removed visible borders from popup windows, made text dark white on white, taken away configuration options, removed menus, forced us to use the shell to do anything useful.

    So finally we don’t have to worry about anti-trust as any version of any OS is going to be competitive by comparison. My 16yo daughter blew away Windows 8 and loaded Ubuntu last weekend.

    Crazy…

  13. Confucious May 20, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    Confucious says: “Mother nature gives is the wind and changing of the seasons which acts to cleanse the trees and foliage of the year, removing the colors of fall, and allowing the plants and animals to sleep for the winter. In the spring, the plants regain their color and the animals awake with a new”
    Roughly translated: “This new version blows, the lack of color is mind-numbingly boring, severely reduces my productivity, and… I’m going back to 2010!”

  14. Safety Don May 27, 2013 at 1:43 am #

    All,

    Like always Microsoft has SCREWED UP again BIG TIME. Why can’t Microsoft just leave things alone? Please will someone tell them to STOP! (FYI: If it’s not broke don’t fix it). I use Microsoft 2010 at the office, in fact our entire network world wide does. Ok, so I come home and install MS-Office 365 2013 –Hello! It SUCKS just like windows 8 sucks. Windows XP was the Cadillac of all programs until Windows 7 came out. Windows 7 was nice and pretty cool.

    This weekend past, I bought a new PC and MS-Office 365. MISTAKE on two counts. Microsoft Office offers only three color choices, Crappy white, Dull Gray or Drk gray. In the “To-Do-Bar” it no longer gives you all of your appointments, it Only shows appointments for today, not even tomorrows will show up. 100% USELESS to me. As if this is not enough to tick you off, even the setup is all wrong, if you insert a photo directly into your email test …Sorry –Microsoft has removed Sharpen.

    There is not enough space here for me to continue with my warnings and issues about this program, it looks and feels cheap !!! It’s not professional at all like MS-Office 2007 or 2010. I’m going back like many of you here have stated. More money out of pocket but so be it to get what I want. Now if I could just downgrade form Windows 8 back to 7 this easy.

    • Jan March 24, 2014 at 11:27 pm #

      I couldn’t agree more. Why “fix’ things people are used to and happy with? Would it have hurt them to allow more color choices? White, grey, and darker grey are soul-numbing to me, and for my husband, whose eyesight is very poor, scrolling is painful, even with the dark grey scheme.

      Allow me to yell a bit here, in the hopes that someone from Microsoft will notice it:
      ARE ALL YOU YOUNG GUYS WORKING AT MS NOT AWARE THAT SOME PEOPLE HAVE TROUBLE WITH THEIR VISION–NOT JUST OLD PEOPLE, WHO OBVIOUSLY DO NOT MATTER TO YOU–BUT YOUNG PEOPLE LIKE YOU YOURSELVES? WHITE AND EVEN 2 SHADES OF GREY DO NOT CUT IT!

      AND, as you point out, Word 2013 looks and feels cheap. It’s as if MS were trying to make us think they have improved things, when they actually have put very little work into it. We are translators and have to have two computers for our work. I never dreamed that Microsoft would have made the new version of Word this awful. There should be warnings on the package! Unfortunately, we can’t afford to take the obvious solution and buy another copy of Word 2010 so that we would both have the same version.

      I also fail to see what advantage there is in making the scroll bars practically invisible until you hover over them. It is tiring to have your work surrounded by a barren plain of white with a few pale thin lines of black that you can hardly see!

      As it is now, we hate Word 2013. The only thing I have found to like about it is the fact that in Track Changes mode, you can click on the lines to the left to toggle between showing markup or not. That sure beats having to go to “Show Markup” and then clicking “Insertions and Deletions” over and over, when we are editing something.

      - from another Windows 8 hater

      (We even bought a new PC last month with Win 7 on it to replace my husband’s old one running XP.) Unlike Word 2013, there’s plenty of color in Win 8, but not the colors I like, and I would miss being able to set the desktop background as a slide show of my favorite photos. The tiles and colors are, of course, not all that I dislike about it, and we intend to hang onto Win 7 until Windows 9 comes out or longer. In case Win 9 is too much like Win 8, I am already looking into switching to some form of Linux, even if it means losing some of our favorite old programs. May experiment with Ubuntu on an old PC we have kicking around…)

  15. Paulo RDF July 9, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    Que porcaria, Branco, Preto e Cinza ! Que funéreo, será que não há nada melhor ???
    Alguma coisa no Office 15 também não agradaram. A MS parece que anda para trás !

