Microsoft that has a history in serving it’s users with the most amiable products and services has finally brought Office into the modern working world three years after its last major update.
This new version, called Office 2016 on both Mac and PC, is the first to have collaboration and sharing tools that closely match what Google Docs has had for years. You can finally work with other people on a document, spreadsheet or presentation in real time, seeing what they are editing as they make changes.
Microsoft also added integration with its search engine Bing and messaging and video-calling app Skype.
For Office, which in recent years has been challenged by cheaper (or free) alternatives, the news is a big deal. It keeps Microsoft ahead of the pack, especially for customers who can’t get by with another application.
Five Office 2016 features that beat Google Docs
Built-in research with Bing
In Office 2016, Microsoft added Smart Lookup, a new research tool powered by its Bing search engine. Using it, you can right click on a word to run a Bing search and get more information, without leaving Word, Excel or PowerPoint.
Search results pop up in window on the right side, next to whatever you’re working on, and include results from Wikipedia, Bing images and Web results. Click any of the links to open your browser and read more. The best part of Smart Lookup is that uses the context of the words around the one you selected to get the best search results.
Office finds the tools you need
Microsoft acknowledges that the Office apps have so many features that it can be hard to remember where to find all of them in their various menus. So Microsoft’s Office team created a new search tool to help you find them.
In the ribbon (main menu bar at the top) for Word, Excel and PowerPoint, click on “Tell me what you want to do” and start typing the name of a feature you need. The app will find it and display the exact menu you need, without needing to dig around for it. It’s a simple addition, but one that would have come in handy for me many years ago writing college papers and constantly forgetting where to find the footnote tool.
Built-in Skype calling
Hoping to make collaboration easier, Microsoft added Skype for Business to Word, Powerpoint and Excel. The new Share menu in each app shows everyone who has access to that file. Hover over a name and you’ll see a pop-up menu with quick links to send a message or start a voice or video call with Skype, without opening the Skype app on your computer. The only downside to this feature is that it only works if you have the Skype app installed on your machine and use Skype for Business.
Pick up where you left off
While it includes several big changes, Office 2016 is all about the small touches. One little new feature that adds a lot of functionality is the ability to pick up where you left off in a document. When you reopen a file you’ve been working on, Word shows you where you last worked and lets to jump to that place with one click.
It’s essentially a bookmark for your documents, and it’s a fantastic tool for anyone working on a lengthy project over several days or weeks.
Office’s history of advanced tools
Microsoft Office has long been the standard for those who use word processors, spreadsheet tools and presentation builders at work. That’s because Word, Excel and PowerPoint are packed with advanced features, like mail merge, detailed charts and animated slides that are missing or limited with other programs. And for many people, Excel is the gold standard program for crunching large amounts of data. Not to mention, Office was designed to work both online and off, so you can do your work no matter where you go. Google Docs can work offline, but you’ll need to have opened your file before you go off the grid.
Google has improved Docs over the years, adding new features and making it work better, it still pales in comparison to what Office has been able to do for the last decade. If your work requires a full range of features and offline editing, it’s still very hard to beat Office.