Show the File Open Window in Excel 2013

In Excel 2013, if you click the File tab, you go to the Backstage view. The Open command is selected, and you can select a file and open it.


You can also add an Open icon to your Quick Access Toolbar (QAT).


If you point to that icon, after adding it to the QAT, the screen tip says “Open”.


Click that icon, and it also takes you to the Backstage view, just like the File tab does.

If you want to see files that aren’t listed in the Recent list, you can click Computer, then click the Browse button, to open the window. That’s quite a few clicks, just to see a list of your files!


Missing the File Open Window

In older versions of Excel, if you click on the Open icon, it opens the browsing window, where you can pick a file, and open it.


I don’t know why that changed in Excel 2013, but if you still have Excel 2010 installed, you can change a setting, to avoid the Backstage view. Thanks, Chewing all, for pointing out this setting, in the comments below.

  • Click the File tab, and then click Options.
  • Click the Save category, and click "Don't show the Backstage when opening or saving files"
  • Click OK to save the settings

file options backstage

A Clunky Workaround

Before Chewing all pointing out this setting, I was using this clunky workaround, to get the functionality back.

  • In Excel 2013, if you have an Open icon on the QAT, remove it.
  • Then, close and re-open Excel 2013.
  • Add an Open icon to the QAT


  • Keep Excel 2013 open, and open Excel 2010
  • In Excel 2010, add the standard Open button on the QAT


  • If you point to that icon in Excel 2010, the screen tip will say "Open (Ctrl + O)"


  • Close Excel 2010, and the button on the Excel 2013 QAT has changed to the Open (Ctrl + O) button


  • If you click the Open icon in Excel 2013 now, it opens the Open window, instead of going to Backstage view.


This is probably a bug, from having multiple versions of Office installed, and the QAT gets confused. The QAT icons seem to disappear occasionally, which is annoying, so it might help to set up both versions exactly the same.


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13 Responses

  1. Chewing all says:

    Better way is to go to file -> options -> save / in the save workbooks sections tick “Don’t show the backstage when opening or saving files”
    Next time you open or save a file you’ll immediately get classic “save as” or “open” window.
    And that’s all there’s to it. So, no need for the workaround.

    • Thank you! I’ve updated the article to show this tip.

    • Bernadette Schane says:

      THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!! You should have a t-shirt with a superman (or wonder woman?) logo on the front because you are my new superhero, Chewing all!

      Why on earth does Microsoft think we would want to click on the open button and have the exact same effect as clicking on the file tab? And how is it efficient to use the backstage view to find files with FOUR CLICKS of the mouse as opposed to only ONE?

    • Karen says:

      THANK YOU, Chewing all! I should have looked up this tip sooner. I’ve tried to get used to that Backstage screen, but it just stinks. What inefficiency. You made my Monday!

  2. ThankfullUser says:

    Thanks a lot man.
    I love XLS but some things are simply bulls…..

  3. Stan says:

    Thanks for the help!

  4. Ed says:

    OMG! what a help. I hate most of the new “user friendly” features of 2013. They must think the rest of use seasoned users are stupid and only new users will find it ok. good grief.. THANKS FOR THE FIX!

  5. I’d like to know what site Microsoft developers go to in order to vent their frustrations. As any four year old could figure out and as mentioned several times above, why on earth would MS have a task that previously took one click and now takes four, five or even six clicks to accomplish the same task? Speaking as a developer myself I can only imagine the scene:

    Scene 1 (a board room somewhere in the lofty heights of the MS empire)

    A dark hooded figure sits at the head of the long ominous table (exec. VP for Marketing, has never used Excel, but thinks it might be either a video game or an energy drink)

    Clueless Marketing VP: “BRING IN THE DEVELOPERS!!”

    (Slowly, as if approaching the gallows, two pale, thin figures make their way into the room shaking and sweating profusely)

    Developer 1: “Yes my Lord, tell us what you require and we will gladly do it, even if it requires removing our gentitals with a broken DVD”

    Clueless Marketing VP: “SILENCE!!! I have been informed that we need to increase the number of clicks for our product”

    Developer 2: “But my Lord, most users don’t want more clicks, they want less clicks”

    Clueless Marketing VP: “WHAT!!! You dare question my expertise in this field!!!

    (at this point the Clueless Marketing VP pulls a nearby leaver sending Developer 2 plummeting to the bottom of a pit filled with alligators, snakes and HR Administrators)

    Developer 1: “Wonderful decision my Lord, he clearly deserved his punishment. But if I may be so bold, why do we need more clicks?”

    Clueless Marketing VP: “Imbecile! If a click is a mile then our energy drink will enable our users to run much further!”

    Developer 1: “Ummm, but my Lord …. we don’t make an energy drink”

    (at this point the Clueless Marketing VP reaches for a nearby leaver)

    Developer 1: “Actually, my Lord, what I meant to say was that we can DEFINITELY add more clicks to our product. Such an incredible idea … All hail Lord Marketing VP”

    (and so the scene ends … the Clueless Marketing VP is carried from the room on the shoulders of his minion side kicks all the while stuffing money into his pockets while listening contently to crunching sounds of Developer 2 being eaten by the HR Administrators).

  6. John O says:

    Thanks so much. Backstage view is just a pain, such a pain that I googled and found this fix.

  7. Tamika says:

    Thank you so much! I spent a lot of time searching for how to change the default “Open” view. Checking the “Don’t show the Backstage when opening or saving file” selection did the trick!

  8. Mar says:

    Hmmm…I tried this, but I’m still getting the cumbersome multi-step process to open files. What did I do wrong?

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