How to Get Rid of Too Much White Space in Microsoft Office 2013? Switch to New Gray Color Themes

When Microsoft Office 2013 was under development and Microsoft released a free Customer Preview version of Office 2013 to public, people started complaining about too much white space in Office 2013 user interface. Actually Microsoft has tried to use Windows 8 style Metro UI in Office 2013 programs, they have removed the Aero glass from Office ribbon, they have removed gradients, etc to provide a minimal look to Office 2013 programs. But many people were having problems with this new white color scheme.

Now the final RTM version of Office 2013 has been released and TechNet and MSDN subscribers must be already enjoying it. If you are not a subscriber, you can download and test a fully functional trial version of Office 2013 RTM version using following link:

Download Free Microsoft Office 2013 Professional Plus 60-Day Trial Version

The good news is that after receiving users feedback about the white UI in Office 2013, Microsoft decided to introduce 2 new themes or color schemes in Office 2013 RTM: Light Gray and Dark Gray.

So now Office 2013 users who don't like the white interface of Office 2013, can switch to new Gray color themes and can get rid of the white UI.

To apply these new themes, you can follow these simple steps:

1. Open any Office 2013 program such as Microsoft Word. Now click on File menu present in the ribbon. Then click on Account tab given in left sidebar.

2. It'll open your Office account settings page. Here you can change Office theme. You'll find 3 Office themes available:

  • White
  • Light Gray
  • Dark Gray


3. Select your desired theme from the drop-down box and it'll immediately apply it.

Light Gray Theme in Action:


Dark Gray Theme in Action:


NOTE: Alternatively, you can also apply these new themes using Office Options window as shown in following screenshot:


PS: Microsoft has also added a few new background images in Office 2013 RTM version which can be activated only if you are logged in using a Windows Live ID in Office 2013 programs.


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Posted in: Microsoft Office, Troubleshooting

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  • and the ''show text boundaries' look is so ''strange''! How to make it like previous office look VG?

  • You call this geting rid of the white?? All it does is mess a (very) little with the title bar at the top. The rest of the app is blindingly white. I really would like to know who in Microsoft saw this interface and sais "That's perfect!"?

  • VG

    ^^ Unfortunately thats the only way to minimize the white space. Something is better than nothing. ;)

    Sorry to say but there is not way to change or customize it.

  • can i get those background images without any live ID ?? i liked it....

  • VG

    ^^ You cant.

  • oooouuu......
    k can i get it on the explorer in 8 rtm ??

  • can u suggest me 1. . . .default look likes a paper work !

  • VG

    ^^ There are many Windows 8 themes are available at Just browse the Windows 8 themes section and you'll get many good themes. :)

  • There is nothing such as Office Theme in FILE>ACCOUNTS...........
    Why do you take it as a joke Mr. VG :)

  • The overwhelming look is still too bright. There is not enough contrast, which is noticeable when trying to use the scroll bars or pick the right icons from the Quick Access toolbars.

  • So the two new color options (light gray and dark gray) are better; however, for some reason it doesn't change the color scheme in Publisher! It's still white on white.... even though when you go into "Options" under the "File" tab it says the color is "Dark Gray". All the other programs (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Outlook) all have the Dark Gray. Weird! If anyone knows how to fix this in Publisher, I would be forever grateful!!

    I use all of the Office programs all day while at work and I am really hoping that Microsoft will be adding some actual color to their themes sometime in the near future! I love all the other aspects of the new office suites! It's too bad they skimped on colors!

  • thank you SO much, i keep doing school work with that burning white background and my head was already pounding! so helpful!

  • So they added light grey and dark Gary as an after thought, SO will MS be providing us with a FREE pair of sunglasses.

    I've just update from Office 2010 wish I hadn't know I want to keep my eyesight not fumble around after 5 minutes of being blinded

  • Gray and white?? those are the only options, really who was their focus group for that? a little bit of actual color never hurt anyone. I'm kind of sorry I switched, thought it was going to be the latest greatest, but there are sooo many limited options and not that many things new.

    Disappointed :(

  • LOL, oh Microsoft! The irony that I see is that Microsoft needs a greater consumer market but they are doing such a terrible job of retaining let alone attracting new consumers by not giving a woot about their current consumers by doing such a terrible job of giving unlimited options in their products. Example, just two color options for office theme. Even a natural phenomenon such as a rainbow has more color options. Makes me question myself about whether white is a color.

    Apologies for the long paragraph. That is a result of disappointment and frustration with Microsoft and some of their products.

