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How to Customize Office 2013 Backgrounds & Themes

How to Customize Office 2013 Backgrounds & Themes

In Office 2013, Microsoft’s latest productivity suite, the company decided to let users add a bit of “personality” to their applications with custom backgrounds and themes. They are subtle changes, to be sure, but if you’d like to change the look of Word, Outlook, or any other Office 2013 app, here’s how:
Office 2013 Backgrounds & Themes
First, open an Office 2013 application; we’ll use Word 2013 for this article. Click the “File” button in the top left corner of the window to open the File & Info page. Next, select “Options” in the blue column on the left.
Office 2013 Change Theme Background
In the General tab, look under the “Personalize your copy of Microsoft Office” section. There are two drop-down boxes at the bottom: Office Background and Office Theme. First, backgrounds.
Office 2013 Change Background
In the current shipping version of Office, there are 14 backgrounds to choose from. “Background” is a generous term, however, as these options only change a gray graphic in the upper-right portion of your Office apps.

Office Backgrounds 2013

A sample of some of the new backgrounds in Office 2013.

To change your background, select one of the items from the drop-down list and then press OK at the bottom of the “Word Options” window to enable your changes. You’ll instantly notice that the graphic in the top right banner of your window has changed.
Office 2013 Change Theme
You can further customize the look of Office with themes. To change your theme, head back to File > Options > General and this time select a drop-down option from the Office Theme box. Your three choices for theme are White, Light Gray, and Dark Gray. As before, select your theme and press OK to enable the change.
Office 2013 Themes

Office 2013 Themes (from left): White, Light Gray, Dark Gray.

Themes change the color of the menus and backdrop of the working area. Pages, email messages, and spreadsheet backgrounds are still white regardless of theme selection. While more noticeable than Office Backgrounds, the Themes are still a very subtle way to change the overall look of Office.
Microsoft’s new strategy is a strong push for a uniform user experience, resulting in few options for a user to customize the look of their Windows and Office installations. Still, if you’re looking for just a bit of flair, check out Office Backgrounds and Themes.

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30 thoughts on “How to Customize Office 2013 Backgrounds & Themes”

