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Microsoft Office 2016 review: It's all about collaboration

Mark Hachman | Sept. 23, 2015
Go team! That's what Office 2016 is built to encourage, with new collaborative tools and other ways to tie workers and content together.

It would be nice for Word to allow you to right-click and copy text from Wikipedia into your Word document; it would be even better if it automatically added it and added either a footnote or a hyperlink back to the source document. Sadly, nothing like that is available.

It’s somewhat weird, then, to discover that feature in Insert > Wikipedia, a Wikipedia app for Word that was built into my preview copy of Word 2016. Highlight a word or phrase and click the Wikipedia app, and a more robust version of Wikipedia opens up. Even better, any image that appears in the pane can be clicked once to add it to the text, with attribution (and license info) automatically appended. It also searches on any text you highlight as you’re writing or editing. These are all nice touches.

Not so nice is the portal to the Apps for Office store, which has not been updated for Office 2016. A lack of Office apps or plug-ins is one thing, but you still can’t see what others have said about the apps in question. There’s also a big “Trust It” button that basically serves as a warning to download plugins at your own risk. No wonder the Apps for Office store basically failed.

office 2016 review upload error
Storing documents in the cloud seems like a terrific idea, until stuff like this happens. Time to do some rewriting. (And no, this was the only app open.) Credit: Mark Hachman

Note that all these additional insights, however, can seriously cramp anything but a widescreen monitor. You could potentially have a document recovery pane, revision pane, Insights pane, and Wikipedia pane all bracketing your main document. On a standard 1080p monitor, however, it looked just fine.

PowerPoint shows collaboration’s pain points

PowerPoint—the tool of most modern presentations—is an appropriate place to talk about what Microsoft is trying to accomplish with collaboration, and where it struggles.

In the upper right corner of most of the Office 2016 apps you’ll see a new “Share” button, which is where collaboration takes place. For now, however, the sharing experience differs sharply between apps like PowerPoint and Word.

office 2016 review office online commenting
This is how real-time collaboration is supposed to work: colleagues edit your documents on the fly, with small flags to show who’s doing what. Credit: Mark Hachman

Here’s how real-time collaboration works within Word: to share a document, you first save it to the cloud. Then you invite one or a series of people to edit it, using the Share button, which opens up an in-app message box. You can also eliminate all that and simply send a link. (Permissions are built in, so you can send one link to view, and another to edit.) I found using a link was better for casual editing, as the recipient can simply open the document as a “guest” in Word Online, rather than needing to type in his or her Microsoft password. (Otherwise, you’ll need a Microsoft account to authenticate yourself.)

 

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