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Microsoft launches Office 2016 consumer preview, pushing universal apps to Windows phones 'soon'

Mark Hachman | May 5, 2015
Want to try out Microsoft's Office 2016? Now you can. And if you own a Windows 10 phone, you can soon download the universal Office apps as well.

office 2016 hero app

The next generation of Office is coming, and you can see it now: Microsoft opened up Office 2016, to public preview on Monday morning. The company also said that its current generation of Office universal apps will go live on Windows phones soon.

Microsoft is still on track to ship the new version of Office 2016 by this fall, company executives said at its Ignite conference in Chicago, as they try to convince an audience of IT professionals to adopt the Microsoft vision.

The Office 2016 preview track will be much like the Windows 10 Insider program. Users can download the new Office 2016 software and will receive new preview updates as Microsoft rolls them out. Microsoft previously launched a developer preview of Office 2016 for IT departments, but this is a more full-featured release. You don't need an existing Office 365 subscription or have Office already installed on your PC, either.

office 365 groups in delve
Delve, one of the new Office apps, has a new Groups feature.

"While you've seen us focus on tuning Office for different platforms over the last year, make no mistake, Office on Windows desktop is central to our strategy," Jared Spataro, general manager for the Office marketing team, wrote in a blog post.

Why this matters: Microsoft is obviously busy on showing off Windows 10 via its own insider program. But Office remains one of the tentpole apps for the company, and it's important for IT pros and consumers to get their hands on their own preview versions.

office 2016 public preview now available 2
Excel 2016, part of Office 2016.

Collaboration defines Office
Spataro detailed several key features that would define Office 2016. Real-time collaboration, a feature that Google has touted with its Google Apps services for years, will make an appearance, Spataro said. Office 2016 will also increasingly prioritize the ability to access information "outside" Office--whether it be on the Web, via Bing, or in documents stored in OneDrive, without leaving the application, executives said. New intelligence features such as one-click forecasting are designed for business, with features such as Power Query pulling in relevant data around each user.

office 2016 public preview now available 3
Outlook 2016.

Joe Belfiore, the corporate vice president of the operating systems group at Microsoft, also showed off a new security feature that allows users to mix and match personal documents with sensitive, encrypted documents from the user's work. Microsoft's current encryption solution, BitLocker, encrypts and secures the whole drive. But in Office 2016, documents can be encrypted on a file-by-file basis, which allows them to mingle with a user's personal documents.


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