Why new Office features don't appear

Microsoft has changed the way they rollout new features in Microsoft Office 365 which can lead to confusion and frustration, especially among the Insiders who try out new stuff before it reaches the public.

In olden days (say 2018) getting new or changed features was simply a question of having the right version of Office.  As long as you had the stated version/build or later, you’d know that the changes would be available.

For example, you might read that Microsoft 365 for Windows had a new feature from version 2205 build 16.0.15128.20178.  Go to File | Account to see if you have that version or later (higher numbers).

These days it’s not just the software version that matters, especially with cloud-related features which need a connection to Microsoft’s servers.

Now, features can be gradually made available depending on various factors beyond the customer’s control.

Gradual release controlled by Microsoft’s cloud

Microsoft can decide that only a limited percentage of Insiders can access a cloud feature.  Maybe starting with 10% then gradually increasing until everyone has access.  This lets the Microsoft developers see how the feature works with a relatively small pool of users at first.  It also gives them time to manage the cloud side of the service across Microsoft’s global server farms.

There might also be initial regional or language limitations too.  Redmond often tests out in English only or even just US English before expanding to other languages.  That’s not some English-speaking chauvinism <g>.  It’s easier to test software by keeping it simple and focusing on one language at first.  Also, it takes time for Microsoft to collect all the necessary translations of labels and on-screen messages.

It’s quite possible for two computers, side-by-side, with the same version/build of Office but they have very slightly new features.

Or someone is trying out a new part of Office then it suddenly disappears.  That should not happen, according to Microsoft, but there are enough reports of it in the real world.

It’s not clear how Microsoft controls these gradual rollouts.

Microsoft made those changes a few years ago. At first, they didn’t mention it, to the confusion of many Insiders.

These days there’s a standard paragraph added to the longer explanations of a new feature:

Don’t have it yet? It’s probably us, not you.
Features are released over some time to ensure things are working smoothly. We highlight features that you may not have because they’re slowly releasing to larger numbers of Insiders. Sometimes we remove elements to further improve them based on your feedback. Though this is rare, we also reserve the option to pull a feature entirely out of the product, even if you, as an Insider, have had the opportunity to try it.

What to do about missing features?

What can you do if you’re missing a new feature in Microsoft Office 365?  Most likely this applies to Insiders on the faster ‘Beta’ track more than Current Channel (Preview) or Public releases.

  • Make sure you have the right version of Office or a later version/build.
  • In an organization, the IT admins may disable a new or changed feature.

Assuming all is otherwise OK, there’s NOTHING you can do.

It’s all automatic and there’s no way to force Microsoft’s servers to make a feature available early.

Patience grasshopper … wait.

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