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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.

As long as all parties have Office 2010 or later versions, real-time editing can take place: Invited guests can add, edit, or delete content in a sort of collaborative free-for-all. That can be managed, however, by some relatively fine-grained editing restrictions, such as locking format changes, restricting a user to making only tracked changes, or by blocking him or her entirely (while letting other users make free, unrestricted edits). You can attach a comment to the document itself, or to a specific location in the text (which then shows up as an icon). You can also manually save whenever you’d like to create a version history that helps organize the document further. Even if you’re offline, you can still monitor progress using Track Changes.

office 2016 review powerpoint 2016 redo
PowerPoint 2016 looks almost identical to PowerPoint 2013. Credit: Mark Hachman

With PowerPoint, however, most of that goes out the window. You can ask coworkers to collaborate, and you can still send them links by which they can edit your shared presentations. You can still comment, and coworkers can still make changes to the text as they wish. But you can’t really manage their changes, or restrict what they can or can’t do. (You can compare and reconcile versions of the same document that a coworker has worked upon separately, however, which is vaguely similar.) 

office 2016 review powerpoint comments
In PowerPoint, you can still make changes and add comments, but the overall collaboration experience is slightly different than Word. Credit: Mark Hachman

But—and this is a big but—any revisions to a document show up only if you click a teeny-tiny Save icon, way down at the bottom of the screen, that serves as a sort of CB-radio-style ‘Over’ command. It’s almost impossible to find unless you know what you’re looking for. Click it, and changes made by others show up. When your colleague makes another change, you have to click it again. It’s a pain.

office 2016 review updates avaiable
The “Updates available” gear is way down at the bottom. Click it to view updates to the document. Credit: Mark Hachman

Granted, collaborative editing wasn’t in the Office 2016 preview Microsoft released earlier this year. And, given that there’s an enormous blank space in the ribbon header to the right half of the screen, you have to imagine that more managed sharing is heading to PowerPoint. (Microsoft tells me it is, shortly.)


Here’s the news on OneNote: linked OneNote notes. The feature’s actually been around since Office 2013, but it seems to be more prominently displayed under the Review tab of apps like Word.


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