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Review: In Office 2016 for Windows, collaboration takes center stage

Preston Gralla | Sept. 23, 2015
Long available in rivals such as Google Docs, real-time collaborative editing finally comes to Microsoft Office, along with a handful of other useful improvements.

Delve and Office 365 Planner

Those who use a business version of Office will get a couple other collaboration tools: Delve and Office 365 Planner. Whether you find them useful will depend on how you work in groups, and how much collaboration is too much collaboration for you.

Delve lets you see in-depth information about people with whom you work. I found it to be one of those tools that offer interesting technology, but not necessarily a compelling reason for being.

When you open Delve, the left-hand side of the screen lists the people with whom you've shared work, and the right-hand side shows tiles with information about the most recent Office documents you've shared with one another. Each tile shows a thumbnail of the document that was created, along with the name of the person who created or modified it, how long ago they created or modified it, and the type of document it is. Icons let you open the file, email the person, start a meeting with them or log into the shared folder on their OneDrive.

Office 2016 - Delve feature
Delve lets you get more information about people you work with.

You can also click any person in the list on the left to see that person's profile and recent activity. This includes a list of documents they've worked on or shared with you, and the most recent things they've done to those documents. You can also check out the person's profile, which includes an "About me" bio, the name of the person's boss, contact information and past work projects.

How useful is all this? To me it feels somewhat stalkerish. But other people might find it helpful to get more information about their co-workers and see what they've been up to.

Office 365 Planner is a tool that, according to a Microsoft spokesperson, "will begin rolling out to Office 365 First Release customers by the end of this year." It's more useful than Delve, but only if you are part of a group that works in an extremely organized, project-centric way in which tasks and deliverables are closely tracked. In my experience that's rare. However, if that's the way you work, you'll welcome it.

It features a central Planner Hub that displays tiles that list projects in which you're involved. Each tile displays an overview of the project – how many days left until the project is scheduled to be completed, how many tasks are left, how many have been started, how many are in progress, how many are late and how many haven't started.

Click on any project for a more detailed look at it, including to-do lists, schedules, reviews, approvals and so on. These are all separate "buckets," as Microsoft calls them, and anyone can create a new bucket. You'll also find charts that show the number of tasks assigned to each person, and the tasks' current statuses. There's also a link to your tasks, so you can see what you currently need to do, across all of your projects.


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