The Microsoft Office 2016 release is just around the corner, and we thought it would be a great time to check out what’s new and improved in this release. Microsoft confirmed that Office 2016 will start rolling out on September 22nd.
New Office 2016 Features
With each new version of Microsoft Office, it becomes harder to justify the upgrade considering that older versions are sufficient already. It’s not surprising to still see some PCs running Office 2007 which was released almost 10 years ago. For people who subscribe to Office 365, if you maintain an active subscription you’ll get the free upgrade to the 2016 release at no charge. We previously looked at a couple of the new changes in the suite such as Outlook Cloud Attachments and the Colorful theme which adds a vibrant color scheme to each programs brand identity. A theme can hardly be justification to upgrade though, so what else is in there that could push you off that older version?
When Microsoft introduced the Ribbon interface with the release of Office 2007, it was a radical departure to make the suite easier to use. Users were finding it hard to discover and use features that were hidden in the suite.
The Ribbon made discovery and accessibility of features much improved over older versions. Still, it’s hard to find certain functionality or to find the right tool in the suite for the job at hand. For this Microsoft introduces Tell Me which first appeared in its Office Online suite. The Tell Me feature utilizes natural language so you can find what you are looking for, and is supported in all apps in the suite sans Publisher, OneNote, and Skype.
Say you want to protect a file, just type it in and it will present appropriate suggestions. You can even immediately access functionality within Tell Me, its not just a search results function, it really helps you get things done.
Real-time Document Collaboration
Office 2016 improves the real collaboration features in the suite’s core apps. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint make it easy to work on files with multiple authors, whether they are using Office Web Apps or the desktop client. You can easily invite, share and restrict editing through a new Share Task pane. We previously looked at using this feature in our article on how to Track Changes using Word 2016.
Backstage view was introduced in Office 2010 and has not seen much of an update since. But Office 2016 Backstage adds improvements such as better access to storage locations, you can easily save, open, access documents too.
Outlook Email Attachments
Now you can save time by attaching Office documents from the Ribbon or Action Bar that you most recently used to your emails by picking your document from the dropdown options. For files already in OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint, you have the option to share them as an “Edit” or “View only” link instead of as a traditional attachment. This enables collaboration on one copy of a document instead of several.
Outlook Desktop Groups
If you have Office 365 deployed in your organization, Outlook 2016 introduces groups which builds on the distribution lists method communication and collaboration with team members. With Outlook in Office 2016 and enterprise mailboxes, you can do the following:
- Create and manage groups from within Outlook
- Stay aware of activity in your groups without leaving your Inbox
- Access the conversation history of a group, even from before you joined
- Gather files and notes related to a group in the group OneDrive, and get there from Outlook
- Schedule meetings on a group calendar that everyone in the group can update
- Or just use them as a distribution list
Improved Outlook Support for Small Screens
If you use Office on a touch device with a smaller screen, you’ll see improvements to how it handles the layouts better. Just select a message like you would on a Windows Phone device, and when you are finish reading it, just tap the Back button.
Power Query Built Into Excel
If you work with large data sets, then Excel is the perfect business intelligence tool (BI) to use. You will be pleased to find that Excel 2016 integrates Power Query into the app which was only as an add-on before. Power Query provides self-service business intelligence (BI) for Excel featuring an easy to use interface that’s powerful enough to dig into a number of sources including relational, structured and semi-structured, OData, Web, Hadoop, Azure Marketplace, and others.
Read Only Mode for Excel
Microsoft improves Excel in Office 2016 with a read-only mode. You can open and view workbooks quickly in SharePoint — removing the need to use the desktop client.
Skype for Business
If you are using Office 365 for Business, you will notice a new app is included in the suite called Skype for Business. The new app replaces the previous Lync communication app providing business users with a robust and familiar brand with the best of Lync. Some of the new features and improvements users can get started with include:
- Call Monitor works intelligently, for instance when you move focus away from the current call, you’ll get a mini version of the call with Mute and End Call buttons so you can interact with the call while working on other things.
- The “Peek” menu/conversation control simplification is now no longer hidden until you hover.
- Quicker access and discovery of features and functions. For instance, you have quicker access to the dial-pad and other calling features and in Skype for Business, you have a refreshed dial pad layout that reduces the number of clicks to the core call management tasks.
- Similar to the consumer chat experience, chat message bubbles are now included in updated IM experience and the new tab layout in the conversation window gives you unread message notifications so you’re always informed.
Other Office 2016 Improvements
Insert images with the correct orientation: Now, with automatic image rotation, once you insert an image into an app such as Word or PowerPoint, it automatically rotates the picture to match the camera’s orientation. You can manually rotate the image to any position after insertion. Note that this only affects newly inserted images and does not apply to pictures in existing documents.
Pan and zoom while loading large charts/SmartArt: When working with large charts and SmartArt diagrams text will appear right away, allowing you to view and edit while the diagrams load. A placeholder for the chart or SmartArt will be displayed until the object fully renders but you can still interact with the document.
Higher DPI support for 250% and 300%: Office 2016 has higher DPI support for 250% and 300% so Office documents look even better at higher screen resolutions.
Improved Dark Theme: Office 2016 introduces enhancements to the Dark Theme for interaction with the user interface. This should be welcome for users with visual impairments who found the previous light scheme unusable in Office 2013. Dark theme also includes improvements to Word’s navigation pane (better readability, fixed white flashes) and several Outlook readability fixes (white text on light background, dark text on dark background, disabled text being unreadable). The contextual ribbon tab text (no longer full caps), hover states and task pane controls have also been improved.
There are a lot more features, but these are spread across applications such as Microsoft Project 2016 and Visio 2016. You’ll also notice, a lot of the improvements are targeted at power users and enterprise environments. It’s hard to justify an upgrade for many, especially if your older perpetual licensed version works just fine.
As I noted earlier, if you maintain an active Office 365 subscription, some of these features in Office 2016 will be yours. If you use Windows 10 on a tablet you can also take advantage of the UI being optimized for touch.
The suite is free through the Windows Store, but requires an Office 365 app to unlock features and functionality. Office 2016 for Windows is launching September 22nd. A version of Office 2016 for Mac and should be released later this fall.
So what do you think, are any of these features enticing enough to leave behind your current version of Office?