If you’ve been looking forward to the next version of Office, you’ll be pleased to learn that its now available in Stores and you can choose to go for the membership subscription model called Office 365 or the one time purchase version simply called Office 2016. But before you start shopping, check out all the new features and robust enhancements that have been made to the Office 2016 suite as well as features unique to each individual app. Let’s dig in.
The most noticeable feature of Office 2016 is the lack of any dramatic changes to the UI. With Office 2016, Microsoft has ignored major changes in UI to focus on far more important stuff – features that are needed for the modern Office user who works with teams across the globe using the cloud.
New Features in Office 2016
Office Background Color
In Office 2013, Microsoft introduced one of the most unattractive user interfaces of its productivity suite yet. Thankfully, in Office 2016, you have a few more options if you want to change the background color; from Colorful to Dark grey and White.
Selecting the Colorful option brings a color band to the top of your document; in Word it is blue; in PowerPoint its orange, its purple for OneNote, light blue for Outlook and so on.
All About Cloud
As you start using Office 2016, you’ll notice that the application offers plenty of opportunities for you to work with the cloud. In the Office Account tab, you’ll notice that Connected Services automatically saves all your files in your OneDrive account (you must be signed in with your Microsoft Account).
You can also connect additional services like YouTube, Office 365 SharePoint, Flickr, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. This makes it as easy as apple pie to add Flickr images or Facebook videos to your content or share documents with colleagues via Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Additionally, when you add attachments to Outlook, it lets you link directly to documents in OneDrive so you don’t have to download them to your PC and then attach them via email.
Real Time Editing
Real-time co-authoring is the need of the hour. Office Online apps have the feature and so does Google Docs. Office 2016 is also introducing real time editing and collaboration, but only with Word 2016, at least for now. Users will be able to see the that a collaborator is editing a file by looking at the Share pane. The initials of the person making the edit will also be visible within the document along with a sync icon appearing next to the change.
Tell Me What You Want To Do Box
Office 2016 has some smart tools that will understand the way you work and help you get more done with less effort. One such smart tool available in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel is the Tell Me What You Want To Do box, which is available on the menu bar. You can also access it using the keyboard shortcut Alt + Q.
It is basically a search box that quickly finds commands for you. Just type what you want in the box and suggestions will pop up. For instance, if you are using Excel and are not sure where to look for the Freeze Panes command on the Ribbon, just type freeze panes in the Tell me What You Want To Do box and it will automatically display the command for you to use.
This box is more than just a suggestion or Help feature. It actually lets you do the activity directly from the box.
Format Shapes with Additional Style Options
Adding shapes in a Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file is nothing new. However, in Office 2016, you now have more formatting options available at your fingertips. Once you have inserted a shape, you head over to the Shape Styles gallery in the contextual Drawing Tools tab to select from a whole lot of style options. As you can see in the above image, you have options to select Theme Styles that will change the colors to match a change in theme or you can select from a ton of preset options.
Writing Math Equations
Excel, PowerPoint, and Word has always included options to insert equations, but for the first time, in Office 2016, you have the option to use your finger to write equations. If you have a touch screen PC or a Windows tablet, you can go to the Insert tab, click the Equation drop-down, and see a new option called Ink Equation. Click on that and you’ll see a pop up screen that lets you draw on the canvas. You will be able to erase, select and correct and clear your writings and review all the changes right within the window. Once you’ve got the equation you wanted, you can simply click Insert to have it displayed in your document.
In Office 2016, its now so much more easier to share files with others. In PowerPoint, Excel, and Word, you’ll see a Share tab at the far right of the menu. Clicking the tab will open up a pane asking you to save your current document to the Cloud. You can save it on OneDrive or SharePoint and once that’s done, you’ll see options to invite people, grant view/edit access, add a message and set options on whether to automatically share the changes. The Address book icon lets you quickly add contacts right from inside the pane.
Search Using Trackpad
If you use a Trackpad, you can now use the three finger tap to look up stuff in your Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document from Wikipedia, Twitter, and the Dictionary.
