Microsoft Office 2016 launches Tuesday

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

For Office 2016, teamwork is everything.

From seamlessly working on collaborative documents to unprecedented support for Mac, the new Office 2016 is out to draw users away from Google’s Web tools.

Is it finally time to change the name of Office, Microsoft’s ubiquitous and elder suite of productivity applications? “Office” connotes a singular space, a collection of tasks done by one. It will add that capability to the other Office apps over time according to a blog post by Kirk Konigsburger, the corporate vice president for Office Client Applications and Services.

Microsoft’s competition to Google’s web-based document and collaboration tools is now available–Office 2016 for Windows, with its slew of new features aimed a Web-based collaboration is aimed at bringing new document creation and sharing capabilities to both end consumers and businesses. But the world has changed around Office, from a disconnected set of work spaces, to networked business and now global operations where the location of one’s office is meaningless. The company is pitching Office 2016 as a perfect complement to its newly available Windows 10 operating system although Office 2016 will also work with Windows 7 Service Pack 1, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, a spokeswoman said. Much like the model used with Windows 10, will also be utilizing a new method of delivering updates, where these will come in smaller bursts and at more regular intervals. Microsoft MSFT -1.25% also added Skype for Business to the mix so users can, from within their Word documents, talk or video chat with colleagues, partners or customers.

Simultaneously available is Office 2016 for the Mac, which will be sold as a one-time purchase option and not via the subscription model as is with Windows. Google Drive has been one such competitor, especially thanks to the strength of its collaboration features that allow multiple people to edit a file at the same time. Across Office 2016 collaboration is the buzzword, with specific features and offerings that aim to facilitate better cooperation and interchange of information and communication at work or at home. Office 365 is a the new umbrella term for Microsoft applications delivered online as a subscription service, although people can still buy shrink-wrapped versions of Office 2016 at retail. Among the new abilities in the latest iteration of Microsoft’s popular office suite are: Real-time co-authoring: Extending the real-time nature of their Web apps on to the desktop, users can now see changes being made to documents as they happen in real time within in the native Office apps itself.

Microsoft is moving the whole Office franchise to this software-as-a-service delivery model pioneered more than a decade ago by Salesforce CRM -0.61% , in the customer relationship management arena. Microsoft and Google are also locked in a battle to get customers to store their work and personal documents in their respective Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive cloud storage repositories.

The update also brings support for features that make Office easier to use, like a “Tell Me” box that lets users search for a particular in-app function like setting line spacing without navigating the myriad series of buttons and menus available inside Office apps that control every little feature. The biggest and most important addition is the Share button in the upper left-hand corner (the same button – with a lot less functionality — already exists on Office for iPad).

The transition from a big-bang up-front license sale to a longer-term subscription sale can be initially painful for legacy IT vendors used to the older model, but that is the way of the world these days. While Office’s full-featured nature makes it more powerful for users with particular needs, that same functionality can seem confusing to users who don’t need it. In his blog post Konigsburger also said that with the Office 3016 “subscribers can expect to get more frequent updates with new features and improvements.” Also Outlook 2016 provides access to relevant attachments to all people in the ‘To’ field from within Microsoft’s cloud storage platform, OneDrive. Google announced Monday that there are 1 million businesses actively using its Drive for Work collaboration and storage product, in addition to a larger number of individual consumer users.

Tell Me helps users locate Office features and commands to flatten the learning curve, while Smart Lookup brings insights from the Web directly into current documents. Customers with an existing Office 365 subscription can download the update for free starting today, and those without one can purchase a subscription to get access to the new applications. Cortana with Office 2016 support: In the coming months, more smarts are being added into Cortana by gathering intelligence on Office 365 through Outlook 2016 support. Office 365 Planner: Aimed at easing the process of creating tasks, organizing work days, drawing up plans the like, the Office 365 Planner incorporates visual dashboards tied in to email notifications that serve to keep all project members abreast of project status over time.

As part of its transition to providing Office as a service though Office 365, Microsoft will be pushing frequent updates to this new version of Office. GigJam: Available in private preview from today, this is a new tool that gives access to tasks and processes by extending them across devices, apps and people. Those include support for real-time coauthoring in PowerPoint and the company’s new GigJam service that makes it easier for users to work together across multiple services and applications.

OneDrive for Business: Coming later this month, it will include enhancements in synchronization across browsers and mobile devices, with better IT control and developer experiences. Key improvements include the updated sync client for Windows and Mac, bringing improved readability, selective sync and increased file sizes and storage limits. Much more useful on the conversation threads is the ability to see, by a little number in the Group conversation window, how many responses each message has. Working in group conversation threads could keep Outlook pretty streamlined, but it may not cut down on the number of emails you get each day, especially from those outside your workgroups. Microsoft tried to manage that side of the mail equation with a Clutter tool that moves emails like newsletters and notifications that you might not need.

Delve, another Web-based tool, takes the team oversight to an entirely different level by inserting business insight into all the information it can glean by access to your activities (with your permission, of course) across all these Office 2016 tools and then bubbles to the surface the most relevant information. Now PowerPoint 2016 adds something called “Smart Lookup” that you access by right-clicking in the guess work object and then selecting “Smart Lookup” in the pop-up menu. It breaks all the rules of vertically scrolling slide-creation stalwart and puts a disparate collection of multimedia and text content into a side-scrolling phantasm. It’s also a critical checkmark for Microsoft, which has seemed less able to quickly blend its tools into a cohesive whole than Google, which has done it with maybe less concern about, “Is this just right?” Nice to see that Microsoft finally learned that perfect is the enemy of the good and moved forward with a wide, rangy set of enhancements that feel like too much in some areas and maybe too little in others, but that will surely help teams succeed in the 21st century.

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