30 apps that improve Microsoft Office 2013

Want to improve your Microsoft Office experience? These 30 apps, most of them free, extend the capabilities of your core Office 2013 and Office 365 applications.

30 Apps That Improve Microsoft Office 2013

Microsoft's Office Store has a number of apps (what we used to call add-ins) for the new Office productivity suite. These apps work in all Office 2013 and Office 365 versions, such as Home Premium and Small Business Premium, regardless of how you purchased the software. Here's a roundup of 30 Office add-in apps for the new Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint 2013 to get you started.

Related: Microsoft Office 2013: Best New Features for the Enterprise

Based in Nova Scotia, Vangie Beal has been covering small business, electronic commerce and Internet technology for more than a decade. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Bing Image Search

Bing Image Search for Word 2013

The free Bing Image Search app (from Microsoft) adds a task pane so you can search for images on the Web within your Word document. You can filter images based on size, color, type, layout and people. Results are displayed in an easy-to-read grid, and individual images can be added to your favorites.

News: Bing Weaves More Facebook, Twitter Data Into Search Results

OmniPage File Converter

OmniPage File Converter for Word 2013

The free OmniPage File Converter (by Nuance Communications) extracts text from optical images or PDF files and places it into a Word document. You can import text as formatted or as plain text. The app recognizes text in six different languages.

TagCloudGenerator

TagCloudGenerator for Word 2013

Get a quick an easy overview of your Word document by generating a tag cloud of text in any document. TagCloudGenerator (by AtWork Information Technology) lets you specify settings such as the maximum number of tags and size of the tags. Simply click the generate button and the tag cloud appears. TagCloudGenerator is $1.49; a free trial is offered.

TaskIt

TaskIt for Word 2013

TaskIt (by MAQ LLC) helps you track project schedules and Post-It notes in Word. You can add new tasks and retain states after Word is closed. This free app lets you work without saving lists after every little change—the app recovers everything upon opening.

Docstoc Premium

Docstoc Premium for Word 2013

Need to create a business plan or put together a nondisclosure agreement in a hurry? Docstoc Premium (from Docstoc) provides Word users with professional templates for custom attorney forms and specialty forms for business, legal, tax real estate and many other categories. Docstoc Premium is free; monthly subscription plans provide access to premium content, customized contracts and more.

eFax App

eFax App for Word 2013

J2 Global Communications' eFax lets you send fax documents without leaving Microsoft Word. You can also send and receive faxes by email. A free eFax account is good for 30 days. After that, you'll need to upgrade to a premier account, which starts at $16.95 per month.

WordCalc

WordCalc for Word 2013

WordCalc (by MAQ LLC) is a versatile mathematical expression solver you can use inside Microsoft Word 2013. Simply type a mathematical expression in the app's textbox and press Enter to solve. Supported operators include addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and exponents. In addition, trigonometric functions are supported, as are logarithms, square roots and averages.

Search the Web

Search the Web From All Office Applications

Powered by Google Custom Search, the free Search the Web app (by The App Refinery) lets you search the Web within Word, Excel, Project and PowerPoint 2013. It's a handy app that eliminates the need to switch between browser and Office applications to do a Google search. Image searches are also supported.

Gliffy Diagrams

Gliffy Diagrams for Word 2013

Gliffy Diagrams (from Gliffy) makes it easy to create professional diagrams to include in Office documents. The add-in features hundreds of shapes and templates to create flowcharts, network diagrams, floor plans and even technical drawings. It's an easy-to-use alternative to Microsoft Visio: Simply draw in your browser with the Gliffy diagramming application. Gliffy offers a 30-day free trial; when the trial ends, Free, Standard and Pro subscription options are available.

Unit Converter

Unit Converter for Word, Excel and Project 2013

The free Unit Converter (by MAQ LLC) lets you stay inside your Office application to do conversions while you work. It shows common unit conversions for length, volume, time, temperature, speed, angle, weight and area, with primary conversions displayed on top and secondary conversions below.

MindMapper

MindMapper for All Office Applications

MindMapper (from RePoint Technologies) is an idea-mapping app for the new versions of Excel, PowerPoint, Project Professional and Word. MindMapper lets you use a graphical interface to map your ideas and visualize the relationships they form. MindMapper is $2.99; a free trial version and tutorial are available to help you start visualizing your great ideas.

More: How Mind Maps Fuel Productivity

Change Case

Change Case for Excel 2013

Change Case (by Tyrant Ventures) is a free Excel app that can save you from making a lot of hand edits when you work with Excel files from different sources. The app works within selected cells to quickly convert text to upper or lower case, change words to proper case (i.e. only capitalizing the first letter) or start each cell with a capital by choosing the "Capitalize Each Cell" option. It's an easy way to tidy up Excel sheets.

Geographic Heat Map

View Data as a Geographic Heat Map in Excel 2013

The Geographic Heat Map add-in for Excel 2013 (by Keyur Patel) provides a summary view of your data using a range of values across different geographies. Geographic Heat Map is a free app that lets you chart data across the United States and supports multiple values for a certain geographic location.

Ablebits.com Trim Spaces for Excel

Ablebits.com Trim Spaces for Excel 2013

Ablebits.com Trim Spaces for Excel, another excellent (and free) app from Tyrant Ventures, helps you delete all those annoying little spaces in your Excel tables. You can trim leading/trailing spaces, trim Spaces between words and get rid of the extraneous quotation marks often imported with Web copy.

