Office 2016: What’s Different, What’s Better and How Much It Costs

August 2015: If you’re one of the 1.2 billion Microsoft Office users worldwide, your go-to suite of apps is getting an upgrade. Does Office 2016 have a ton of shiny new features? Not really. Does it make it so you can work on your synced, cloud-based files across all platforms and devices — PCs, Macs and mobile? Yes, it does!

And you get a better touch environment plus a boatload of free storage space. Here’s what else you get:

What’s different about Office 2016?

  • It’s (primarily) cloud-based and now has a touch-centric user interface so it’s not clunky on your tablet or phone.
  • Works across Windows and Mac environments with the Mac version, (which hadn’t been updated since 2010), looking almost identical to the Windows version, although some Excel & OneNote features are missing from the Mac version.
  • Runs on Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Mac Yosemite (10.10), iOS and Android

What’s better about Office 2016?

  • Word: Multiple users can edit the same document at the same time — this is a major collaboration improvement, one you can already get with Office Online and that Google Drive perfected years ago. Expect the same functionality upgrade in Excel and PowerPoint soon.
  • Outlook: A new, built-in email sorter called Clutter learns how you use email and moves low-priority messages out of the way. For attachments, a recent file menu pops up when you click the attachment icon and if the file exists in the cloud, Outlook will attach a link instead of the actual files and let you configure permissions right there.
  • Excel: Power Query is now built in and lets you pull in data from external sources. Pivot Tables and Slicers are now easily accessible and Power View has also been improved. If you’re into forecasting, you’ll be able to do it with one click — in fact, most new features focus on business intelligence.
  • PowerPoint: You’ll see minor improvements to templates, animations and effects. And you can now use Insights, the integrated Bing search feature previously available only in Word and Outlook, from within PowerPoint (Excel has Insights now, too).

The Office 365 version comes with 1TB (1,000GB) of storage space: That’s a lot of space. And a good value because you can use it for whatever you want, including cloud backup for all of your photos. Which means you might be able to offset the cost of Office 2016 by canceling backup storage that you have to pay for (Note: some Internet providers cap the amount of WiFi GB transfers you can make per month so you may have to pay overage fees when transferring data from one cloud service to another.)

New data loss prevention (DLP) features:
Formerly only in Outlook, new features in Excel, Word and PowerPoint now protect personal data like Social Security Numbers.: Formerly only in Outlook, new features in Excel, Word and PowerPoint now protect personal data like Social Security Numbers.

What’s not better? Reviewers complain that the user interface takes up too much screen real estate and the new “Tell me” built-in assistant (search bar) doesn’t return accurate results for some relatively simple queries.

How much does Office 2016 cost?
Here are comparison charts for Office 365 for home use, which starts at $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year, and business use, which starts at $5 per user per month. The boxed Mac version, which comes out in September and doesn’t include cloud-based functionality, will cost $139.99. It appears there won’t be a boxed version for PCs at this time.

Office 365 subscribers can get Office 2016 for Mac now — it was released last month.

Windows users can check out the preview for free. But not all of the features are available in the Preview and you will have to uninstall Office 2013 to use it. If you’re not super comfortable with installing and uninstalling operating systems, the official release is scheduled for this fall so you won’t have to wait too long.

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