Why Should I Upgrade?

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 2, 2018)


Vernon has put off upgrading to one of the latest versions of Word for as long as he can, primarily because he was so content and productive with Word 2007. He wonders what folks consider to be the best reasons for upgrading to the latest versions of the program, including Word 2019 and Word in Office 365.

This is, obviously, a rather "loaded" question. Why? Because the simple answer is that you shouldn't upgrade unless you have a compelling reason to do so. For most people, compelling reasons should be based on external necessities rather than on new features provided in the software. For instance, the fact that later versions of Word use Building Blocks to extend what used to be done with AutoText should not be a reason to upgrade, as it is a new feature. However, if you are working with a company or clients that utilize portions of that feature (or others) that are not available in your version of Word, then you should strongly consider upgrading.

Similarly, if you are working with other people to any degree, you should use whatever version of Word those people are using. Thus, if they are using one of the newer versions of Word, you should strongly consider upgrading. Why? Because you'll be able to trade files with them easier and you'll be able to use the same tools they do. For instance, one of your coworkers develops a macro that works great in their version of Word 2019, then you have a greater chance of being able to use that tool if you, too, are using Word 2019.

If you do choose to remain with an older version of Word, then over time you'll discover that you are more and more "behind the curve." As more clients and coworkers upgrade, when you finally decide to take the plunge you'll be trying to figure out how to use the software at a time when they are already comfortable with it. If you upgrade before they do, however, you'll be ahead of the curve and able to lead rather than follow.

Also, people typically don't upgrade only one program, such as Word. They instead upgrade the entire Office suite. So you'll also want to consider in your upgrade decision the other members of the suite and how they may affect the work you do.

Understand that if you do choose to upgrade, there will be some pain involved:

  • Learning Curve. The learning curve for the ribbon interface is rather steep if you were comfortable with the old menu interface to the point of it being second nature. There are some bright spots (like many of the old keyboard shortcuts that made use of menu options will also work in the ribbon interface), but there are many more less-than-bright spots. This means that your productivity will initially suffer; there is no way around it.
  • Customizations. If you implemented extensive customizations in Word (to menus and toolbars), those customizations will be decimated by the ribbon interface. You may be able to rebuild them (from scratch), but you may not—only experimentation will tell.
  • Macros. If you developed and used a plethora of macros to help in the way you work, you'll want to check out whether those macros will work with the newer versions of Word. They may, but they may not. Again, only trial and error will disclose if there is a problem.

These three things aren't mentioned here as reasons not to upgrade, but as things to be aware of when you do upgrade. The brutal truth is that Microsoft isn't going back to the menu interface; the ribbon interface is here to stay. Resistance to change may be a point of pride, but (to paraphrase a famous television line) resistance is ultimately futile.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (5942) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 8 - 1?

2017-05-25 10:21:29

Henry Noble

Discussions of whether to upgrade programs (or the operating system) can at times take on a religious fervor, but Allen has covered the essentials:

1. When the new version has features you can immediately use.
2. To maintain compatibility with business partners.

I still run Office 2003 on XP in an isolated machine because that old version of Office includes a copy of Visio, Microsoft's wonderful diagramming application, which is now an expensive separate program.

As for upgrading Office 2010 to Office 2013, here is a nice summary of what you gain and what you lose:


As for the menu vs. ribbon, I use Classic Menu by Addintools to get the best of both worlds, and I switch between menu and ribbon according to the task at hand. Often it makes little difference, but each interface has strengths not matched by the other.

2017-05-24 09:47:59

Brian Crane

Hi Alan
Just today I have invested in a new computer and with Windows 10 and Office 365. My decision was based on my computer being nearly 10 years old and my Office software is Office 2007. However, Microsoft has just announced it will no longer support Office 2007 after October, so hence my decision to go the whole hog and replace all.

Keep up the good work Alan with your daily tips and I do recommend that people purchase your books because I have found the to I have bought from you over the years so, so helpful.

2017-05-24 08:23:45

Alison Miller

As a long time user of Microsoft Office, I personally like the ribbon feature. I'm now using Office 2016 and it's not too bad. I'm slowly learning new things every day. So don't be afraid of the ribbon - the fact that it's customizable makes it very user friendly.

