Continuing my series about change, let’s look at the newest Office suite – Office 2016.
It’s the second major version of Office to use the ‘click to run’ streaming deployment methodology. More importantly, it’s the first major version of Office to really ‘catch up’ with what Microsoft has been doing in the Cloud. That’s a very important point. With Microsoft totally controlling the infrastructure within Office 365 and therefore the component versions, it can release new features in the Cloud first without worrying about backwards compatibility. Office 2016 (along with Exchange 2016) are the first real ‘retro fit’ to bring Cloud capabilities to the desktop/on premises server.
Not that they’ve totally succeeded, as many new Office 2016 features are more ‘Cloud integration’ than they are ‘Cloud but on your PC’. For example, in Office 2013 we saw OneDrive and SharePoint Online included as places to open from or to save to. Office 2016 now includes a new, easy to find ‘Share’ button (in Word, PowerPoint & Excel), which sets up sharing permissions and sends an email invitation in one step from within your document. But the catch is that the document HAS to already be located in the Cloud. If you’ve just shivered with fear at the thought of your users sharing any business document outside of your organization, there are administrative controls that cover external sharing. In addition, OneDrive and SharePoint Online now can take advantage of Data Loss Prevention, which makes certain information within documents ‘unshareable’ (eg credit card numbers) based on your corporate policy.
Word and PowerPoint are the first desktop programs to allow real-time co-authoring. If you’ve ever been frustrated playing ‘attachment tennis’ (aka who has the correct version), this feature is a magical sanity saver. But … wait for it … again, only available if the document is in a Cloud service (OneDrive or SharePoint Online).
Outlook gets less Cluttered, with a new feature that’s only available with an Office 365 subscription. It’s like the Junk folder but for things you might actually want to read occasionally and it learns which emails you tend to only glance at and delete. It doesn’t sound like much, but after using it for a few months it’s improved my productivity and my Inbox triaging.
So what’s in it for traditional, non-Cloud environments?
- Updated Office themes and new chart types! Yes, I know, you can stop celebrating now.
- One click forecasting for Excel lovers projects data forward based on historical information.
- ‘Tell me more’ sits quietly along the menu bar but it’s is actually a more useful way of getting help on Office tasks and features and is worth a look.
- Smart Lookup brings the power of Bing search (stop laughing now) into Office, delivering Wikipedia entries and Internet search results to the Insights pane as well as definitions and synonyms from the Oxford Dictionary. Just right-click a word or phrase and select Smart Lookup.
- By far my most favourite new feature is an update to Outlook’s file attachment dialog. Clicking to attach a file now automatically lists your Recent Items without having to navigate file explorer. This includes things like screenshots you have recently snipped & saved. It also asks if you want to save Cloud files as a link to the Cloud (and sets permissions) or as an attached copy of the file.
So, without the Cloud features, there’s not really anything in there that’s going to make you rush out and upgrade, especially when even Office 2010 is in extended support until October 2020.
If you are looking to deploy or upgrade an Office 365 ProPlus flavour, the Office Deployment Tool (ODT) will become your new best friend (albeit a slightly annoying one who sulks if you don’t have everything perfect). The tool brings down an installation package once and an easily modified configuration script sets the scene for running it on your workstations. This can include or exclude apps and you can have a different configuration file for the HR department or your project managers (depending on what file you use when you launch their installation). The most frustrating thing about this tool is a generic ‘There’s something wrong – check your permissions and your internet access’ error what can mean:
- You don’t have local admin rights
- User Account Control is blocking the installations
- The security permissions on source files are wrong
- The security permissions on source share are wrong
- It’d prefer a mapped network drive instead of a UAC path
- Insert any other variable reason here that I haven’t come across yet, which will likely use the same error code.
Office 365 ProPlus will support a Branch update methodology similar to Windows 10 but it omits the Long Term Serving Branch. Using ODT, you can segregate your installations to apply updates for the Current Branch (monthly), Current Branch for Business (every four months) or stay on the cutting edge with First Release for Current Branch for Business (every four months). That lets you control who gets the updates first, to allow for some real world use and testing before you let loose on the rest of your organisation.
So, how are things looking in your Office?
Are you locked in to Office 2007 because a line of business application runs it?
Are you planning your Office 2016 rollout or have you tested it at home?