  • Thank you. I am so upset with Microsoft windows outlook 8. My eyes are so frustrated by having to look at this blinding white screen and the reflection from any sunlight from a real window against the white microsoft outlook screen is even more blinding. I can't believe it but using the email program on AOL is 50 times better. At least they have fun, colorful easy to use look at interfaces. How can Microsoft be so pompous to impose such a horrible design on people?!!! I hope someone at their company reads these comments.

  • Oh what a big miss this is. What were they thinking when they thought white on white might be embraced. I have not tried Win 8 yet but given this revelation... not in any hurry. I guess this reminds me of the days before pcs when IBM ruled the mainframe world and the old saying then was "nobody will ever get fired choosing IBM". Well look at where IBM is now, just another tech company ... I guess MSFT will end up the same way...

  • Still do not like the 2 new options either. I NEED COLOR

  • I can't believe this. How can it be that we only get white and white or white and gray in 2013. This is a deal breaker defect. How is it that Microsoft can offer every color of the rainbow to customize every other aspect of Word and every prior version of Word but then offer only white/white white/gray for Word 2013? What were they thinking? They deserve to lose business over this.

  • horrible, abosoluty upset, i thought when i switched, it is gonna be something new..... really sad to say that, who was this idea?

  • I have tried several times to change the background colour to dark does not do will not darken at all....i wish i never purchased it i prefer to use vista or win7.....not happy at all

  • After wrestling with the same ridiculous colour issues we have just advised our 3000+ users not to upgrade
    to Office 2103

    I do not know who makes these retrograde decisions and worse still this must be costing Microsoft a bundle and they still insist on on moving forward in this direction on a diminished user base.

  • I am overwhelmed with disappointment over the new Windows office and the white background issue...what in the world were they thinking???? Not only do I miss the color but it is killing my eyes.
    I hate windows 8 also. Everything takes far more effort. What use to take one step now takes 3. I spent so much money on a new computer and the office program I can't do anything but keep them, but I hate them.

  • The new themes are S#!t...crazy light light grey or a slightly darker but still very light light grey!

    I was all excited to get this version and now i have to back it out to 2010 as it is the most un-productive productivity tool around....its way to hard to focus on anything when using it! what a disaster!!!

    have to wonder if they did any research on the usability.....seriously make DARK GREY... DARK GREY or allow users to choose ANY colour they want! making it a darker shade of White doesn't work, visually break up the panels as it is useless in its current form

  • the dark grey needs to match the dark grey in the file menu

  • So I too was not happy with the downgrade to 2013 from 2010 :), as there was too much white space. I started to mess about with settings and I finally got it so there is less white by using the dark grey and managed to add some color..

    Go to the Inbox then right click on the "From" button then select View Settings then select Conditional Settings, from there you can change fonts, add color to unread email etc.. have fun..

  • The lack of user control relating to the themes is the absolute proof that Microsoft is in business soley to make money. The care or concern for the dedicated loyal customers is officially dead. The vast majority of Office 2013 users have for many many months been complaining about the visual issues with the Office theme in blogs and on-line in general. Fire it idiot that approved this travesty and replace them with someone capable of reading and providing products and product modifications (as I am sure Google Docs has.....)

    Sign me "Never More Pi**ed at Microsoft than Now"....

  • @John A. Smith
    If you hate it, don't freaking use it! No one's forcing you to use Microsoft Office.
    And please, please, quit whining on the lack of theme customization in Microsoft Office if you're a real man.
    Only those giggly and annoying high school girls customize whatever they want to customize and accessorize.

    Sure, I hated the default Office White theme in Office 2013 but my problem is all solved by switching to the gray color. As simple as that. A problem that can be easily solved just by tinkering the options.

    P.S. you should re-visit your English class from your elementary school. Your grammar and spelling made me puke.

  • @Faann
    No, I'm not a Microsoft guy. What I'm trying to say is that a simple problem like this can easily be solved by simply switching to a gray theme or entirely giving up Office 2013 and revert to older versions of Office or maybe find an alternative. It's an obvious problem that comes with an obvious solution: whining about such simple problem is just childish just like what John A. Smith said.

    He's whining for a problem that he can easily solve himself without all those lame arguments.

    The bottom line: Unfortunately, common sense isn't all that "common" these days.

  • Microsoft Office 2013 looks horrible. It's beyond words. Amazing how they made Office less usable by making it hard to read. Office 2013 is so terrible the UI designer should be fired. I'm moving back to Word 2003 and moving my Outlook .pst files to Thunderbird.

