Outlook gets a number of under-the-hood changes as well, including some that are designed to improve Outlook's stability on unreliable networks and others designed to reduce the download time of email. Also included are improvements to Outlook search speed and reliability and an updated MAPI-HTTP protocol that Microsoft claims is more Internet-friendly. Users can now also reduce the amount of storage space Outlook uses by choosing to keep one, three, seven, 14 or 30 days of email on their devices.
Other changes IT will welcome include improved traffic management with the introduction of a new service called Background Intelligence Transfer Service (BITS), which was designed to prevent network congestion during Office updates. There is also better integration with System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) so administrators can more efficiently distribute monthly updates as well as control the number and pace of feature updates and bug fixes.
The bottom line
If you work in groups and often collaborate with others, you'll find this version of Office a significant improvement over Office 2013, and potentially a big productivity booster. If you work by yourself most of the time, you'll still find some nice additions, notably in Outlook and the Tell Me feature.
Those with Office 365 subscriptions will likely be pleased with the upgrade whether they decide to download Office 2016 now or wait for it to be rolled out to them in a few weeks (or a few months for enterprise customers). If you buy the standalone version of Office and work only by yourself, it's a tougher decision. The few handy enhancements may or may not be worth the price.
At a Glance
Microsoft Office 2016 for Windows
- Individual subscriptions: Office 365 Home ($10/mo. or $100/year) includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access; lets you install Office on 5 computers, 5 tablets and 5 phones. Office 365 Personal ($7/mo. or $70 per year) includes the same applications; lets you install Office on 1 computer, 1 tablet and 1 phone. (See plan details)
- One-time purchases: Office Home & Student ($149) includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Office Home & Business ($229) includes the same applications plus Outlook. Each can be installed on 1 computer. (See product details)
- Business subscriptions: Business plans range from $5/user/mo. for the online-only Office 365 Business Essentials up to $22/user/mo. for the top-end enterprise plan. (See plan details)
Pros: Has several new features for working in groups, including real-time collaborative editing; adds a number of time-saving features including Tell Me; free for those with existing Office 365 subscriptions
Cons: If you need only basic document-creation and editing, Office can be overkill; some group and collaboration features are not available to users of home versions of Office
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