The launch of Office 2016 marks a new chapter in the working life for those of us who use Microsoft's flagship office suite and this time things are very different to previous incarnations.
Indeed, with its latest offering – version number 16 – Redmond has reinvented Office from the ground up for today's mobile first, cloud first world. It looks different, plays different and has some really neat new features that should excite business users everywhere.
The first thing you'll notice, apart from the clever upscaling in functionality for today's App driven environment (full functionality on the mobile for Office 365 users), is how Office 2016 becomes a hub for real-time collaboration, further breaking down the working boundaries that many of us face.
Built with productivity in mind, users of Word are now able to instantly edit documents, wherever they may be – solving the old problem of sending changes back and forth between colleagues until everyone is happy. With Office 2016, the game changer is real-time co-authoring, meaning multiple writers can be working together simultaneously regardless of location. Think of the time that could save you on your next big project.
Excel is another element to have been reimagined and delivered with a real focus on business intelligence tools within this version. Power Query is now built-in as standard and snap functions and smart scrolling have also become the norm. Oh, and if you're wanting to access large spreadsheets you can now quickly do this from SharePoint or OneDrive for Business as read only files.
Users of Office 2016 will also be able to get their hands on the new Skype for Business client which includes all the features you'd recognise from Lync and improves upon these by delivering features such as presence, IM, video calls and online meetings in a Skype-like format. This means you'll be able to seamlessly work on other documents while taking calls and connecting with those outside of the workplace in a secure manner (good news for IT departments everywhere).
When it comes to Outlook, business users will see immediate productivity gains too, as unimportant or spam emails are intelligently sorted for you by Clutter, a tool that clever analyses email patterns to deliver priority emails first. Other changes of note include the ease with which files can now be attached to documents – Outlook suggests those recently worked on whether locally or on OneDrive – and new security measures for Word, Excel and Powerpoint, where users are warned when trying to save confidential information outside the corporate firewall.
And with personal mailboxes continuing to grow many businesses will also seek to take safe haven in larger mailbox support packages and consequently faster working for Office 2016 through hosted exchange platforms, such as Cobweb's, that offer 25gb or unlimited mailbox space for users. As well as providing another level of security, these help to rectify complaints seen in previous versions of Outlook where users often suffered from sluggish performance and a lack of space.
Yet, despite the obvious benefits mentioned I suspect there may be some of you running on Office 2003 or Office 2007 thinking you can plod on using those. I would urge caution here, taking the time to think about this as an opportunity to take your business forward using the safety and flexibility of the cloud for things like file sharing and collaboration, whilst taking advantage of the safety it provides in protecting documents too. These, in addition to those already mentioned, and a low-cost subscription model means that Office 2016 as part of Office 365 can genuinely transform your business and deliver ROI where it matters most. And when you consider that a subscription to Office 365 buys you a license across five devices and the peace of mind that comes from being 'evergreen' – it'll always be up-to-date – it's a no brainer.
Oliver Moazzezi – MVP Exchange Server