Amol says:
Can we add customized Office theme?
Lucas says:
“the company decided to let users add a bit of “personality” to their applications with custom backgrounds and themes.”
No they didn’t. They restricted users’ ability to add personality. “Backgrounds” couldn’t be any more pointless—a tiny splash of cartoon shapes up in the far right-hand corner. Who decided to call that a Background? And the choice of white, dark grey or one strip of colour—this is officially colorFUL—is mockingly called a theme? Who came up with this??
“Microsoft’s new strategy is a strong push for a uniform user experience, resulting in few options for a user to customize”
This is what Orwell was talking about, and he wasn’t being funny. Severely limiting customer choice becomes “a strong push for a uniform user experience.”
Lucas says:
STOP IT. You’re not allowed to say negative things. Stay chirpy, and stay positive, no matter what the reality is. Most important: you are not allowed to say that anything new is mediocre. It’s EXCELLENT, and MUCH better than anything that came before.
They’re the rules. That suit us. Comply, or get ignored/blocked/burned at the stake. But make sure you keep consuming.
Thanks for your input!
Steven Kendrick says:
There is a solution to the limited UI theme problem which I’ve been developing. It is the first ever custom UI theme add-in called S-themer that I have been developing over the last three years. It’s for Microsoft Office 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016/365 for Windows.
S-themer for Office
It hasn’t launched yet but from the website you can see how much of the UI is covered by S-themer (spoiler: it’s actually more than what is changed when you switch between the default themes). You will also find a signup form for a newsletter to stay up-to-date and a contact link for any questions.
Steven Kendrick
Creator of S-themer for Office
IDontThinkSo says:
I would like a blue ribbon bar. With the White, Light Gray and Dark gray (Office 2013), you get a bland top ribbon bar that blends in. Would like the part where you see the INSERT text to be a darker color and not light gray. In my Office 2016, I get White, Dark Gray and Colorful themes. Colorful gives me a dark blue top ribbon, so there’s a contrast and not so much white and light gray.
Is there a way to install a new theme or edit the default themes or create a new theme in Office 2013?
Sara Bevis says:
I don’t understand why Microsoft no longer allow you to change the boring and mundane default blue on Outlook 2013?? You used to be able to personalise the entire thing but now you can only change certain parts, and even those can only be changed to either White, Light Grey or Dark Grey. Terrible version!!
IDontThinkSo says:
What I don’t understand is why they are so rigid with us changing the colors. We should have free reign to change the colors on ANYTHING. There should also be a way to download new themes.
Binx Jax says:
Truly, such stark brightness with these options really makes it difficult to work for longer than a few minutes. It’s causing such a strain to everyone’s eyes. Whoever came up with these color choices should be fired. Understanding you can’t please everyone, but you certainly can give a few more choices. This is like having the office incandescent lights on the ceiling facing me and blinding me, instead of providing me with comfortable lighting. Bad call.
mike says:
just had this complete disaster shoved on my work PC, I actually get headaches and im not the only one from using it, it looks cheap and nasty and the animations are tedious! Excel is meant to do spread sheets not have fancy animations. it seems that companies like Microsoft have become that big they actually control what we have to use, especially in the work place, I use a Linux based system at home mainly with a win 7 for those darn programs that just wont make a Linux version. but we are being forced more and more to use these Microsoft products because that’s what businesses use!
Marie says:
Omg and I thought I was the only one that HATED the new look of Windows and Office 2007. This is why I have been hanging onto my old Windows XP and Microsoft 2013 for so long, but my PC has started running so slow my company bought me a new PC. I should be excited right? NOT at all. It is far from an UPGRADE. Microsoft is making everything look so Mickey Mouse and very hard on the eyes. All the white in screen just washes everything out and if you change to gray which is so dreadful. Come on Microsoft, give us the Shape clear and easy to manage look that we all pay for. We want our Office 2007 look back. I can improve the features without taking away the more professional look that makes you look like you know what your doing. I’d really like to punch the person who approved this shitty design!!!! Please feel free to copy/paste this post where ever needed to make a change. Change is only good when it works. You know the old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
FedUP says:
Yup! This “feature” SUCKS!! BIG TIME!!!
nidnuniaz gnawat says:
headache with this 2013. waste my $$$
tbh1138 says:
>customize your theme
>choose between white, white or almost-white
I don’t think MS knows what “customization” means. Or “dark gray.” I wish they had a “black” theme, but based on these themes it’d be light gray at best. Anything else wouldn’t scorch my retinas with the fury of a thousand exploding suns, and we can’t have that now, can we?
I have a dark Windows theme installed, and switching to Office from anything sanely-designed requires a pair of sunglasses, welding goggles, and at least one 8-inch layer of solid lead.
killy_sd says:
