About two months after releasing the Office 2016 IT Pro and Developer Preview, Microsoft has delivered a broader preview aimed at all users. The Office 2016 Public Preview for Windows provides an early look at the next-generation Office suite for the desktop, which Microsoft says has been updated for the modern workplace, with smart tools for individuals, teams, and businesses.
“Over the last 12 months, we’ve transformed Office from a suite of desktop applications to a complete, cross-platform, cross-device solution for getting work done,” Microsoft general manager for the Office marketing Jared Spataro wrote in a post announcing the release. “But that doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten where we came from. While you’ve seen us focus on tuning Office for different platforms over the last year, make no mistake, Office on Windows desktop is central to our strategy.”
According to Spataro, the March preview provided only a peek at what Microsoft is planning for Office 2016. This week’s release is more complete, and for the first time the firm is explaining what customers can expect from this next release.
Some of the features Microsoft is discussing (some of which were previously disclosed) include:
Modern attachments. Outlook can now attach files from OneDrive and automatically configure permission for the recipients, all without leaving Outlook.
Real-time collaboration. The Office desktop applications are now picking up the real-time collaboration features that Microsoft previously added to the Office Online web apps. For example, if you and a coauthor are editing a Word document at the same time, you will be both be able to see each other’s changes as they occur, in real time.
Tell Me. This new search tool—available in Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2016—will direct you to the correct command when you type what you’re looking for.
Clutter. The new feature from Exchange is available directly in Outlook now, too. It uses machine learning to analyze your email patterns and automatically de-clutter your inbox by moving lower priority messages into a new Clutter folder.
Insights. This new feature, powered by Bing, lets you highlight text and then learn more about the selected topic from the web, all without leaving the application.
New Excel data analysis features. Excel includes a number of new data analysis features, including one-click forecasting, Power Query, improved Power Pivot functionality, a preview version of Publish to Microsoft Power BI, and new modern charts and graphs.
Data Loss Protection. Available in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, DLP lets IT admins centrally create, manage and enforce policies for content authoring and document sharing.
Multi-factor authentication. Outlook now supports multi-factor authentication through integration with the Active Directory Authentication Library (ADAL).
Information Rights Management. Previously available in Office, IRM protection is now extended to Visio files in Office 2016.
Background Intelligence Transfer Service. As it does in Windows, BITS helps prevent congestion on the network by throttling the use of bandwidth when more ritical network traffic is present.
Enhanced distribution management. IT admins can now efficiently download and distribute monthly Office updates using features that are native to System Center Configuration Manager.
Flexible update management. IT admins can now manage the pace at which they receive feature updates and bug fixes while continuing to receive regular security updates.
Simplified activation management. The Office 365 Admin Portal provides new controls that allow admins to manage device activations across users.
Microsoft notes that Office 2016 is not yet feature complete and that future releases will provide additional functionality. But where the the Office 2016 IT Pro and Developer Preview was available only to select Office 365 user groups, the Office 2016 Public Preview is available to one and all. You can join the Office Preview and download the latest build from the Microsoft web site. It works on Windows 7, 8 and 10, and you must first uninstall Office 2013.
The final version of Office 2016 is expected in fall 2015, some months after the release of Windows 10 and the Office universal apps for Windows 10. I’m expecting a new preview release of the Office universal apps for Windows 10 this week as well.
(And if you’re a Mac user, be sure to check out the Office 2016 for Mac Preview.)
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