Mini Calendar and Date Picker

Mini Calendar and Date Picker for Excel 2013

The Mini Calendar and Date Picker for Excel 2013 (by VERTEX42) makes it easy to enter and format dates from sources such as schedules, timesheets and project tracking sheets. By entering a range of values into your spreadsheet in a consistent format, a mini calendar is displayed, making it easier to work with budgets and timesheets. Mini Calendar and Date Picker is $1.99; a free trial version is offered.

Merge Cells

Merge Cells for Excel 2013

Merge Cells (by Tyrant Ventures) is designed to help you merge the contents of cells in a table. You can do things such as combine values in each row or column, or bring all values in a range together. There's also a preview that lets you see how the data will look after being merged.

Microsoft Research Histogram

Microsoft Research Histogram for Excel 2013

This free app from Microsoft Research adds a new type of visualization to Excel data. The Microsoft Research Histogram can show you how many data points fall into different categories and illustrate the distribution of data. It will count and bucket data points and create a bar graph based on the frequency of those points.

Feature: 10 Cool Projects from Microsoft Research

Consistency Checker

Consistency Checker for Excel and Word 2013

Consistency Checker (from Intelligent Editing) is a handy editing app for Excel and Word 2013. The add-in will find consistency mistakes in your text by looking for possible errors in hyphenation ("part time" vs. "part-time"), spelling errors, the way numbers are used in sentences and other common mistakes. Consistency Checker is $4.99; a free trial version is offered.

Random Sorter

Random Sorter for Excel 2013

Random Sorter for Excel 2013 (by Tyrant Ventures) is a free add-in that lets you shuffle entire rows and columns in your Excel sheet without losing data integrity. It's a handy app for putting lists in random order or to mix sequential numbers. Features include options to mix cells within rows or columns, or to randomize all selected cells.

Random Generator

Random Generator for Excel 2013

If you need to generate data and pre-populate cells with random integers, reals or dates, the free Random Generator (from Tyrant Ventures) will do the trick. Use this app to fill the selected range with random real or integer numbers, populate selected cells with random dates within a range or to get random "true" and "false" Booleans in the selected cells.

Preview Links

Preview Links in the New Outlook Web App

Preview Links prevents Outlook users from sending email containing broken or misdirected hyperlinks in email body text. This free app from OfficeGadgets scans your mail for links and lets you preview them in your Outlook mail to ensure the link is error free before you hit Send.

News: Outlook.com Comes Out of Preview Phase

LegalBox

LegalBox for Outlook 2013

LegalBox (from the developer of the same name) is an app for sending and receiving electronic certified mails and electronic registered letters in Outlook. LegalBox offers tracking methods, including automatic notifications and a history (with timestamps) to record all actions associated with the sending and receiving of the electronic certified email. It's free to use the LegalBox Outlook add-in to receive the letter; to send electronic registered mail, you'll need to create an account on legalbox.com.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn for Outlook 2013

LinkedIn for Outlook integrates key information from your LinkedIn profile contacts with your new Outlook software. The free LinkedIn Outlook add-in app shows a person's LinkedIn profile, connections you have in common and information about where the contact works.

More: The How-To Guide for LinkedIn

Messageware TakeNote

Messageware TakeNote for Outlook 2013

Messageware TakeNote (from Messageware) allows you to add private, contextual notes to an email. The free add-in for Outlook lets you view and edit your notes directly from your email; notes can be viewed at any time by clicking on TakeNote within a message. Your notes are confidentially stored within your own mailbox.

Yesware

Yesware for Outlook 2013

Yesware (from the developer of the same name) is a good Outlook add-in for salespeople and business owners. With this free app, you'll discover personal insights about your customer (or prospect), such as location, social media presence, recent tweets and Klout score.

Conversation Filer

Conversation Filer for Outlook 2013

Conversation Filer (from Bill Avery) helps keep your Outlook inbox tidy by filing messages into the locations that you've previously used for a particular conversation. It's a handy, free app for filing a reply or forwarded email that breaks a mailing list filing rule, as Conversation Filer sends the new messages to be with the rest of the conversation in the appropriate folder.

Discover URL Information

Discover URL Information in Outlook 2013

The free URL Information app (from Marlabs Software) activates whenever an email message contains hyperlinks. All links are displayed on a new page, showing link title and description. URL Information lets you see the details about a link without leaving the Outlook client; you can also open the URLs in a separate window.

Twitter by PowerInbox

Twitter by PowerInbox for Outlook 2013

Twitter by PowerInbox (from ioRevolution) is a free app that combines the productivity features of Outlook with the instant social engagement of Twitter. With the app you can send a direct message to other Twitter users, follow them and see their tweet and profile activity, all within Outlook.

More: 10 Free Essential Twitter Tools for Power Users

Constant Contact QuickAdd

Constant Contact QuickAdd for Outlook

Constant Contact users can update contact lists in their existing Constant Contact account while viewing messages in Outlook 2013 or Outlook Web App 2013. The free Constant Contact QuickAdd application connects your email account to your Constant Contact account, then automatically checks if a sender's email address is in one of your Constant Contact lists. If the address isn't listed, you can add it.

More: 7 Email Marketing Tips to Gain Customers in 2013

Sensei Task Analyzer

Sensei Task Analyzer for Microsoft Project Professional 2013

Sensei Task Analyzer (from Sensei Project Solutions) helps eliminate slowdowns and unforeseen issues with your project by identifying and resolving potential problems before they happen. Tasks are submitted to a series of checks that are designed to first reveal issues with your project and then suggest remedies. Sensei Task Analyzer is $14.99; a free trial is offered.

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