2017-05-24 03:55:12

Andrew Evans

As you have rereleased this article at a time that Office 2016 is out I would agree that moving to a new version isn't as easy as Microsoft would like us to think, the more we make of customisations and other facilities the more there is to go wrong when we upgrade. There is however, one reason to upgrade that is not mentioned here - patches. Bug fixes and vulnerabilities will only be corrected by Microsoft for a certain amount of time - and often we have to think if our software is patched upto date to prevent problems, in the UK public sector is subject to compliance issues that all software must be patchable and updated to the latest patch level - if Microsoft stop issuing patches then we must ensure we upgrade.
Not many of us have liked some of the changes brought in by the new versions (I hate the colour schemes available in Office 2013/2016 compared to Office 2010 and before) but there are some improvements to the workings (though not all changes are for the better).
For many the choice to upgrade is not theirs, their IT department will make that decision for the business (sometimes without realising the amount of work it may take to ensure everything works as it did). Sometimes as well the decision is based on other software suppliers who interface with Word or Excel and may require the latest version.
Change is something that should be managed - with consideration for the users as a priority. It is such a shame Microsoft do not always think about how much change has an effect on its users, the paying customers that the software is there in the first place.

2014-04-12 21:36:32

Susan Byers Paxson

Dear Mr. Falzer, I realize that I am writing >2 years later than this thread, but what is the third-party utility that restores the menu interface? I am bidding a sad adieu to Office 2003, since Mr. Gates has pulled the plug, and am reluctantly venturing into the land of the dreaded ribbon. It was very helpful to read this tip regarding avoiding Office 2007 and moving straight on to 2010, but I dread this steep learning curve I'm facing after being so very comfortable (and skilled) in 2003. It would be nice to have a crutch (sad, but true). Thank you for your reply (if you get this).

2013-01-28 04:26:09


I fully agree with Lee regarding software issues, excepting for the money part.

I've also wondered, why a new version should eliminate many good facilities that customers like me liked and felt comfortable with. This is not only in Software, but also in new versions of gadgets. I simply do not understand why any user has to do simple activities in a round about way that was easily done in an old version!

Is it inevitable that every thing has to be done in a new way in any improved design/technology? Are there designers in this circle to answer me?

2013-01-26 10:00:15

Paul Falzer

The article says: "The brutal truth is that Microsoft isn't going back to the menu interface; the ribbon interface is here to stay. Resistance to change may be a point of pride, but (to paraphrase a famous television line) resistance is ultimately futile."

There is a third-party utility that restores the familiar menu interface, adds some useful features, and makes the ribbon interface accessible if and when you want it. The utility works for all Office program except for OneNote. Resistance isn't necessarily futile. The obnoxious, space-consuming, ribbon bar is not an impediment to upgrading.

2013-01-26 09:42:06

Lee Batchelor

Hi Allen,

Great article. Learning curves never bother me, however, when MS releases buggy software before their software exterminators have worked their magic, that drives me crazy. The cross-compatibility between Word 2007 and 2010 is often atrocious.

Why do high IQ, linear thinking software engineers feel the need to make things so complicated for the common person? Point in case: styles, especially numbered and bulleted. If there were no wonderful sites like yours and Shauna Kelley's, we'd need to converge on MS headquarters and demand that they stop the madness, which by the way, isn't a bad idea.

On the other hand, it’s sites like yours and Shauna Kelley’s that keep MS off the hook. Why would MS compromise their outrageous profits and executive compensation packages by spending the required dollars to fix things, or give us our simpler features back, when you people constantly bail them out?

I would say “yes” to all the new bells and whistles, but don’t strip a piece of software of the things that made it work, at the cost of a prettier interface and usability.

I think Word 2010 is a major step backward from 2007; other than the customizable ribbon, a favorite of mine that that could have been a free upgrade in Word 2007. I dread what they've done with Word 2013--hopefully they got rid of all the complicated crapola and went back to a simpler interface! Somehow I doubt it.

All the same, keep up the good work. As you said earlier, “Resistance is futile.” Now, where did a leave my copy of FrameMaker?

Lee Batchelor (The Technical Writer)

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