Clutter is another smart tool that Microsoft has introduced. It analyzes your email and based on your behavior, determines messages you are most likely to ignore. It then moves those messages to a folder called Clutter, which you can review at your leisure. To use Clutter, you need to be on an Exchange server and you must enable the feature from the Outlook Web App. (Ridiculous! don’t you think?)
Insights, the smart tool that is powered by Bing is also available in Office 2016. Insights will help you quickly find contextual information from online resources (including images and definitions), when you select a word in your document. Just right-click the text you want to look up and select Smart Lookup to get the Insights pane load up to the right side of the document.
Work Groups (Office 365 Enterprise mailboxes only)
Outlook Groups, probably familiar to those who use Office 365 is designed for small teams to work together more efficiently. Users can create groups of members to manage projects. For instance, a sales group or a marketing group can be created, or a list of members handling a particular project can be grouped.
With Outlook Groups, users can stay aware of any activity happening in the group without leaving Outlook. Plus, users can share files, view communication history, schedule meetings and so on within the group. This avoids multiple channels of communication when working on a project and simplifies the work flow.
Improvements in Save Locations
Office 2013 had a very messy and confusing option when it came to saving documents. That’s been improved in Office 2016. Although the focus still remains on storing in OneDrive, at least the Browse button has found its rightful place, allowing for quick saving to the File Explorer location.
New Excel Capabilities
Excel 2016 has a host of new features and improvements that will help you analyze your data quicker and easier.
- One click forecasting now makes it easier than ever to forecast future trends in data.
- Excel 2016 comes with some new charts to represent data including Waterfall, Treemap, Sunburst, Histogram, Box and Whisker.
- Integration of the Excel Power Query plugin will help to discover, combine, and refine data across a wide variety of sources including relational, structured and semi-structured, OData, Web, Hadoop, Azure Marketplace, and more.
- The Excel Field List, which is used for adding fields to Pivot Tables and Pivot Charts now offers search functionality. This will make it easier for you to find items in longer lists.
- You can now select multiple items in an Excel Slicer on touch devices. Previously, this was limited to one selection.
- When you add time field rows to a PivotTable, time groups are automatically detected and created.
- You can now drill up and down your data hierarchies directly from your PivotCharts visualizations. This means you can explore your data more deeply right from your charts and graphs.
- You can now connect your spreadsheet to an OLAP cube and view this data as a Power View Report. In PowerView you can build reports with KPI’s, hierarchies, calculations and table data coming from the OLAP cube.
- It is now easier to find Business Intelligence features such as Power View, Power Pivot or Power Map. Once you start using any of the BI features, the rest will be automatically turned on.
- If you are using the Power Pivot add-in, you can rename tables, columns, and calculated fields/measures and the PivotTables will seamlessly adjust to the new names in the Data Model.
- You can now open an Excel workbook within SharePoint in read-only mode.
- Now you can rename tables, columns and calculated fields/measures within the Power Pivot add-in and take advantage of PivotTables being seamlessly adjusted to the new names in the Data Model.
People Suggestions in Outlook Search
When you search your email in Outlook 2016, you will instantly see people suggestions, making it easy to find email involving them.
Adding Attachments in Outlook
OUtlook’s attachment feature just got smarter in Office 2016. Now when you click on the Attach a File command, you will be able to see all the recent documents that you worked. This means attaching files is a lot more intuitive. You also have options to browse this PC or search the web. Attached files also come with their own menu. For instance, once you have attached the file to your email, you can click the dropdown menu next to the file and open it, delete it, print, copy, or save it as a new file. If your attachment is on the web, say OneDrive, you’ll have additional menu options such as assigning permissions.
Zoom Options for SmartArt
If you are using large charts or SmartArt diagrams in your documents, you’ll be happy to learn that the text elements load quickly, allowing you to start editing it right away. A placeholder will be available until the object renders.
Microsoft looks to have made some noteworthy improvements in Office 2016 to accommodate more collaborative and engaging features although it still has some way to go when it comes to bringing a user friendly, uniform Office experience across desktop and web applications.
You may be inclined to think that these are just basic upgrades to the original software that shouldn’t really warrant a fresh purchase, but that’s the way it stands for now.
What do you think of Office 2016? Does it meet your expectations or do you feel that the suite is just getting a shiny new makeover…peel off the mask and its the same old same old?