  • @kotetsu
    you should stop beein so harsh to people on the internet. It's just a simple fact that the design is just cr@p. Switching to grey or dark grey won't even make it better. There is a reason why s**tloads of people complaining about it.

    Complaining about the grammar of some one who is obviously not a nativ english speaker is just poor and childish :(

  • Phew. That's better. I felt like I'd been institutionalized with all that white. Just "moved up" from 2007 and so far, most of my shortcuts seem to have stayed the same. I'll never understand why they feel the need to move things around and rename them. Just make your additions to what the software can DO and walk away.

  • Office 2013 whiteout!! Is this a snow storm? I can't believe the step backwards they made in the color (or lack thereof) schemes!! I also find others starting to mimic MS poor white out schemes in their new apps. Is this all because of Window 8 we have to thank? I'm not impressed. Android & iPhones & iPads have more color than do the Windows 8 phenomena! Give me a break MS! Thanks for nothing.

  • Thanks for the information, but even the dark grey is too bright. This is terrible. Why can't they just leave it alone? Everything coming from Microsoft is getting worse by the year.

  • One application open at a time - haven't seen this since MS-DOS.

    Bright white minimalistic interface - haven't seen this since Windows 3.x.

    Why are we going back to 1991?

  • I agree with most of the posts above the lack of customisation utilities for the ribbon background s*,k from my personal point of view it's most definitely made it less user friendly not everyone has 20-20 vision and by changing color combinations make it much easier on the eyes. WHITE, LIGHT GRAY, DARK GRAY, all pretty much look the same.
    MS please give more options reagrding this OBVIOUS problem that seems to be affecting a large portion of the population.

  • To the author: Are you kinding!
    "The good news is that after receiving users feedback about the white UI in Office 2013, Microsoft decided to introduce 2 new themes or color schemes in Office 2013 RTM: Light Gray and Dark Gray."
    WOW! They introduce TWO whole new "COLOR" schemes. Light gray and dark gray. Man the UI design team must have spent many a sleepless night coming up with that!

  • The three themes white, grey, and dark grey, are not enough for people with vision difficulties.

  • The colours are actually white, a hair darker than white, and semi-greyish white. Some choice.

    It's like building a Ferrari and finishing by placing a box upon it as the finished body.

  • I echo the views of the rest - the white and light gray (the "dark" gray is NOT dark at all) is blinding....... and the line "dividers" for windows, etc. or SO LIGHT that they are really hard to find to adjust and enlarge (i.e. the data window in OneNote, Cell dividers in Excel, etc.
    Please give us more color CONTRAST, so we can be more productive.

  • You would think that someone at Microsoft would at least give us old user that believe in the product and option to return to the old color... "Silver"....

    The program colors show very... very.... very light... This is frustrating to the point that I want IT to return my machine to the old program...

    Quake up Microsoft... Google is coming... and they listen to the users....

  • WOW! From white to two off-white choices on the Word ribbon. How hard is it to offer COLOR? It was there in 2007. Where did it go? New programmers who are color blind?

  • How to change Excel 2013 windows split color from light grey to dark blue?

  • I am bringing Susan's question to the front again, because I am having the same issue and cannot fix it.


    I have to roll Office 365 out onto 18 computers starting tomorrow, and I REALLY don't want to be bombarded with 18 "My Publisher's Office Theme doesn't change to 'dark gray,' even though it SAYS it IS dark gray." complaints.

    Does ANYONE know a work-around for this problem. I would be extremely appreciative.

    Thank you!

  • Susan's question:


    So the two new color options (light gray and dark gray) are better; however, for some reason it doesn't change the color scheme in Publisher! It's still white on white.... even though when you go into "Options" under the "File" tab it says the color is "Dark Gray". All the other programs (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Outlook) all have the Dark Gray. Weird! If anyone knows how to fix this in Publisher, I would be forever grateful!!

  • Anybody, who can help me? When we choose View Split in Excel, the spreadsheet will divided to 2 or 4 side that depend on where the cell pointer located. The spreadsheet was divided with light grey split lines. I have a problem with this color line. How to change the split color from light grey to dark blue? Who can solve this my problem, I would be extremely appreciative.

  • Steve Jobs was absolutely correct. Microsoft products have no class. I have Office 2007, 2010, and now (unfortunately) 2013. It looks horrible, even with the "color upgrade" of gray or...gray. If I hadn't gotten my copy under the HUP option I would be really miffed. This is nuts. Open Office looks as good, and it's FREE. This looks like they reverted to the very first copy of Office for inspiration. Unbelievable. Did someone at Microslop really get paid to come up with this? Maybe it was designed with user input...from a kindergarten class.

