Striving to Excel
Considering the size of the Office suite, the list of significant new features is relatively short, and shorter still if you use Office without Office 365 or OneDrive. That said, the refreshed look is welcome and as a keyboard addict, I found myself liking the Tell Me feature despite its limited intelligence.
Excel is the highlight of the suite: the new chart types and forecasting features look handy, and users will like the data analysis improvements. Real-time co-authoring is an impressive feat of engineering, despite some lag, though it is not as smooth as doing this in the browser, whether with Office 365 web apps or Google Docs.
However, the bigger picture is that over the last couple of years, Microsoft has made enormous progress in making Office work decently across a broad range of devices. In July it put out a Mac version which was a great improvement over the poor Office 2011. In addition, the company is pushing customers towards Office 365 and subscription licensing, and while this will not suit everyone, there are benefits both in collaboration and ease of installation.
Some issues remain. Microsoft Office is wedded to its file formats, which causes problems for organisations standardising on OpenDocument Format (ODF). There is limited support for ODF here, but it is sub-optimal.
Another longstanding problem is the buggy OneDrive for Business client for synchronising Office 365 documents with a PC. Microsoft says in its press release that "a new sync client for Windows and Mac will deliver enchanced sync reliability", and this is promised later this month.
Taken on its own, Office 2016 is a solid, though unspectacular update, but the way the broader Office and Office 365 platform is coming together is more impressive. ®