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I think you will agree with me when I say:
It’s REALLY difficult to upgrade Microsoft Office every few years.
That’s usually how it always goes with new software and smarter features. But it’s a different thing when every seventh person in the world uses Microsoft Office and so do 83% of the Fortune 500 companies. Yes, Microsoft Office 2016 is now out in the glare. And its time you considered upgrading.
But do you need to?
Well, you can arrive at that decision in the few minutes it takes to read the 13 main reasons.
The First Change You Will Instantly Spot
Different colors. Actually.
Microsoft Office 2016 introduces Colorful which is the default theme and each app gets a different color. Microsoft Word is dark blue, Excel is green, PowerPoint is orange, Outlook is light-blue, and OneNote is purple. That helps to alleviate the whitish monotony of the previous versions.
As always, you can change the color to any among the three choices from File > Account > Office Theme.
Pro Tip: If you have visual problems, the high-contrast Dark Grey theme could be an eye saver.
Labels on the Ribbon tabs are now in title case. These are two little changes and hardly one that will convince you to switch to the latest version. But it’s nice to make a pleasant beginning before we get to the heavy features.
Get More Done with Some “Tell Me” Assistance
For those who have felt lost among the endless options in Microsoft Office, the Tell me what you want to do is Clippy’s smarter cousin. Notice the little bulb icon in the middle of the Ribbon. It is intelligence personified – you just have to tell it what you want to do. No digging for commands or shoveling through the Help file.
Type what you want to do in the Microsoft Office program and the little genie not only shows you how to do it, like a help feature, but let’s you do it directly from here.
For instance: if you want to adjust line spacing, but don’t know how to do it, just type it in the little field. The line spacing options are displayed in an eye blink.
This feature is available across all programs in Microsoft Office 2016 except OneNote. Maybe, they will include it in the next update but for now the feature makes Office mastery easier and tasks swifter. Even though, I can’t say it came back perfect when I tried it with the obscure commands in Office.
Pro Tip: Alt + Q is the new keyboard shortcut you have to learn now.
Collaborate and Co-Author in Real Time
If collaboration isn’t real time, it isn’t collaboration in the true sense. Collaboration wasn’t real time in Microsoft Office 2013 (via OneDrive) and it suffered when compared to Google Drive. The missing link — real time co-authoring — is now the core feature of Microsoft Office 2016. Team workflow is more productive as you can now instantly see what your team members are doing in a Microsoft Word document or a PowerPoint presentation.
Notice the Share tab on the extreme right of the Ribbon. You will be prompted to Save to Cloud. You can save it on a OneDrive shared folder or a SharePoint location. Invite others and give them access to either view the file or edit. Team members can also open the document in the free Office Online – they do not need the desktop Microsoft Office suite.
The co-authors receive an email invite and as soon as they join, you can see their profile pictures in the Share panel alongside the document. With real-time typing, watch what others are working on and view their edits as they happen. Microsoft Office locks the edits so that you can’t work on the same part. That’s a tiny feature, but it is sensible when multiple people are working on the same document.
Also, notice the change in the Save icon in the top right.
Microsoft Office also retains versions of previous edits in the History section of the File menu. The Microsoft Office Blog explains how to share with a click of a button.
Pro Tip: With Microsoft Office 2016, you can share a OneNote notebook with anyone you want. Add documents, images, videos, worksheets, or emails and a notebook can be a single-click container for group projects.
Visualize Data Better with New Chart Types
Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel get new chart types that help to visualize raw data with neat diagrams in easier ways. Data is moving towards richer storytelling and you will need all the tools you need. New chart types include Treemap, Waterfall, Pareto, Histogram, Box and Whisker, and Sunburst.
How useful are they? Very.
An instance: A Treemap chart can be used to display a high level view of your data. With the right color coding your eyes can spot the patterns and proportional differences between different sets of data. You can get a bird’s eye view of large data sets easily, without becoming mired in the confusing individual items. For example, compare the population densities of all U.S. states.
Of course, a chart can only be as good as the data it represents. But with the multiple charting options now available, Microsoft Office 2016 gives you more ways to work with the data. Earlier, an extra add-in would have performed a similar function.
Visit the Office Blog to learn more about the modern chart types.
Pro Tip: In Excel 2016, use the Quick Analysis button (right-click context menu) to display a preview of the recommended chart as per your data.
