Unless you were paying particular attention to Microsoft’s Twitter feed and blogs today, you might have missed the fact that the company’s latest version of their suite of productivity applications, collectively called “Office”, launched today with Office 2016 being available in both retail channels, through Microsoft’s web store, and will be coming to Office 365 shortly. Office 2016 brings about quite a few changes under the hood for the suite, but many of the ones you’ll notice are cosmetic, though some are genuinely useful, especially to Excel warriors. Hit the jump for more.
Office 2013 was stuck in a strange place for a while, bridging several gaps between Office 2010, which introduced a lot of the features and functionality that people are used to by now, along with web services, allowing for things like real-time collaboration and integration with web apps. Office 2013’s issues were many-fold, though most people took issue with the removal of the lovely dark themes that were in Office 2010. Some of the other issues that people were hoping would be addressed in the 2013 release were also not present, like the ability to run 32-bit plugins for a 64-bit Office install. If you’re one of those people, Office 2016 will continue to disappoint you.
The Office team have worked hard on this release, though. Office 2016, as far as I’ve tested it in the preview builds, was good enough for most things and stable where it needed to be. Combining the Windows 10 and Office 2016 betas was often a bad idea, but the synergy was quite nice. Some of the better features from the Office web apps have been ported over into the dedicated programs and there’s even integration with Cortana – though confusingly, Microsoft doesn’t call her Cortana inside Office 2016. She’s more akin to a nameless, faceless version of Clippy that can’t even be voice-activated.
Here are some highlights from this release of Office 2016:
We have had real-time co-authoring in all of our web apps since 2013. We are now taking it to the next level by building it directly into our native apps. With this release, we’re making co-authoring in Word real-time, which lets you see what others are writing immediately, as it happens.
Skype for Business is now available in the client apps, allowing you to IM, screen share, talk or video chat right in your docs. This same experience will be coming to Office Online later this fall. Skype for Business also has faster screen sharing and now adds the option to start a real-time co-authoring session from any conversation or meeting.
Keep teams connected with Office 365 Groups, now available as part of Outlook 2016 and in a new Outlook Groups app on iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Office 365 Groups allows individuals to easily create public or private teams. Each group includes a shared inbox, calendar, cloud storage for group files, and a shared OneNote notebook to keep the team productive.
Office 365 Planner helps teams organize their work, with the ability to create new plans, organize and assign tasks, set due dates and update status. Planner’s visual dashboards and email notifications help keep everyone informed on the overall progress of their initiative. Planner will be available in preview, to Office 365 First Release customers, starting next quarter.
Originally unveiled earlier this year, GigJam is today available in private preview and will become part of Office 365 in 2016. GigJam is an unprecedented new way for teams to accomplish tasks and transform business processes by breaking down the barriers between devices, apps and people.
Outlook 2016 provides the smartest inbox yet, delivering lightning fast search, removing low priority mail automatically and making sure everyone on the To: line has the right access to modern, cloud-based attachments from OneDrive.
We also have significant new updates to OneDrive for Business coming later this month across sync, browser, mobile, IT control and developer experiences. The highlight is the preview of the next generation sync client for Windows and Mac, offering improved reliability and selective sync, as well as increased file size and volume limits.
Tell Me helps you easily and quickly find the right Office feature or command, and Smart Lookup brings insights from the web right into your documents. Previously available only in Office Online, Tell Me and Smart Lookup are now available across the Office 2016 client apps.
Excel 2016 now includes integrated publishing to Power BI and new modern chart-types to help you make the most of your data.
The cloud-powered most recently used documents list allows you to pick up right where you left off in seconds, because it travels with you across your devices whether working in Office Online, the mobile apps or in the 2016 client apps.
And then some highlights for the Office suite that are still coming to the suite:
“Office 2016 apps with Office 365 provide the most secure Office yet. We are adding built-in Data Loss Prevention (DLP) to significantly reduce the risk of leaking sensitive data by giving IT admins tools to centrally create, manage and enforce policies for content authoring and document sharing. Multifactor Authentication ensures secure access to content anywhere when employees are away from the corporate network. We are also adding Information Rights Management to Visio. Then, later this year, we will be enabling Enterprise Data Protection (EDP) in Windows 10, with support in Office Mobile, which allows more secure corporate content sharing across corporate managed apps and network/cloud locations, preventing inadvertent content sharing outside corporate boundaries. We will be following up with EDP for Office on Windows desktop in early 2016.”
“Some of our favorite enterprise apps—Visio and Project—have been updated as well. With Visio 2016, customers can get started quickly with diagramming using starter diagrams and contextual tips. Bringing process models, manufacturing plant or IT architecture to life is now only one step away. With Project 2016, customers can streamline resource engagement processes, manage resource pools through visual heat maps, benefit from multiple timelines, and create custom experiences in Project desktop through write-back capabilities for add-ins.”
Changing things up a little from the previous launches of Office suite, Microsoft is launching Office 2016 for Mac today as well – and all the tools are the same. The search capabilies are identical, the user interface and available formatting options are almost identical, and cross-platform document sharing is pretty much painless this time around. This could really be the smoothest Office launch yet, and you’ll be able to grab it locally in stores and online soon.
Also, for those of you running Windows 10 but still have Office 2010 installed on their systems, there’s an offer of 50% off an Office 365 Personal license through the Get Office app that’s included in Windows 10. I’m not sure why you’d do that, though, especially since there’s nothing technically wrong with Office 2010. With Office 2007, there’s definitely a case to be made for an upgrade today (PowerPoint’s image editing features alone are worth it).