Microsoft recently came out with Office 2016, its first major update in three years. Here we take a look at the features and costs, and what those will mean for small business owners considering an upgrade.
With Office 2016, Microsoft encourages more cloud collaboration, and a lot of reviewers are drawing comparisons between the new upgrade and Google Apps. One feature that’s similar to something Google Docs has been offering is Smart Lookup, a Bing-powered research tool. Smart Lookup allows you to right-click on a word to get more information (such as a synonym or definition of a word), and do it without leaving the Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document you’re working in.
Microsoft has also added Skype for Business into Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, another nudge toward collaboration. Within each app, the “share” menu shows the people who can access that file. If you hover on a name, you’ll get a pop-up menu with options to send a message, or start a voice or video call through Skype. You won’t have to open the Skype app separately on your computer to do this, but you will have to have it already installed, and be signed up for Skype for Business.
Delve is another new feature that helps find documents, even if you don’t remember the title or where it’s stored. It also lets you see colleagues’ profiles – like an electronic business card you share inside your organization, according to Microsoft – and edit your own profile. As one reviewer noted in PC World, Delve is only good for finding attached documents, so if you’re searching for vital information that was written into an email, it can’t help you.
Sway, also a new app in Office 2016, lets you create reports, newsletters, or presentations using interactive content. Reviewers have noted that it’s a “blended” app that combines elements of Word and PowerPoint. The app takes care of formatting for you, and even suggests searches to help you find the right videos, social media content, or images to drop into your document.
Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and more
Excel has a few new features, but it hasn’t changed much – and that is probably a good thing for those who use it heavily and rely on it.
One of the new, smaller, features in Excel is the “tell me” box. This search tool is like a shortcut tutorial; it will take you directly to a command, like “add new column.”
Excel also becomes more of a collaborative tool, with link to online workbooks that others can access and edit. Excel has new capabilities for charts and graphs, and adds in a forecasting feature as well. Surface users might like Power Query, which lets you write equations by hand that Excel then pulls into a spreadsheet.
Word, too, doesn’t see huge changes in 2016. Smart Lookup is one of the new features in Word; another is a Wikipedia app for Word that lets you highlight a word, then click on the app to see the Wikipedia entry and add images to your text.
You also have more sharing capability in Word – once it’s saved to the cloud, you can invite people to edit it, or just send out a link.
PowerPoint also lets you collaborate on documents and share links so that people can edit shared presentations. However, reviewers have noted that any revisions made in PowerPoint are only saved if you click a “save” icon, which is not always easy to find.
OneNote continues to let you link documents and share notes, and the linking tool is a little more prominent in Office 2016.
Outlook, too, has some upgrades in 2016. Groups allows you to message groups that you or colleagues create without having to necessarily send emails back and forth. Groups can also use what Microsoft calls the Planning Hub, a project management feature.
And Clutter, another new Outlook feature, automatically sorts emails that are less-than-vital and puts them into a Clutter folder.
Office has two small business plans: Home & Business 2016 for PC or Mac, for $299.99, or Office Professional 2016 for $399.99. Both are for one Mac or PC. There are also three online tiers that let you purchase for more users: Office 365 Business Essentials for $5 per user, per month; Office 365 Business for $8.25 per users, per month; and Office 365 Business Premium for $12.50 per user per month. All three of those plans include 1 TB file storage and sharing, plus HD video conferencing. Business and Business Premium include full, installed Office on a PC or Mac, and Office apps on tablets and phones.
If you already have Office 365, you’ll be getting Office 2016 for free, as part of your membership cost – in which case there’s no reason not to take advantage of the upgrade. For those who don’t already have Office, Office 2016 could be a reason to go for it if you need more ways to seamlessly communicate with a team.
If cost is a concern and you don’t need all the collaboration tools, you might want to instead check out the Office Mobile apps, which are free and include Excel, OneNote, Word, and PowerPoint.