While Windows 10 will likely get the lion’s share of attention when Microsoft Corp. unveils the updated operating system later this year it will be Office 2016 – the similarly revamped office suite – where your users spend most of their time.
What can we look forward to in Office 2016? Well, the Windows edition of office suite has been available in preview format for Office 365 business subscribers for more than a month, so we have a pretty good idea. With the full suite set for release in the second half of 2015, the preview version includes Access, Excel, Skype for Business, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher and Word.
The preview release is targeted more to IT professionals and developers than it is on end users, so in a blog announcing its release, Microsoft’s Kirk Koenigsbauer highlighted the features that will appeal to this audience.
And at the top of the list was bringing data loss protection (DLP) classification and policy features to Word, Excel and PowerPoint; it was already part of Exchange, Outlook, OneDrive for Business and SharePoint.
“With these new capabilities, IT admins can centrally create, manage and enforce policies for content authoring and document sharing—and end users will see policy tips or sharing restrictions when the apps detect a potential policy violation,” said Koenigsbauer.
A number of significant technical improvements have been made to Outlook. The MAPI-HTTP protocol will replace RPC-based sync with a new protocol for Exchange/Outlook connectivity, foreground network calls have been eliminated to improve reliability, support for multi-factor authentication through integration with the Active Directory Authentication Library is now available, the time it takes to download and display messages has been reduced, the lean storage footprint on devices has been reduced, and search has been beefed-up.
IT managers will have an array of new click-to-run deployment features available for Office 365 subscription customers, including a new Background Intelligence Transfer Service to fight network congestion, enhanced distribution management through improved integration with ConfigMgr, flexible update management and simplified activation management through the Office 365 Admin Portal.
No new macros or add-ons have been added and existing ones haven’t been changed, which is a nice piece of stability. A number of readability issues raised with Outlook have been addressed and a new dark theme for users with visual impairments has been introduced. Finally, information rights management protection has been extended to Visio files to allow for both online and offline protection.
“These are just some of the new capabilities IT pros and developers will experience in the Preview,” said Koenigsbauer.
That’s the IT meat and potatoes; how about user interface and usability? Early reports indicate more colourful apps that replace the older colour scheme that was predominately white (and is still available) with a more colourful default interface that uses each app’s native colour in the title bar and ribbon area. There’s also a new “Tell me what you want to do” feature in the ribbons within Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Project, and Visio that allows you to type what you’d like to do and get pointed in the right direction.
The backstage area from where you print or save documents has been spruced up with new at a glance details on the location and ownership of recently opened files, adding attachments to a message has been made easier, and Outlook has been streamlined with a new, slimmer, mobile-inspired interface.
The changes appear to be useful, but not ground-breaking, and so likely aren’t enough to drive an upgrade on their own. Users of Office 2011 will find them more compelling than will Office 2013 users, as 2013 is still a relatively new and fresh product suite. Many companies may be entitled to a free upgrade, depending on their license type.
With the full release still a few months away, now is the time for IT professionals to download Office 2016 and put it through its paces, and also work with a trusted partner such as Rogers to see if the new office suite has a place in your business.