Office 2016 review

Colorful, intelligent, intuitive and cross-platform

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Our Verdict

The look is colourful, the emphasis is on collaboration and business intelligence, we love the way Outlook shows recent files to attach to emails and it's easier to find files you've been working with (especially in OneDrive).

For

  • Changes to backstage make it easier to find documents
  • Attaching recent files in Outlook is very convenient
  • Better sharing and collaboration options

Against

  • The colourful Windows 10 look can be a bit overpowering
  • You can't see files shared on OneDrive inside Office apps
  • Some programs – OneNote in particular – don't get many new features

[Editor's Note: What immediately follows is a short rundown of each major version of Office 2016, as well as information on the latest developments for the app suite. If you'd like to get right to our critique of Office 2016, click right here.]

Microsoft Office is a lot more than just Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook, although that's what most people think of first.

There's now a whole range, from the Office 365 cloud services to the mobile apps for iOS and Android (along with Skype for Business, Dynamics and Power BI), backing up CEO Satya Nadella's claims that Microsoft is the productivity company.

The mobile Office apps are certainly popular, but Office on Windows and Mac remains the main attraction, even in Microsoft's cloud-centric approach.

At any rate, Office 2016 isn't the same Office everywhere. It's more like the right Office for each platform – and in this case, that's Windows 10 and Mac OS X. Here's how they all break down at a high level:

  • Windows still gets the lion's share of tools and features simply because it's had the most attention over the years. And though it might be hard to keep adding major features to something with this much power already, there are some very welcome improvements – but also some changes you need to be aware of.
  • Office 2016 for Mac gains many new features (or at least, features that are new to Mac users) and its OneDrive integration is unmatched. It doesn't have all the Office applications and it doesn't have all the Windows Office features, but what you get has the both feel of a real Mac application and the tools of a real version of Office.
  • The touch version of Office for Windows 10, otherwise known as Office Mobile, sits somewhere between Office for iPad and the Windows RT version of Office for Home and Student, but brings in features from Office Online.

Microsoft is trying to make sense of the core Office tools across multiple platforms, and to make the Office 365 subscription a great deal. But, before we get into the meat, let's see what's new with Office lately.

Latest news

Now available on the Windows Store, Office 2016 spent the turn of the year battening down the hatches and squashing bugs, most recently putting the kibosh on abusive uses of macros.

And, in March, Microsoft released a new build of Office 2016 that addresses issues with Outlook and the POP3 protocol, not to mention PDF conversion. This update arrived a couple of days later for folks that weren't Office Insiders.

Consequently, in April, Microsoft announced improved collaboration features, ostensibly in an effort to compete with Google Drive. With various new additions such as People Hub, Skype for Business integration, Comments and an activity feed, it will be easier than ever to create and edit Office 2016 documents with colleagues in real-time.

Finally, Mac OS X Office users are in for a treat, as Microsoft has given the app a huge boost with add-ins, third-party extras (or extensions) fully vetted to run within the Office suite. They're currently available across every platform with the exception of Android – for now.

Move on to Page 2 for a look at what Office 2016 will do for your productivity – our full reviews of Office 2016 for Windows, Office Mobile and our impressions of the long-awaited Office 2016 for Mac.

Joe Osborne and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this review