  16. tahrey July 9, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    I think it leaves us with one question to present to the company:

    Why does your latest software feel less powerful, less flexible, less sophisticated, harder to use, and leave me as a user feeling less empowered than Word 6 et al did on a crummy old 386SX (then 486SX, then DX2) twenty-ish years ago? Two decades is a long time to have been making essentially the same set of programs (WP, SS, DB, DTP, Email and various project planners and also-ran graphics packages) with minor changes to their actual core usefulness, and – since the latter third of that period – gradually more ruinous changes to the UI.

    Are you so mired in a rut of inability to actually improve its workplace usefulness vs the days of Windows 3.1, and therefore feel so threatened in your ability to continue shifting units and continue as a business (as people find they have no “real” reason to upgrade once they’ve bought a copy) that your only weapons are to regularly change the document formats to ones that become gradually less compatible with older versions of the program, to mess about with the interface (uglifying it and stealing away familiar structures, powerful if deeply-nested commands, and acres of ever-more-precious vertical on-screen real estate in the dubious name of “streamlining” even though the result seems the exact opposite, making the UI clunky and “in your face”), and to gradually transition over to a subscription and cloud based (and therefore ultimately very friable) infrastructure to keep the money rolling in?

    I still have a 486SX in my lounge, for retro gaming. It has Word 6 on its hard disk, and Win3.1… with a bit of coaxing, it will do 1024×768 mode in 16 colours, with some side borders, through my 1366×768 TV. For all practical intents and purposes, this makes it at least – if not more – usable for the actual business of word processing documents than an otherwise bleeding-edge laptop with a WXGA screen. It’s got more usable vertical pixels. Horizontally, it doesn’t have subpixel rendering, but that’s not SO massive a loss. The 8.3 filenames can be a pain, as can be converting the files back and forth, but, hey, we’ll always have RTF, right? And Wordpad still groks .DOC quite nicely, even if the kerning goes a bit strange.

    Just gotta figure out how to hook up a wireless keyboard to it and we can let the good times roll.

    And get this – I can still set the colour scheme to WHATEVER I DAMN WELL PLEASE. Win 3.1, in 16 colours, still had a bunch of perfectly good High Contrast choices (AND a Large Fonts option with most video drivers), plus some more subtle ones that were quite pleasing to the 20/20 trichromat (and of course, the option to make your own), and all of the programs followed it, rather than being allowed to carve their own crazy path like Office (despite it coming from the same company!), Chrome, Quicktime et al.

    • Alix July 9, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

      What we have here is the result of a monopoly in the PC software business. Just imagine what we’d have, and the cost, if Apple were not around. I know, I know, Google and Oracle offer “office” products, but they are not the same.

      When we had competition in the 1990s from dBase, Harvard Graphics, Word Perfect, Lotus 1-2-3, Lotus Symphony, ect, Microsoft had reason to strive to be better – it’s called free market competition. Now, not so much.

      Now it looks like “Mister Softee” is trying to look more and more like Apple.

      • tahrey July 25, 2013 at 3:35 am #

        Pretty much, yeah … and I can’t say I’m particularly enamoured of the OSX interface or concept. Moving from MacOS-aping GEM to Win95 (by way of 3.1) was one part familiar, one part much improved. The permanent menu bar across the top belongs to the single-tasking days. The window elements themselves are horrendously naff and unintuitive. No proper full-screening. The less said about the keyboard shortcuts and drive access structure the better. No real touch control unless you’re using an iOS device. Etc. Microsoft could do well to work in exactly the OPPOSITE direction to Mac, keep carving their own niche for those who appreciate the more practical-focussed way their products work (or at least, used to). I don’t want my computer to be a toy, I need to it to be a useful tool. Apple themselves recognised this – hence the old adverts with the businessman and the slacker… they didn’t try to copy MS, so why are MS trying to copy them?

        I am also seriously considering a jump to Open Office, if MSO’13 is as horrid as the previews seem and we end up getting forced to upgrade at work…

        Also, what’s it like for bulleting, paragraph spacing etc? Does it still do all sorts of annoying automatic formatting stuff, generally getting it 100% wrong (as in not just a slight misinterpretation, but the polar opposite to what you actually wanted to do, and would have done quite easily in a previous generation, and now have to waste time trying to fix the terrible-looking mess it’s forced upon you, turning the work of a 2-decades-experienced MSO typist into something that looks like it was made by a 6-year-old) ?? … and for the love of God have they worked out how to make Page Breaks work properly yet?! I mean, it’s only been maybe ten years since they started going wrong, I know that’s not a lot of time to fix a small but very troublesome piece of misbehaviour that can seriously wreck the pagination and formatting of an important document…

  17. Paulo RDF July 10, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    Its all bad color ( ligth gray and dark gray are colors ??? ).
    Life is gray, life is color !!!

