Microsoft Office 2016 — What Is New and Different?

Learn about the top new features in Microsoft’s updated office suites

Microsoft Office logo
Bob Nowacki – September 30, 2015

The 2016 version of Microsoft’s productivity suite includes features for easier collaboration and sharing. Excel gets a boost in power, Outlook streamlines everyday tasks, and most applications help you find the command you need.

Get Microsoft Office now

The latest version of Microsoft Office includes many new productivity, collaboration, and data analysis features. Here are just a few of the top new features.

Work Faster with “Tell Me”

The Tell Me box in most applications helps you perform important taskseven if you don’t know how to do something. Rather than using Help or just poking around, you can type what you want to do in this box. Office shows you a list of commands you can use to complete your task. If you have selected something in your document, you will see commands specific to that object. For example, if an image is selected, you will see commands related to images.

The Tell Me box in Outlook
The Tell Me box in Outlook

Get Quick Answers with Insights

Insights lets you search for information from within Word, Outlook, Excel, and PowerPoint. Right-click a word or phrase and choose Smart Lookup. Microsoft’s Bing search engine uses what you selected and what’s near the selected text to show you definitions, images, Wikipedia articles, and other related information. This appears right in Office, not in a web browser. You can also access Insights via the Reviewtab and Tell Me.

Insights in PowerPoint
Insights in PowerPoint

Collaborate and Declutter in Outlook

Outlook has a number of new features to help you work more efficiently, collaborate more easily, and manage email overload, including

  • Fast integration with other Office applications. When you attach an Office document to an email you’re about to send, Outlook shows you a list of the files you worked on most recently. No more hunting through folders for that recent spreadsheet or document you want to email to your colleagues. If it’s a file you worked on in OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint, the file’s icon has a little cloud on it.
  • Collaboration with work groups. If you use Outlook with Exchange Server, you can set up work groups, which are like powerful distribution lists. Members of a work group can share conversations, calendars, and files. You can choose whether they get messages in their individual inboxes or in a group inbox.
  • Cleaning up clutter. Some people’s inboxes get very cluttered — someone you know, perhaps? So, if you use Outlook with Exchange Server, Outlook has a new feature called Clutter. It moves low-priority messages into a folder called Clutter. You can define which messages should or should not go to this folder. More than that, though, Clutter looks at what you’ve ignored in the past and moves new, similar messages out of your inbox so you can deal with them later.

New Analysis and Forecasting Features in Excel

Excel has gotten quite a bit more powerful in 2016. New features include

  • Pulling in data from almost anywhere. A former add-on called Power Query is now built in to Excel. Power Query can pull data from various sources for analysis, including websites and SQL, Azure, Access, and other databases.
  • More charting options. Excel also has six new chart types.
    • Box and whisker charts are most commonly used in statistical analysis.
    • Histograms show frequency data in columns.
    • Pareto charts highlight the biggest factors in a dataset.
    • Sunburst charts show levels of a hierarchy that are represented in concentric rings.
    • Treemap charts compare proportions within a hierarchy.
    • Waterfall charts show a running total as values are added or subtracted.
  • Predicting the future. The new time series forecasting functions can predict future values from historical data. The more data, the better the forecast.

Time series forecasting in Excel
Time series forecasting in Excel

Real-Time Co-Authoring in Word

If several people are working on a Word document that is stored in OneDrive for Business, real-time co-authoring allows multiple users to collaborate, edit, and update simultaneously. Everybody can see what everybody else is doing. They can see changes as they are made and even where cursors are currently placed.

Co-authoring in Word

Microsoft plans to include this feature in other Office applications in the future.

Sharing Made Easy

Word, Excel, and PowerPoint now have Share buttons at the top right of the window. When you click a Share button, you are prompted to save your file to an online location, such as OneDrive. Then, in a panel on the right side of your window, you can enter the email addresses of the people you want to share the file with or select the addresses from your address book. You can choose whether they can edit the file or just view it.

The Share panel
The Share panel

OneNote notebooks have similar functionality. Instead of a Share button, though, you send the invitations from the Filemenu (also called Backstage view).

The Ribbon Has a New Look

Office 2016 also looks a little different from Office 2013. In Office 2013, the default background for your document and ribbon was white, but you could also choose light gray or dark gray. In Office 2016, the default background for the ribbon tabs is the color of the application’s icon. For example, Word is dark blue, Excel is dark green, and PowerPoint is orange. But you can go back to white or dark gray if you like. The dark gray theme is designed to be helpful to people with impaired vision.

What’s Included in Office 2016

The Office 2016 Standard and Professional Plus suites include basically the same applications as in Office 2013. One difference in the Professional Plus suite is that Lync is now called Skype for Business.

Neither suite includes OneDrive Pro anymore, but both of them integrate with OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint for online storage and sharing.

Office 2016 Quick Start Guides and Online Training

Microsoft has published PDF quick start guides to help you get started with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote. Online training courses cover these and also add training for Skype for Business and OneDrive.

And More

These have been the highlights of the release. TechSoup will be covering Office 2016 in more depth in the future, so keep checking in, or subscribe to our newsletter if you haven’t already.

How to Get It

Office 2016 Standard and Professional Plus suites are now available through TechSoup. If you got Office through TechSoup less than two years ago, you can upgrade to the new version free of charge through Software Assurance.

Note: The original version of this article reported that Office Standard included Skype for Business. However, it is included only in Office Professional Plus.

Images: Microsoft

Leave a Reply