Boss made me upgrade to this for the simple reason she has it and hates it. Very difficult on the eyes and extra steps for many processes that makes no sense. When I asked why I had to change to this version, she said because she had to. Isn’t that lovely? Almost every office is chained to MC Office and they sure seem to be aware of it. I’m with the others that say we need a class action lawsuit. Only one day using it and I already have a headache from the bright white and not so very dark gray.
Steve says:
Unfortunately my network administrators don’t let me test this to see if it works, but this might be a fix??? Can anyone tell me?
Walusako says:
That is for a theme not background?
MikeBacker says:
PLEASE someone tell me there are other Theme options – WHITE, LIGHT GRAY, DARK GRAY, that is it ????
This has been a complete disaster trying to implement new Office 365 (Latest Office 2013 version) across our company. EVERYONE is complaining that they are having difficulty seeing their work effectively. Eye strain is a common complaint.
SURELY, Microsoft has a solution or there is some company out there that has an add-in we can BUY to create a pleasant UI for Office 2013.
Really, How could Microsoft screw this up so badly and not have a decent fix by now. Office 2013 was released almost 2 years ago……..
Please tell me I am missing something……
Guest says:
Unfortunately my network administrators don’t let me test this to see if it works, but this might be a fix???
My_Name_is_John says:
In looking for a way to try and ease the eyestrain I am getting, I find that MS has ignored customer complaints about the themes since the beta version in late 2012. Looks like it’s time for a class action suit from everyone subjected to this. I have actual headaches ( as in damages) I get from it
Piotr says:
I wrote a 166 sites document in one week and belive me, I have something with my eyes now. I’m wearing glasses and can work with MSVS2010 or MSO2010 for many hours without any problems. MSO2013 has gone way too far with UI. I will rollback to MSO2010 next week.
Greg Girten says:
“Microsoft’s new strategy is a strong push for a uniform user experience,
resulting in few options for a user to customize the look of their
Windows and Office installations. Still, if you’re looking for just a
bit of flair, check out Office Backgrounds and Themes.”
We are Borg…you will be assimilated…
Roman Flachs says:
Microsoft!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are a bunch of STOOGES……. I really don’t like wearing my sunglasses when using Outlook 2013
JonnGriffin says:
This is all about using the options MS has given you in 2013. That’s not customization. I loved Office 2010, but this is without a doubt the ugliest office version I’ve ever seen. For God sake the original windows operating system had more color than this. Why didn’t MS just take the very nice interface of 2010 and change the functionality behind it? The lack of color and definition and the changing of simple things that were useful astounds me.
Rex Savage says:
It’s gray world after all. Leave it to Microsoft to find a way to give the Surface tablets one more underwhelming feature with it’s Office 2013 Soviet style interface. It’s almost as if they don’t want people to enjoy their products in any way. This may explain the effort by Gates to fund school programs that stamp out identical, boring, unimaginative little consumers and worker bees.
I’m embarrassed to be a shareholder.
Trond Noren says:
Yes, I can not tell you how shocked I was seeing the Office 2013. Useless is an understatement. I just cannot uuse it, my eyes are sore and snow blind after just 2 days. Unbelievable what MS think when they do something like this.
Productivity is certainly down due to all the changes that just makes it diffficult to see.
On top of this they do changes to things that worked to things that just take longer time to do.
Before I could right click and save a document to pdf or anything…now I must go through Export and so far it seems I can only save as pdf. Why do things like that? No gain…just pain.
Yes, I will recommend we all go back to Office 2010 here in the company, this is useless.
Todd Newton says:
This ‘article’ is useless, filler bull$hart. Get off the internet.
Polly Rz says:
I need a darker color, dark gray is too light, i can;t work this way and i don’t have the option to move back to 2010, Do something
Achmed Ded Terrorist says:
Office 2013 is like staring at a small section of the side of a battleship
flat and grey
Alex G says:
the theme is really depressive and noxious, can it be any worse? look at the screen, feels like i am in the hospital, and possibly ICU. If MS just want to push everyone to Mac family, yeah, you have done it by making the 2013 like this, congratulations!
00Le_Gin00 says:
Why is it that firms like MS and Apple make changes to their products that EVERYONE hates. Apple updates for iTunes are poor, less useful than previous versions and don’t look anything like GOOD.
MS Office 2013 is THE most ugliest thing I have ever seen. Why can’t there be a decent design and colour scheme?
Tay Ruong says:
The lack of a distinct border makes it impossible to work with multiple windows open. I’ll stick with 2010 until they fix that.
usgaul12 says:
And they never fixed it pal :P
DigitalPencil says:
Isn’t there a Dark Purple theme? Can you show how this one is done??
Anything even remotely close to this would be an excellent improvement.
Many thanks.
PlacidAir says:
Why does EVERYTHING have to look like it’s a browser-based experience? And, why the flaming hell should I have to log into the internet to type a letter? This is such crap it’s not even funny. The firm I work for is talking about migrating to this… honestly, if they do, I think I’ll take a job elsewhere…. utter, utter crap.

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Jim Tanous

May 5, 2013

676 Articles Published