Handwrite Equations Quicker with Ink Equations
Working with math equations is easier in Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint now. Go to Insert > Equation > Ink Equation. For touch-enabled devices, you can use your finger or a touch stylus to write math equations by hand. You can also use the mouse in the Write box. The Microsoft Office software converts it into text.
Pro Tip: The equation editor has a Select and Correct option if Microsoft Office fails to recognize the symbols. Draw a marquee around the symbol and choose from one of the alternatives provided.
Go to Smart Lookup for Extra Information
Highlight a term and use the Bing-powered Smart Lookup in Microsoft Office 2016 (Insights) to bring in search results from the Web. A sidebar opens on the right side of the apps with search results from various websites like Wikipedia. You can drag and drop the information into your authoring environment.
Pro Tip: In Microsoft Excel, select a cell with a formula and use Smart Lookup to understand its function with the description Bing brings up.
New Features in Microsoft Office Apps that Make a Difference
There are some specific features exclusive to the apps in the Microsoft suite. Here’s the short look.
Microsoft Excel 2016
Power Query Goes Native
Power Query is a business intelligence tool that is available as an add-in in Microsoft Excel 2013 and 2010. It also works with only PowerPivot in Microsoft Excel Professional Plus. With the arrival of Query in Microsoft Excel 2016, the two obstacles have been removed. Access Query from Ribbon > Data > Get & Transform > New Query.
With the time grouping enhancements in Pivot Table, Microsoft Excel 2016 is now head and shoulders above any free Excel alternatives for business intelligence tasks. Gavin introduces you to a short tutorial on how to use Pivot Tables for data analysis.
Better Forecasting of Time Series Data
From linear forecasting available in earlier versions, Microsoft Excel 2016 gets a one-click button for exponential forecasting of a data series. Go to Ribbon > Data > Forecast Sheet.
Exponential smoothening of your data could be better for approximating trends when compared to linear regression.
Cool Geospatial Visualizations with 3D Power Maps
The Power Map tool is now called 3D Maps and built into Microsoft Excel 2016. Use it as an advanced business intelligence tool by visualizing any geospatial data that you have already brought into Excel with Power Query and combined with Power Pivot.
Microsoft PowerPoint 2016
Record Your Screen with PowerPoint
Seamlessly record any process on your screen with a new screencasting tool in PowerPoint. Go to Ribbon > Insert > Screen recording. Capture the part of your screen with audio and insert it directly into your presentation in a one-click process.
You can stylize it with the many video style presets. Crop the video to the size you want. PowerPoint also allows you to save the video file on your desktop for use outside the suite.
Share Better with Conflict Resolution
This is a neat feature which helps you avoid conflicts by observing the changes made by each collaborator – thanks to a side-by-side visual comparison. Choose the slide with the changes you would like to keep.
Microsoft Outlook 2016
Read Important Emails First
A smart email management feature learns your inbox behavior and removes low-priority messages to a special folder called Clutter. You can also sort them manually and review them later. Clutter needs an Office 365 subscription to work with Office 2016.
Quicker File Attachment
Email workflow is accelerated when attaching files just works. Microsoft Outlook 2016 makes it easier to attach recently opened files from the menu.
You can also set file permissions on the attached files. Share them as View only or allow edits so that recipients can work together on shared cloud files on OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint. By default, recipients have permissions to edit.
The Best Reason to Upgrade — Work Anywhere and Anytime
Microsoft has made smart and subtle changes with Office 2016. It is not a radical makeover from the previous version. For casual users, older versions will do the job as well as before because a standalone purchase of the desktop suite could be a wasteful spend.
When you work in a team then upgrading to Office 2016 makes better sense.
From an individual productivity tool, Office 2016 has planted a solid foot in the cloud and collaboration arena. Simpler document sharing and co-authoring could alone change your idea of productivity. Co-authoring is now a feature of the desktop apps – linked Microsoft Office apps, Office Online, and Office 365 turns it into an on the go productivity hub.
For teams, the best deal could be an Office 365 subscription which gives you the desktop, mobile, and cloud bundle. But you have to be cloud and mobile ready to take advantage of the new enhancements. With the subscription model, you will benefit from the automatic future updates that will roll in. There are lots of updates to look forward to.
New updates like GigJam could be pushed out in the near future. Then, there are some other features I haven’t covered like Outlook Groups which is available with an Office 365 work or school account. Or Skype for Business which is useful for group chats.
Need help with Office on a different platform? Check out our guide on how to install and use Microsoft Office on Linux.
Image Credits: looking upwards by EDHAR via Shutterstock