  18. Paulo RDF July 10, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    Its all bad color ( ligth gray and dark gray are colors ??? ).
    Life is gray ???, life is color !!!

  19. ksenija gburcik August 5, 2013 at 1:54 am #

    Why don´t you add red colour??? I need to correct a text and to write everything in red. Got sick of having to click the A button every 10 seconds – as soon as start a new line. :( Thx, anyway.

  20. Chris August 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    Only managed to glance at the intense white background in word before I felt the need to squint, my eyes and the eyes of many people thank you sincerely, long live dark gray!

  21. Scott Weible August 20, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    MicroSoft has, once again, proven that it is the World’s Best at screwing their ‘loyal’ customers.

    Whomever was the unmitigated idiot who approved these limited, nearly impossible to read, color schemes should be fired, and never allowed to work again.

    Idiots. Idiots. Idiots

  22. Frank September 22, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    Wow, this really sucks if this is the best they are willing to offer.

    I will switch to open office!

  23. rcj October 5, 2013 at 7:14 am #

    I wanted the change the background of the TYPING AREA on Word 2013. I’m a transcriptionist, and looking at that glaring, white screen all day is murder on the eyes. Even in the “old days” I could change Word’s background screen color.

    Word sucks anyway. Always had. Much preferred WordPerfect in my law office days.

  24. Graham November 6, 2013 at 2:58 am #

    Got Office 2013 for £7 on Microsoft’s HUP. My God, it’s like all the colour has been sucked out of my life. I may as well have paid someone £7 to depress me for a thrill. It’s grey and raining outside, now it’s grey and more grey on my monitor. Or blinding white. Or maybe you’d prefer the kindly provided alternative option of searing white with a touch of leaden sky. All nicely set off with SCREAMING MENU OPTIONS. All a bit schizophrenic because the Soviet brutalist design is strangely complemented by stupid bunny rabbit cursor animations which make you want to kill yourself after a few minutes. I loaded up Office 2010/2007 instead. It’s lovely and welcoming in comparison and makes me want to actually stay in there and do productive work as opposed to reaching for the painkillers.

  25. Anonymas January 2, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

    Not ‘white’, ‘light gray’ or ‘dark gray’, more like ‘white’, ‘a little greyish’, and ‘a little more gray than the other one’. Thanks for trying Microsoft.

  26. Lizavetta February 3, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

    Boring topic … I want something brighter .. blue, pink, green … where it all go???

  27. Catherine February 13, 2014 at 6:42 am #

    I dutifully read all comments above and agree with every one of them. Frustrations to the 10th degree. Does Microsoft pay any attention to these comments? The only solution is to boycott Microsoft. Change will come only if the company feels the pinch.

  28. Turk April 16, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    How bright the dark grey is …. Hahaha … It Sucks !

  29. Ben Turpin May 2, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

    I can’t believe people are calling the grey-scale theme in Office a color. There is no color. The cost of grey and color are equal in hydro cost. But unequal to productivity and strain. I will return to the older Office.

    • Steve Krause May 3, 2014 at 8:35 am #

      I agree. The colors are very very bad…. Microsoft needs to give us more options.

  30. Sassy Lou May 27, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

    F U C K Microshit. The DARK gray isn’t even beyond the 50% mark. Where is BLACK????

    AND what is with the FLAT look??? It’s called SHADING..it creates DEPTH. I want buttons to look like friggin buttons!!!

  31. Mete Tek June 26, 2014 at 9:55 pm #

    I have got the solution: Uninstalled Office 2013, reinstalled 2010. There is no obvious functionality gap between them. And my eyes are in peace now.

    Congratulations Microsoft.

  32. Justin June 27, 2014 at 9:08 pm #

    I have an old injury to one of my eyes where the pupil stays dilated by an extra 1mm, so I need to set many of my backgrounds to black. Now I have to use Office 2013 in my corporate environment. I guess I’ll need to work with the ergonomics/IT folks to set me up with a private copy of 2013. This is very frustrating for me.

  33. Justin June 27, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

    … I mean a private copy of 2010

  34. Pat September 25, 2014 at 11:37 pm #

    I am now using Win 7 and 8 on different machines with Office, and I often have many windows open. Inactive windows have a bland grey border, and I am constantly selecting the wrong window because they all look the same. Switching to a darker grey for Office helps, but honestly I would prefer borders be fully customizable for each program, including different shades or even colours when they are not in the foreground.

    I also work with Intuit QuickBooks, and they even allow different border colours for different data files – very handy when you are juggling more than one file for the same program!

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