The most used suite of applications and the de facto standard for text-based documents, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, etc. characterizes itself for being in a state of constant change. After the huge revamp that the previous version represented, Microsoft Office 2016 is quickly evolving into the true multi-device and multi-user suite of tools that we were promised.
As of today, Microsoft Office is hard to understand without Office 365. Microsoft Office 2016 is still available as a one-user, one-PC, one-time payment product for those who simply require to have Word, Excel, and PowerPoint installed on their computer, and enjoy their extensive functionality just like in the old days – without any document sharing capabilities, cloud-based storage space, multi-device interaction or syncing, and without any future updates. The Office 365 subscription scheme not only offers you more tools (such as Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, and Access), but also an hour of free calls via Skype, 1 TB of free cloud storage space for all your documents in OneDrive, up to five installations in different devices, and the tranquility of knowing that your Office apps will always be up to date.
The look and feel of the tools themselves hasn’t changed much since the previous version, though new functionality has been added to all of them. The ribbon is still there, but now you will find a “Tell me what you want to do” text box just beside the main menu options. This is like a tiny Cortana devoted to help you find features and actions more easily and certainly more quickly. Researcher and Editor have taken Word to a new dimension – the former uses Bing to find and incorporate reliable information related to the topic you’re working on, complete with citations, quotes, etc., while the latter is a new writing assistant that offers you suggestions and cues (including contextual proofing) to help you create properly-written documents in no time. Word also includes a new Shape Recognition feature that transforms drawings into shapes and support for SVG images (a feature also available in the new versions of Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook). Though still only available to Office Insiders, the Ink Editor for Word keeps on incorporating new features, such as the possibility of editing your documents using natural gestures like strike out a text to delete it. Outlook, Excel, and PowerPoint have also been enhanced with new features, though to a lesser extent.
Slowly but surely, Microsoft Office is taking big steps towards a more collaborative way of working based on cloud services, fully-synced multiple devices, permanent access to your documents, and easy and safe file sharing capabilities. Microsoft Office 2016 is just one more of these steps that are dramatically changing not only the tools we use, but also how we conceive our interaction with them.