Office 2016 is one of Microsoft’s best versions of their office suite to hit the market. It was released in September 2015 for both Windows and Mac. But due to its novel features and innovations, it started generating hype long before then.
Don’t have it yet? You can choose from several routes to upgrade to Office 2016, including updates that are free or discounted, depending on which versions of Office you currently have. The easiest way, however, is to simply purchase an Office 365 subscription (which students can possibly get for free).
The Office 365 subscription comes with a free and voluntary program that you can opt into. This Office Insider Program provides several benefits that you might find useful. Here’s why you should enroll today.
The primary and most beloved aspect of the Office Insider Program is that Microsoft sends out early access builds that you can test out before those builds become publicly available. That’s what it means to be an Insider — you become part of this special inner group.
With these early access builds, you essentially get to play with and experience all of the new features and bug fixes that will eventually be available for everyone, but you won’t have to wait like they do. For people who love being on the cutting edge of tech, this is like a dream come true.
This is similar to the First Release builds that are available to Office 365 for business customers, except Office Insider is available to anyone who subscribes to Office 365 — including Office 365 Home, Office 365 Personal, and Office 365 University.
The period of early access could be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months ahead of time, depending on how long it takes Microsoft to perfect the build and fix any serious issues that might have gotten past their quality assurance team.
So instead of waiting three months for that new feature, you could have it now. Pretty cool, right? Just be aware that these early builds won’t always be perfect. If you can’t afford that risk, maybe it’s better that you don’t enroll.
If you think the Office Insider Program is only for Windows folks, think again! When it was launched in 2015, it supported early access builds for Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile, and Android. In 2016, Microsoft extended support to Mac versions of Office as well.
In other words, you can now get Insider Previews for all devices that support Microsoft Office, except for iPhones and iPads. As of now, there’s no indication of whether Microsoft intends to extend platform support to those devices.
One of the worst feelings as an end user of software is when you submit bug reports and feedback only to find that your words were never taken into consideration. At best, they were missed. At worst, they were ignored. Either way, it sucks.
Microsoft isn’t offering the Office Insider Program out of the goodness of their hearts. It’s actually a way to gather user input and experiences before each build goes live — so in a way, it’s like a big beta test that you get to participate in.
Each product in the Office line — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, and OneNote — has a UserVoice suggestion box. Not only can you submit ideas, but you can vote on ideas submitted by others. Any idea that gets at least 20 votes has a good chance of getting an official reply.
It’s an effective system that makes you feel more involved than if you were just sending in nebulous feedback forms and emails. Want to play a role in the development of Office? Then the Office Insider Program is calling your name.
Remember, the builds that you get as an Office Insider won’t always be flawless. In fact, you should probably assume each build will come with bugs (and count it as good luck when they don’t). This means you’ll probably run into issues every once in a while when features don’t work as expected.
Fortunately, Microsoft provides a special section of their forum community, where Office Insiders can ask questions and get support from fellow Office Insiders. You can filter posts further by individual Office products and individual devices and platforms.
What’s nice about this community is that everyone who participates here is someone who knows enough about the Office line to enroll in the Insider Program and find their way to the forum. The community isn’t huge, but it’s quite helpful nonetheless.
How Do I Become an Office Insider?
Grabbing the latest versions of each build is remarkably simple. There’s a unique process for each individual platform, but once you’ve enrolled for each relevant device, there’s nothing else you have to do.
For Windows: For subscribers to Office 365 Home, Office 365 Personal, and Office 365 University, just head over to the Additional Install Options page of your Office 365 account and choose the Insider versions of the office applications you want to install.
If you have an Office 365 Business or Office 365 Enterprise subscription, Microsoft recommends deploying the First Release build instead. (Functionally speaking, it’s the same as the Office Insider build.)
For Mac: You must have Office 2016 for Mac installed. Launch it and navigate the menu bar to Help > Check for Updates. You should see a checkbox labelled Join the Office Insider program…, which you should mark affirmatively. From then on, you will be notified when new builds are available.
For Android: Visit the Office Insider for Android page on Google+ and click Join Community. Once enrolled, you’ll gain access to install the preview versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint that are available on Google Play. (Direct links are available on the Google+ page.)
For Windows 10 Mobile: Head to the Windows Insider Program page and enroll for that. This grants you access to download and install the Windows 10 Mobile Insider Preview builds that you can get through the accompanying Windows Insider app. (First check if your mobile device is supported.)
There are many reasons to consider upgrading to Office 2016, but the Office Insider Program — and the subsequent ability to check out features and innovations before everyone — is probably one of the best because Office 2016 is in constant evolution over past versions of Office.
At this point, the countless improvements may cause you to feel too intimidated to upgrade. If that’s the case, worry not. Just check out these tips for learning Office 2016 and you’ll be over the learning curve in no time.
If you do decide to jump in, here’s everything you need to know about managing your Office 365 subscription. Otherwise, if you aren’t sure if Office 365 is right for you, here’s everything you need to know to about deciding on the right Office suite.
What do you think about the Office Insider Program? Is the promise of early build access enough to sway you into enrolling? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!