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Office 2016 for Windows Arrives with Emphasis on Collaboration

Microsoft today released Office 2016, the latest version of its widely used productivity suite. Subscribers to the suite with Office 365 accounts can now upgrade by downloading the new version. With the new Office 365, Microsoft is looking to make the suite's core applications better suited for real-time collaboration on the fly. In addition to built-in real-time coauthoring in Word, IM via Skype for Business and connectivity to Office Groups are focal new features.

Also critical and coming later in the month from Microsoft is improved synchronization with OneDrive for Business, which the company is promising will be more reliable and offer selective sync. The company had announced Sept. 10 that the new suite would be available today. Customers with volume licensing agreements will be able to download the upgrade on Oct 1.  Although Microsoft had released some early limited previews last year, the company offered technical preview in March.

"We designed it to help change the nature of work within organizations of all sizes," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a blog post announcing the release, underscoring the three scenarios of modern work environments: that users work on multiple devices and locations, they want to collaborate and many use multiple applications. The release also marks Microsoft's new plan for delivering new functions to Office via continuous updates as it is doing with the new Windows 10 operating system, said Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office Client Applications and Services team, in the official announcement. "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," Koenigsbauer noted. That effort includes adding real-time coauthoring to Word initially 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. However, the Groups feature depends on having an Office 365 subscription; it's not available with the standalone Office 2016 product. 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.

Among some other new features are Tell Me, an improved help feature offered in Office 365 and Smart Lookup, designed to make it easy to perform Web searches while creating a document or other content. Excel 2016 now lets users output their data to Power BI for creating new types of charts (see Redmond's First Look at Power BI 2.0 here).

Some forthcoming features released for technical preview today include the new task manager, called the Office 365 Planner, which lets users create plans that can be viewed in a dashboard with alerts that track the progress of a project and  GigJam, revealed in July at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference. GigJam is designed to let users "quickly retrieve, display and share data across different applications and platforms, with the Cortana digital assistant acting as the facilitator." As we reported back in July, "GigJam displays data from different sources as separate card-sized windows on the desktop "canvas." Users can then choose to share each card, as well as how much data from each card others can see. Users can also ask Cortana to link different datasets for convenient sorting. GigJam could be important to the future of collaboration and workflow management, wrote Office 365 and SharePoint MVP Christian Buckley, who is CMO of Beezy.

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

In case you have missed some of our Office 2016 content, you may find the following Redmond coverage useful in understanding what's new in this release:

If you've started using Office 2016, share what you find most useful as well as what you don't like about it, by commenting below or dropping me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/22/2015 at 9:48 AM


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