TechWeekEurope gets a glimpse at why Office 2016 will make working together better than ever before
Microsoft has long been the leader in workspace technologies, with the vast majority of us having used Windows and Office software at some point in our lives. And following the release of Windows 10 earlier this year, it’s now time for the next generation of Office 2016 to go public.
First revealed back at Microsoft Convergence in March, Office 2016 will be Microsoft’s most powerful and intuitive office suite yet. Aiming to make working and sharing easier than ever, it includes a whole load of new tools and service to spice up the likes of old favourites Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, as well as a few neat surprises.
But what exactly is in store? TechWeekEurope sat down with Rich Ellis, Microsoft’s Office division lead for the UK, to get a preview, so here are some of the Office 2016 features we think will really change the way you work…
One of the major themes of Office 2016 is collaboration, with Ellis saying that it is ‘built for teamwork’. With this release, Microsoft is looking to make group working both quicker and smarter than ever before. This now extends to interactive real-time editing of documents, as you are able to share editing rights with Skype contacts, allowing them immediate access to a specific file.
Selecting the new ‘Share’ option in the document window brings up a list of available contacts, which can be defined using the new boosted Groups function, with each user then assigned a separate editing colour, meaning you can easily keep track of who has made what changes.
Features like footnotes and track changes have also been brightened up, all with the aim of making working on that major presentation via collaborative working a breeze.
Microsoft has also made moves to make email, and particularly Outlook, a much more intelligent and useful service.
As mentioned above, sharing emails amongst specific groups of people has been simplified, as the old alias system is replaced with a more intuitive Groups function (pictured above) . This no longer limits members to just a shared calendar, but also allows the creation of collaborative OneDrive and OneNote systems too, making sure everyone stays on the same page.
Office 2016 also introduces Clutter, a new feature that uses Machine Learning to try and make sense of your Inbox to filter out what’s important and what’s not for you. Clutter will analyse your email habits, as well as tracking your contacts, to help present information that you want to see, and ensure unwanted or spam messages aren’t clogging up your inbox.
As more and more of us stop filtering messages into specific folders, Microsoft says that Clutter will help you stay in touch with what’s useful. In a similar vein, the search function within Outlook has been improved to make it the fastest yet.
Lastly, attaching files to emails has been boosted to make it easier to use. Clicking on the ‘Attach File’ option within a new email now presents a list of files that you’ve recently accessed or edited (see above), so there’s no need to hunt through folders to find a specific file. If the file is stored in OneDrive, you can now also monitor who has access and editing privileges directly from the email, meaning there should be an end to what Ellis called ‘attachment ping-pong’, with increasingly bulky emaisl filling up your inbox.
As with any major release, Office 2016 includes a lot of new features – often too many for even seasoned professionals like TechWeekEurope to cover in detail. But usefully, there is now a way to find out exactly what services Office 2016 can offer specific programs, thanks to the new ‘Tell Me’ feature.
Taking the form of a mini search bar at the end of the usual menu ribbon present in all Office programs, Tell Me allows you to search and find specific functions that can help improve your documents. For example, we were shown how Tell Me was used to look up a new way to improve the look of a Tree graph, transforming it into a new Sunburst design, simply by searching for the term ‘Sunburst’.
Within Word, Tell Me was used to scale down title-sized text down to paragraph size, simply by searching for that function using the search bar. It’s an incredibly powerful tool which will remove much of the frustration that comes with learning to use a new set of software, and Ellis believes could be the most popular feature of all within Office 2016.
Much has been made of the way Windows 10 has looked to take some of the confusion out of everyday life, with Cortana’s intelligent search functions and the intuitive Bing search within Microsoft’s Edge browser helping to solve any questions you might have. But what about confusing things within your documents?
Smart Lookup looks to help you overcome any unfamiliar or unusual terms you might come across, as well as acting as a useful knowledge booster in case you need some extra information. By highlighting a word or term and selecting the service, the in-built Bing search function will quickly pull up information on that, whether it be a definition, spelling or location. And Smart Lookup will go a step further too, providing contextual information on the highlighted content in order to help mitigate any confusion. For example, in a presentation on biochemistry, when the word electrons was highlighted, we were shown definitions of the word, images to use, and Smart Lookup was able to analyse the rest of the content within the entire page of the document to present information on specific scientific terms.
Finally, Sway is an all-new program within Office 2016 that once again emphasises how good the suite is at allowing collaborative work and design. Taking the form of a mix between OneNote, Word and Powerpoint, Sway looks to break down the information within a document so that you can find and choose a style that really makes it eye-catching. Whether it’s for a big presentation to new clients or just to show off to your co-workers, Sway will look to present your content in the way it feels best carries across the values of what’s inside – even across mobile and tablet formats too, which will make it an invaluable tool for working on the go.