Microsoft has opened the preview of its Office 2016 application suite to a broader audience, enabling anyone to test the new capabilities coming later this year, such as live co-authoring of documents and data loss protection.
Available to download now, the public preview of Office 2016 allows all interested parties to get an early look at the next release of Office for the Windows desktop, but will also enable them to shape and improve the future of Office via feedback, Microsoft said.
Among the new features in this release is support for real-time co-authoring of a document between colleagues. This is already supported in the web-based Office Online apps, but Microsoft is now bringing the same experience to the full desktop applications, starting with Word (see picture below).
"When you and your team are working in Word 2016 and/or Office online, you'll be able to see where other editors are working and what they are writing, all in real time," said Jared Spataro, general manager for Microsoft's Office marketing team, writing on the firm's Office blog.
Microsoft is also aiming to make the Office applications smarter and better able to assist users by learning from their behaviour. A new search tool called Tell Me, available in Word, PowerPoint and Excel, allows users to simply type out in natural language what they want to do, for example.
Microsoft also highlighted a new Exchange feature called Clutter that uses machine learning to analyse the user's email patterns and de-clutter their Outlook inbox by moving lower priority messages into a new Clutter folder.
Excel 2016 gets new data analysis tools, including one-click forecasting of future trends for data series, integrated Power Query to connect to data sources such as SAP Business Objects or unstructured data like Hadoop, enhanced Power Pivot features, the ability to publish data to Microsoft's Power BI cloud service, and updated chart and graph capabilities.
For administrators, integration with ConfigMgr in Office 2016 will make it easier to download and distribute monthly Office updates to users, while admins can now manage the pace at which they receive feature updates and bug fixes while continuing to receive regular security updates.
Microsoft warned that the Office 2016 Preview is still a work in progress, and not all of the new features are available for use now. However, new features will be added to the preview every month between now and the release, which is scheduled for the autumn.
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