Microsoft's latest version of its Office suite is here, and it has been getting rave reviews. Here's what you need to know about Office 2016's capabilities:
Collaboration is the killer feature, but it's not fully baked yet. Microsoft is facing increasing pressure to compete with Google's own productivity suite, and made improving collaboration between its users a key tenet of Office 2016. Word 2016 shipped with the ability to co-author documents stored in SharePoint or OneDrive live from the desktop version of the app, which is a nifty feature for people who want to all pile in on one document. Microsoft is supposed to bring that capability to more applications, with PowerPoint 2016 being the next to get the co-authoring treatment. Right now, it's still limited to Word on the desktop.
Office apps can tell you (and your users) how to do what you want. As Microsoft has changed, grown and redesigned the Office apps over the years, it has been easy to lose track of key, little-used features that users just know are buried somewhere in there. A new "Tell Me" feature in Office 2016 on Windows lets users search for the feature they're looking for and access it without having to pick through menus. (On a Mac, people can search for menu options in the Help menu.)
Sway and Delve are new apps worth checking out. Microsoft added a couple of new applications to its suite with this latest release. Sway is a new app that's part Publisher, part PowerPoint, part Word and part OneNote. The app is used to create interactive multimedia presentations that can be shared on the web or presented on a projector or computer; presos can contain a variety of embedded content. Delve helps users better sort through important documents that have been shared with them (see, there's that emphasis on collaboration again) and surface key files when users need them.
You don't need Office 365, but it's nice to have for Microsoft's future roadmap. In keeping with its promises to enterprises, Microsoft allows businesses and consumers to purchase Office 2016 as a standalone suite (and even as discrete applications). For people and businesses that are committed to staying away from a subscription service offering, that's a solid option. But for those who don't mind making a monthly commitment to Microsoft's cloud productivity service, the company has some interesting stuff coming, like Delve organizational analytics, a service that will help business users evaluate how they compare with their coworkers and who they're connected to within a company. That relies on Office 365's features to work, so businesses interested in it will want to be on Microsoft's subscription service.
Business users won't get it until next year by default. Much like its deployment of Windows 10, Microsoft will be rolling Office 2016 out in a set of deployment rings. Business users of Office 365 will get Office for Windows by default early next year, unless their organizations have changed their settings. That's likely the best choice for organizations that want to take time to evaluate the new software. Users who are itching to get their hands on the new bits can either be put onto the First Release plan by an IT administrator, or given a standalone Office 2016 installer for their devices.