Office 2016 Released, Features Collaboration Improvements

As expected, Office 2016, Microsoft's next-generation productivity suite for Windows, became generally available on Tuesday.

Users with Office 365 accounts can now download Office 2016, which Microsoft has retrofitted to include improvements to mobility, real-time collaboration and communication. Customers with volume licensing agreements will be able to download the upgrade on Oct 1.

According to a blog post by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Office 2016 has been designed "to help change the nature of work within organizations of all sizes." Nadella underscored the three scenarios of modern work environments for which Office 2016 was designed: Users work on multiple devices and locations, they want to collaborate, and many use multiple applications.

Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Office Client Applications and Services team, said in a separate blog post that Office 2016's release marked the start of Microsoft's new plan for delivering improvements to Office via continuous updates, similar to the model it uses to update the new Windows 10 operating system. "It's a new day for our desktop apps," Koenigsbauer said.

"We set out to make working together easier and more impactful by building a suite of integrated apps and services that removes barriers and empowers teams to do and achieve more," he also said. To that end, Microsoft has added real-time co-authoring to Word, with plans to add that capability to the rest of the suite over time. The new Office 365 Groups feature is included with Outlook 2016, as well as an Outlook Groups app on iOS, Android and Windows Phone. With Groups, anyone can create public or private teams, and every group has its own shared inbox, calendar, cloud storage for shared files, and a common OneNote notebook to keep the team productive. Skype for Business integration lets users initiate an IM session within a file, or create an audio or video call.

Other new features are Tell Me, an improved help feature offered in Office 365, and Smart Lookup, which is designed to make it easy to perform Web searches while creating a document or other content. Also, Excel 2016 now lets users output their data to Power BI for creating new types of charts.

Some forthcoming features released for technical preview on Tuesday include the new Office 365 Planner, which lets users create plans that can be viewed in a dashboard with alerts that track the progress of a project, as well as GigJam, a data-retrieval and -sorting solution that Microsoft first unveiled in July at its Worldwide Partner Conference.

Still to come later this month is improved synchronization with OneDrive for Business, which Microsoft is promising will be more reliable and offer selective sync.

For enterprises, Koenigsbauer underscored Office 2016's newly added Data Loss Prevention (DLP) features aimed at reducing leakage of sensitive data, as well as support for multifactor authentication. Later in the year, the new Enterprise Data Protection (EDP) capabilities will enable secure exchange of information.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.