Inside being an Office Insider

What does it mean to be an Office Insider?

Microsoft has launched an ‘Office Insider’ program boasting ‘early access’ to ‘new Office innovations’ and giving people a place in the ‘ongoing process’ of Office development.

It’s a reformulation of the Office beta testing program into an ongoing ‘advance view’ of Office software.  That’s in line with the rolling nature of Office development now.   Calling it ‘Insider’ is hype since there’s nothing particularly select or ‘insider’ about the program; anyone can get the preview software.

The main part of Office Insider is access to ‘in advance’ deployments of new versions of Office for Windows.  Get those from the Additional Install Options page in your Office 365 account.

The installation of ‘Office Insider’ is quite normal and these ‘insider’ versions of Office are almost indistinguishable from regular Office for Windows.

And that’s the trap in using ‘Office Insider’ versions …

There’s no simple way to know that your version of Office is ‘Insider’ or not!  The About screen says it’s ‘Office 2016’, nothing more.

It’s a problem that Microsoft has caused many times before but even after all these years, it keeps happening.  There’s a curious reluctance to clearly label Office product variations.

The only indication that Office for Windows is an ‘Insider’ release is the version number.  For example from the File | About:

That’s not a lot of help to most people, unless you keep a track of the current Office build numbers.    You need to know the build number for the current public release of Office.

These change all the time, in fact the above version number has changed in the time we’ve written this article!   While us Office geeks might have the current Office build numbers stored in our personal storage (aka brain), most people should not be expected to.

‘Insider builds’ are a good idea but Microsoft needs to add a simple way for people and admins to know that it’s a preview build.


Microsoft listened and did something!  Part of a small update to the Office Insider build has an extra line:

‘First Release for Current Branch’ is Microsoft’s term for the ‘Insider’ or early release of new Office features.