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Microsoft Office 2016 – The universal App?

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Last week I pointed out that more than 1.2 billion users use Microsoft Office daily. I would warrant a guess that almost every organisation in Malawi currently uses Microsoft Office– legal or otherwise. Last week, I made a strong case for legalizing your pirated Office – I hope you heed this advice.

A client once advised me that Microsoft would rather people used illegal versions of Office than use an alternative! Apart from the fact that there is no real competition for Microsoft’s flagship product, this is totally untrue. As I warned last week – Microsoft are currently carrying out a compliance monitoring exercise in the region and Malawian companies will not be exempt. Remember – piracy IS theft.

Office 2016 was released on 1st October 2016. What makes it different from its predecessors? At first glance – nothing seems to have changed – and this is one of Office’s greatest strengths. This means an Office user can upgrade and commence work immediately – without a long learning curve trying to understand the new product first. But look beneath the bonnet – and a whole raft of new technologies are available for use – all aimed at making the Office experience easier and more collaborative.

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First and foremost – every Office app has a new option on the menu bar – “Tell me what you want to do”. So instead of searching the menus for commands – you just type in your query – and it automatically switches to that function. This makes it extremely user friendly for everyone, and utilizes contextual “Smart Lookup” searches.

Whilst each application also has added functionality, Office 2016 also offers collaboration across all applications.

What does this mean? Example – how many times do you draft a set of financial or company projections or documents that need to be edited by colleagues? The bad way is to print these off, correct them with highlighters or pen and then return them to originator. The middle road is to send them by email to appropriate colleagues for correction and return.

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This results in a number of different versions from each participant, and probably numerous different versions saved on different devices. Issues about confidentiality, disk space and correct versions now surface. With Office 2016 – you now share a single file straight from your application to nominated users on your network – or on the cloud using SkyDrive – and all edits will be carried out on that source document only. Nominated users can be restricted on access to or editing of the whole document – maintaining full security.

These two functions alone – when widely used – creates for a more user friendly and simpler way of working.

Specific to Outlook are a number of functions, which include a new “Clutter” folder which looks to separate mails not commonly required to be viewed on a daily basis, email Groups, the option to store your Skype Conversations in their own mailbox and a number of other enhancements. My favourite currently is when I look at add an attachment to a mail – it automatically pulls down the more recent items I worked with. This alone must save me at least an hour a day in searching and attaching documents.

Excel is a very important component of the Office suite – and entire companies or professions depend on it. Messing around with it is dangerous. Microsoft has made it easier to understand and use – and has included functions such as improved charts and tables to enable business intelligence and the ability to extrapolate and forecast results.

Word is fast overtaking Publisher as a DTP tool for basic and skilled users and I hazard a guess that it may soon be retired from the suite. Again here, the Smart Lookup function is extremely useful. Highlight a word or phrase and right click gives you the option to choose Smart Lookup – which then defines, provides synonyms and enables direct access to the web or Wikipedia relating to the choice. It even enables any data or images identified here to be added to the document in question.

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