Office 2016 for Windows launched to the public on Tuesday, available either as part of an Office 365 subscription or a one-time purchase. But is it worth bothering? After all, Office 2013 still works the same as it did yesterday, and unless you have a 365 subscription, you may not be too keen on buying a new suite just to use the new features. What do the reviews say?
One of the new features on display is Tell Me. This lets you search from the title bar for a feature that you cannot locate, for example how to complete a spell check in Word. This can be called up with a press of Alt-Q. "As a keyboard addict, I found myself liking the Tell Me feature despite its limited intelligence," said Tim Anderson of The Register.
Group collaboration was one key area highlighted in reviews. Office 2016 now offers real-time collaboration, so groups working on a document will see changes take place as they occur. The suite even supports Skype for Business, so collaborators can fire up a session quickly and ask crucial questions. "I found it exceptionally easy to work with others this way," said Preston Gralla of ComputerWorld, before going on to say that, as someone who prefers working alone, he's unlikely to use it too much personally.
Excel includes now charts, while Outlook has a new "Clutter" section for email that's not junk but not necessarily pressing. Dana Wollman of Engadget said the Clutter section doesn't draw much attention to itself, and is enabled by default. "For both these reasons, then, I think I prefer the "Sweep" feature in Hotmail, where you can set up rules for what gets shoved aside, and what happens to it," she said.
But one of the major conclusions is less about what Office 2016 does, but what it represents. Tom Warren of The Verge notes that Office, like Windows, is moving towards a service-based model. $5-12.50 per month for Office 365 will give you the full Office suite on all your devices, and Office 2016 seems to include a lot of features that make it work better across all devices. "We’re going to see a lot more of that in the future, and I welcome the change of focus," he said.
"I’m reluctant to advise you to rush out and buy Office 2016," said Mark Hachman of PC World. The focus on subscribing to Office 365, with the promise of new additions further down the line, is a sell Hachman saw as tougher than that of Windows 10: Windows 10 is free, while Office 365 will rope you in to monthly payments. Hachman also notes that Office Mobile, a universal app, is free and possibly enough if you're a home user who cares little about collaboration and future-proofing.
Office 2016 is available in a variety of packages. Office 2016 as a standalone starts at $149 for Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote, and goes up to $399 for businesses that want Access, Publisher and Outlook as well. Office 365 starts at $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year for the Personal subscription, and can cost up to $15 per user/month for a monthly commitment to the Business Premium package.