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Up Periscope: Office 2016 Preview

Up Periscope700

I thought I’d share an early preview of what Office 2016 will contain.  It’s due out in Australia somewhere between July and September 2015 at this stage, though that date will firm up in the coming weeks.

Note: This post relates to the desktop version of Office.  The online versions available through Office 365 subscriptions already have access to some of these features.

Update – Microsoft Office 2016 has been superseded by Office 2019, which is slated to be the last desktop-only release of Office.  Microsoft would like users to transition to the hybrid (desktop and online) Office 365 inside Microsoft 365.  The 2019 version of Office includes connectivity with Exchange, Skype for Business and SharePoint.  Office 2016 will become End of Life and unsupported with security updates on October 14, 2025 so there is still plenty of time left to get the most from your investment.  Here is a link to compare the updated features of Microsoft Office 2016 and 2019. 

Office 2016 features:

Tell Me is the new and improved Clippy, a search feature that’s present in Word, Excel and PowerPoint that allows you to search in natural language for what you want to do and promises not to annoy you anywhere near as much as the earlier character.

Cortana is a feature brought over from Windows phone.  Based on a character in the Halo game series, Cortana is a virtual assistant that can answer spoken queries on any topic and even assist in productivity tasks.  It will only be available for use in Office once Windows 10 is released.  At long last, we’ll all be talking to our desktops like our iPhones and Androids!  What? You don’t do that yet?

Clutter helps you manage your inbox in Outlook by using an analysis engine that learns your behaviour and moves items that you access infrequently into a low priority folder.  Might be a great help for those incessant sub-folder creators, or those who file and action by “Unread Messages”!

Real-time co-authoring in Word is available, meaning you can collaborate with other team members on that last-minute proposal and you don’t each have to wait for the other to finish.  Just make sure you agree on the font colours!

Plus, in the July quarter, Microsoft promises that Lync (I mean, Skype for Business) will be added to the collaborative sessions, meaning you can talk and write at the same time.

Excel power users get new data analysis tools.  One Click forecasting, more powerful queries that allow you to combine disparate sources of data and analyse them, plus pivot tables that can handle hundreds of millions of rows of data (yes you read that correctly) for analysing datasets that you can’t even conceive of loading into Excel 2013.

Managed IT Service Providers get some nice new features too for their clients:

Data Loss Protection: Set new policies within Word, Excel and PowerPoint that control content authoring and sharing.  End users will see a notification when they try to do something they’re not allowed to do.

Multi-factor authentication over Outlook means you can secure access to company emails with more than just a password and prevent unauthorised sending.

Proactive Network Traffic Management: Called Background Intelligence Transfer Service, BITS throttles back the use of bandwidth when other critical network traffic is present.

Updates at your pace: Admins can control the frequency with which updates arrive so that they are more manageable and synchronise better with your workflow.

I’ve inspected the Office 2016 help forums.  Not too many issues detected at this stage.  Certainly no forehead-slapping moments yet for Microsoft.  All in all, a good first 48 hours of public release…but take my advice and hold off installing it (even though it’s free for now) until your support team tells you they’ve tested it and it’s OK.

James Walker


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