  • Thanks for the info, it certainly helped to an extent. However, sadly Outlook remains blindingly white, i just hope MS realize the problem and correct. I just love the way Office 2010 looks on Win-7.

  • My eyes cannot handle this new "color" scheme...can you even call it color??? The options hardly change the tone... It's horrible and a downgrade. Microsoft has disappointed me... I'm going to remove office 13 and go back to my previous version.

  • This "huge option" dark and light gray backround is like going back to time 1995!

  • Um, these themes are terrible. If I could go back I would. How can Microsoft be this idiotic?

  • The dark gray helped to differentiate between sections and now I've figured out a way to tone down the overwhelming white... turned down the Brightness setting on my monitor.

  • The theme colors are absolutely inadequate. The background color does not seem to change at all, no mater what option is chosen, white, light gray, or dark gray. The eye strain is horrendous. Since I am one of the first users in our district, I will be recommending that we put off the change to Office 2013 as long as possible.

  • Note that if you set the background color to pure black (Design->Page Color) the text automatically flips to white. I think they actually solved the brightness/inversion issue in 2013, although it may remain undocumented.

    I used to be a program manager for Microsoft and I fought this "its too bright" battle with the Office UI people, but never got anywhere.

  • Bought office 2013 almost a year ago, but only recently installed it. All I can say about the new interface is this is the worst most amateur looking interface I have seen in a long time. This reminds me of freeware from the 90s. Even the text representation is poor.

  • Please give more options in the colour / theme section.

    The only people who can't see this as a step backwards clearly already works for MS.

  • The themes we get to choose from are unusable, bad and horrible. As a cad user, we know that viewing fine detial in grey on a white background can actually damage your eyesight over time.

    I have to use AutoCad and Msoffice, when I swap back and forth, it takes a few seconds before I can see anything (going either direction) like going outside on a snowy sunny day.

    Microsoft.... FIX this. You are actiing like Apple.... Telling ME what I supposedly LIKE.

  • I've been on Office 2013 outlook for 2 weeks now and hate it. Like Earl above, I work on AutoCAD, 12D and various other design programs. Have tried AutoCAD with every color combination imaginable and still use black background because it's the best for CAD work. Going from that to THIS white is like walking into a snowstorm. I keep closing windows cause I can't see the edges etc etc This is horrible. Setting up an office at home, we won't be using this interface. I know how to fix all your MS an Apple, sorry Earl

  • I can't see what are you complaining about, let's not forget that MS spent a considerable amount of time an money to get the perfect UI that was the most legible and freindly to the users eyes.
    I understand for years MS has given us all these vivid colours to play with and use but sometimes limited choices is the best option.
    I've been using Office 2013 for 18 months and have grown to actually appreciate it's simplicity. You need to get used to this type of UI as it is the way of the future, Apple are heading down the same path, you only need to look at their latest iTunes.

  • As computer support, the general user reaction I got when "upgrading" to 2013 was "uggghh barf". It totally blows my mind how a company like Microsoft can degrade the UI to such an extent.

    Microsoft is like Putin - in power and pushing their own agenda versus what the users want. Microsoft just lost Ukraine with Window 8 and Office 2013.

  • Still not great!
    Please MS, hear our pleas & listen to the UI experts - we need more contrast in the UI !!!!!! The new Dk gray is still waaaay tooooo whiiiiiiite! Otherwise I like MS Office 2013 a lot.

  • Microsoft apparently did ZERO human interface design/testing with this product. I have so many users that just hate it, and some it's a medical issue. They get migraines after a short period with it.

    Horrible, and it's quite clear they don't care about it or it would be fixed by now.

  • I just "upgraded" to Office 2013. Horrible visual design. Even the desktop icons are horrible. Obviously intended for the 2" screen on a smartphone, with no consideration given to those who might actually be using a laptop or desktop. Nobody at MS gives a damn about the users anymore. I have to assume that equal thought was given to the functionality.

    I recall the decline "timesharing", when the leading company decided that the game was up and their best option was to milk every dollar they could from the customers who couldn't easily move their applications. They cut services and raised prices, bleeding the customers as best they could and eventually dooming the company to a "professional services" shell. Looks like Microsoft has made a similar decision, and is placing it bets on their cloud-based services at the expense of anyone still using a fat client.

  • this is the worst "udate" i have ever seen......ridiculous colors to choose from

  • We (some 2000 users) have recently been upgraded as a first step in a upgrade cycle for our 20.000 users worldwide.

