More Office 2016 feature news

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With the March 2015 Preview of Office 2016 comes more news of upcoming features.  Some are interesting while others are in the ‘what took you so long’ category or even the ‘you mean it didn’t already do that?’ department.

This isn’t a full list, it’s just what Microsoft is disclosing at this time.  Each month there’ll be an update to the Office 2016 Preview with more features included and announced.

At this stage Outlook 2016 doesn’t look like much but then with Office subscription/rental taking hold, Microsoft doesn’t have to innovate as much.  That’s because people will have to pay the annual fee regardless of what has changed (or not) in Office.

New Look

Each new version of Office comes with a new look.  It’s Microsoft’s way of convincing people that they have something for their money by making cosmetic changes.

This time it’s the color scheme.  The new default is ‘Colorful’ which matches the look of the Windows 10 / Modern apps.

img 550a8588748b1 - More Office 2016 feature news(All images in this article supplied by Microsoft)

The Dark theme that Microsoft dropped from Office 2013 is back for Office 2016.  Having improbably alleged that this was the most requested feature for Office 2016, Microsoft is now saying ‘Dark’ is an accessibility option for people who find the brighter displays and colors too difficult to read.

Now the cosmetic features are out of the way, there’s more useful things to look at.

Tell Me

This is a long predicted part of Office 2016.  It’s a more natural and hopefully useful help system that’s been tested with Office Online for some time.

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Instead of trying to guess the name of the command, type in what you want to do ( ‘add a graph’ , ‘sort by rows’ etc.) and ‘Tell Me’ will suggest answers and provide links to the functions.  The last five commands are displayed to save time looking for repeat queries.


Backstage (aka the File menu) is changing as Microsoft learnt from the struggles with past incarnations.  The browse button has moved to the top of the listing instead of hiding at the bottom.

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The order of the storage locations has been changed.  Microsoft says it’s to ‘reduce confusion’ but it seems more like a continuing effort to force their cloud storage options onto customers.  Locations will now appear in the order:  One Drive, OneDrive for Business , Online Locations (Sharepoint etc) and lastly local computer.  This might suit Microsoft’s corporate strategy but not necessarily customers who would prefer to put locations in an order that suited them.

Picture orientation

We’ve complained about inconsistent picture orientation for a long time.  Office has been notable for not obeying the orientation information when importing a picture.  Finally, Office 2016 does it … and about bloody time too.


Outlook is now being used on devices with relatively small amounts of disk space which can’t possibly cope with a PST/OST file with all your email etc.  Outlook 2013 let Exchange Server customers keep just the last months data locally with the rest on the server.  Outlook 2016 will give you choices of 14, 7, 3 or even one day only if your computer is really short of disk space.

Also for Outlook on smaller screens, there’s an alternative viewing mode where the reading pane appears when you select a message.

Most recently used documents can be selection from the ribbon or action bar to become email attachments.

Years ago, Microsoft introduced ‘RPC over HTTP’ as a way for Outlook to connect to Exchange Server without firewall hassles (the HTTP part means that the web page port 80 is used).  Outlook 2016 has MAPI-HTTP for all appropriate users.  It’s a better solution to the same problem and should give faster, more reliable connection.   One good reason for the change is coping with flaky or erratic connections (like poor Wifi, 3G etc).  Outlook has been developed on the assumption of faster and more reliable internet connections but the rise of ‘everywhere’ devices changes that.

Outlook now does all synchronization as background processes so your use of the program isn’t slowed.   This is another “you mean it didn’t do that already?” feature since it’s hard to understand why Outlook wasn’t developed with all possible background processes from the start


Plenty of changes in Excel, mostly in the ‘Business Intelligence’ area.

Read only mode.  Open up a workbook via Sharepoint in a read only mode.

Field Lists.  The field lists in Pivot Tables and Pivot Charts are now searchable so scrolling down long lists should not be necessary.

PowerQuery – the Excel 2010/2013 addon is intergrated into Excel 2016.

Forecasting.  Some new functions to predict future values from existing data.

  • Forecast.ETS() – Returns the forecasted value for a specific future target date
  • Forecast.ETS.Confint() – Returns a confidence interval for the forecast value at the specified target date
  • Forecast.ETS.Seasonality() – Returns the length of the repetitive pattern Excel detects for the specified time series

PivotTable Time grouping is now available over Data Model PivotTable.

PowerView in Excel 2016 has an Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) cube connection.

Automatic relationship detection for everyone using Office 365. In a Data Model PivotTable with two or more tables but no relationships, there’s a notification to run Automatic relationship detection,

Business Intelligence (BI) features Power View, Power Pivot and Power Map are now automatically applied.  If you choose one of the BI components, the others will become available automatically.

There’s other changes that we’ll talk about in the weeks and months ahead.  Office 2016 is due out in the second half of this year.

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