Posey's Tips & Tricks

What's Up with Microsoft Office?

Microsoft's preference for the subscription-based Office 365 over the "perpetual license" version is starting to show up in its feature descriptions.

With a new version of Microsoft Office dubbed Office 2019 slated to be released in the not-too-distant future, it's hardly surprising that Microsoft has been giving customers (including those eligible for the commercial preview) a taste of what to expect.

Normally, each new Office release is jam-packed with new features. This time, however, most of the new features that are being introduced seem relatively insignificant.

What is significant are some of the things that Microsoft is doing in an effort to push customers toward adopting Office 365.

Now, please don't misunderstand me. I am in no way suggesting that there won't be any new features in Office 2019. There are lots of new features slated for release. The new features that are included in the commercial preview release, as stated by Microsoft, include:

Word

  • Black theme
  • Office sounds
  • Learning tools captions and audio descriptions
  • Text-to-speech
  • Improved inking functionality
  • Accessibility improvements

Excel

  • Funnel charts and 2-D maps
  • New Excel functions and connectors
  • Publish Excel to PowerBI
  • PowerPivot enhancements
  • PowerQuery enhancements

PowerPoint

  • Zoom capabilities for ordering of slides within presentations
  • Morph transition feature
  • Insert and manage Icons, SVG and 3-D models
  • Improved roaming pencil case

Outlook

  • Updated contact cards [Ed.'s note: This feature requires an Exchange Online account.]
  • Office 365 Groups
  • @mentions
  • Focused inbox
  • Travel and delivery summary cards

At any rate, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook are each getting four to six new features. In my opinion, these features seem comparatively minor and it would be hard to justify an update based on this feature list. In all fairness, though, it is entirely possible (even likely) that Microsoft has yet to release the full Office 2019 feature list.

Most of Microsoft's work these days seems to be dedicated to Office 365. It isn't exactly a secret that Microsoft would prefer that its customers subscribe to Office 365 rather than buying a perpetual license. After all, an Office 365 subscription is more expensive than a perpetual license in the long run, and is a big money maker for Microsoft.

Microsoft has already announced that starting on Oct. 13, 2020, Office products that fall out of mainstream support will no longer be able to access Office 365 services. Mainstream support typically ends five years after a product's release date, which presumably means that Office 2016 and older versions will lose access to Office 365 services in 2020.

Although I haven't seen a list of exactly which services those older versions of Office will lose access to, the list would presumably include things like OneDrive for Business and Skype for Business. Microsoft could even end up preventing older versions of Outlook from accessing Exchange Online, just as it is doing with Outlook 2007.

Another thing that Microsoft is doing in an effort to drive customers to adopt Office 365 is to make some Office features available only available in Office 365. Microsoft has indicated on its Web site that there are Office 365 features that are not going to be included in Office 2019 for Windows. Microsoft defines Office 2019 as "an upgrade to previous versions of perpetual [sic], including Office 2016."

Here is the list of features that Microsoft says will not be included in Office 2019:

Unlocks Creativity

  • Editor in Word
  • Tap in Word, PowerPoint, Outlook
  • Designer in PowerPoint
  • Researcher in Word
  • Insights in Excel*
  • Data Types

Built for Teamwork

  • Real-time co-authoring
  • @mentions in Word, Excel, PowerPoint

Integrated for Simplicity

  • Shared computer licensing
  • Language packs included
  • FastTrack Options
  • Intune integration
  • Microsoft 365 Analytics*

Intelligent Security

  • ATP Safe Links
  • Office 365 Message Encryption*
  • Office Enterprise Protection*
  • Add sensitivity label in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook*

The items with an asterisk require an Office 365 E3 or E5 subscription.

The thing that I find interesting about this list is that it includes some features that are readily available today. For example, I am writing this column in Word 2016 and have access to the Editor and Researcher features. Admittedly, I do have an Office 365 subscription, and unfortunately I don't have an easy way of verifying that this feature exists in the standalone version of Office 2016.

Even so, sources on the Internet like Ghacks indicate that the feature "is available to Office 365 users and customers who purchased a standalone copy of Office 2016."

Microsoft's decision does not affect me personally because I have an Office 365 subscription. Even so, I wish that Microsoft would stop pushing Office 365 subscriptions so hard. I have never been a fan of subscription-based software, and would greatly prefer to purchase perpetual licenses instead. Many other people, especially in smaller IT shops have told me that they feel the same way.

Sadly, perpetual licenses seem to have really fallen out of vogue.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 16-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site at.

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