Release of Microsoft Office 2016 marks almost three years since the last major version of Microsoft’s productivity apps. More than 1.2 billion people use Office, for everything from simple word processing and personal finances, to powerful number crunching at large enterprises. It’s as ubiquitous as Windows itself, and before today’s new update it was already packed full with features. So, do you really need the latest version?
Microsoft believes that you do — but more importantly, it wants you to get on the new way of thinking about Microsoft software: constantly updated, available in the cloud, and getting new features all the time. But that vision will take time to pan out. Right now you should make your choice to switch based on whether or not you really want the new features
Microsoft has been slowly refining Office over the past few versions, and the 2016 release takes that a step further. While Office 2013 focused on storing your documents in the cloud and introducing some touch improvements, Office 2016 is really designed to make sharing a lot easier across all your devices. Office is no longer restricted to your desktop PC or laptop, it’s everywhere. I can create an Office document from my PC and then edit on my phone or tablet, and not have to worry about moving the file manually onto those devices. Never before has this been so seamless, and Office 2016 embraces the cloud fully.
OFFICE 2016 IS ALL ABOUT THE CLOUD
When you first start up any of the latest Office apps you’ll be hard pressed to actually find what’s new. For example, Excel only has one notable change: six new chart types. There are a few visual changes and tweaks and a new gray theme that matches the dark look of Windows 10 very well. Other than that, all the features of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are in largely the same place as they’ve always been. Office 2007 was the last major change to the look and feel of Office thanks to the Ribbon UI, and Microsoft hasn’t made any drastic changes in Office 2010. If you’re used to working in Office, then the 2016 version won’t break your workflow.
But there are new features to be found, and the best of them happen to be in Office’s most popular app, Word. If you’re creating a résumé or an angry letter of complaint, then it’s the tool of choice. Microsoft has made Word a little more intelligent this time around, with some new features that are helpful, rather than flashy additions you never use again. Clippy hasn’t returned to haunt your documents, but the new Tell Me feature makes use of the helpful parts of Clippy to act as an assistant without the annoying distractions. Tell Me lets you simply search for the feature or task you’re looking for and it brings the option up. If you’re struggling to find how to insert a chart, just search for “how do I insert a chart” or something equally relevant, and the option is immediately revealed. I used it a few times when the vast array of features and options in Office got overwhelming, so it’s a minor but welcome addition.
Microsoft is also making more use of Bing in Office 2016. A smart lookup feature lets you search for items in documents or emails to fact check or find the meaning of a phrase. Previous versions of Office have had similar functionality, but this feels a little more refined and easy to use. I still reach to my browser and Google stuff though, so I doubt this will be helpful for most people.