    And the first thing which struck us was the "minimalistic" color scheme of all Office applications.

    Almost everybody agrees already now: this is such a huge, huge mistake!!! Dark Gray? What dark? We don't see anything that looks "dark"..
    Nobody from the first bunch of 2000 users is happy with this, nobody!

    Unfortunately, there is no way back... Indeed, Microsoft is acting completely on its own. This is typical a sign that the end of an age is very close. People will not accept this much longer....

  • The problem isn't the white... the problem is the space. #givemebackirc

  • Try reducing the brightness of the screen. It will make the white look somewhat grey and hopefully should relieve any sore eyes many of you seem to have (including me....)

  • I have found a fix for all the white in the work space!!! put some celophine over your screen you should be able to get red, yellow, green, blue, i would like a grey but haven't found an online store that has one i like yet........ might trying using two different colours and see how that goes!!

  • The brightness of the screen make us too tired and sore eyes. Please provide some soft color to reduce the brightness and bold the table lines and bar lines.

  • White, Gray and "Dark" gray?? is this a joke? And no way of customizing?? None of these colors make the retina any less strained from peering into an artificial intense source of light all day

  • Its really very old type, does seems working with new comer's company 1995 application. will give 0 rating to will not work. 2010 is better

  • The suggested "themes" are of no help for the sheer blinding white of the text space of the desktop. I don't care about the border or menu bar colors. That's not whats hurting my eyes.
    I tried the "high contrast black" theme as I was writing this - Totally useless, it blacked out everything. I couldn't even see what I was typing here.
    The older versions of Windows allowed for endless shades to tone down that white. But windows 8 has few options and all of them are useless for reducing the main back light of the window. I might have to revert to using a tinted piece of mylar or wear sunglasses to resolve the problem.

  • Thank you everyone for your comments. I've been searching the internet trying to find a fix for the Outlook brightness/white space.
    I have a question though. At the bottom of the preview pane, it says the person's name who the email came from, and to the right has squares with blank faces. Is there a way to get rid of that horizontal block of space? I was hoping with the line at the bottom gone I would be able to see more of the email. I have my preivew pane at the halfway mark of the screen and can still only see the first line of the email.
    Note: On the view tab, message preview, choosing 2/3 lines does not work. It only shows you more of the header, not the email content

  • I guess we can go back to using monochrome monitors, huh?

  • The only fix available for Office 2013 is to switch to High Contrast Black in your personalize Microsoft themes. Once you've added that, customize it to suit your needs a little better and make it look less 1985. Make sure you go into Outlooks options and check 'disable hardware acceleration.' You will find out there is a heavy downside for your excel program that cause it to not allow colors. The fix for that is having another saved theme under 'windows classic.' Make this theme as dark as you require and save it. This new theme won't be dark enough in Outlook, but you can switch to it when you need Excel.

  • Just don't upgrade to Office 365, it's awful design, boring, tiring on the eyes, unclear. Simple things like in Outlook when you have messages in an inbox or folder, it only shows a vague blue number behind it indicating there is mail rather as the old system to make the box bold. I know, what a small difference, but it's all these things that make the new look boring, not clear, confusing, what a step backward in terms of design, back to the days where you only had LCD monochrome days!

  • I wonder who will be coming out with a Braille version of MS Office when we all go blind from this interface. Too much white. My squint lines are visibly deeper around my eyes and I am getting headaches. We just moved to Office 365 (over 120 users) and I wish I could roll back to 2007. Microsoft, please help?

  • This is horrible! I need contrast that has some level of identifying what I am seeing. Grey and white. This is going back to the old computer screens of green and black.

  • The color schemes are misnamed.

    They should be "White", "Almost White", and "Very Light Gray".

  • I thought this article was satirical about being able to change from grey to grey.

    Windows 10 and the new office and development suites are all grey, grey, grey and I shall be downgrading back to windows 7 and Visual Studio 2010 as soon as I can. I had already seen Office 2013, couldn't read the text and I have avoided it, so that doesn't need downgrading.

    Amazingly, it isn't.

  • @kotetsu
    "If you hate it, don't freaking use it! No one's forcing you to use Microsoft Office."

    Um, yes they are, our employers force it on us. You are an arrogant shill for MS.

  • Agree with Raargh.
    My employer (a very large aerospace company) has made Office 2013 standard company-wide. So I have no choice but to use it for 8 hours a day. I thought it was just me not liking the visuals, but I see that I am only one among many.

    At least on my personal computer at home I have a choice and I will choose not to upgrade to Office 2013.

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