What you need to know about Office 2016

Technology fans got their first look at Microsoft Office 2016 when images of its updated interface surfaced online in March. But it wasn’t until early September that Microsoft officially confirmed its existence and told us what to expect when it went on sale. Now that it’s available, here’s a summary of what you need to know about Office 2016.

Outlook is moving to the cloud

Outlook 2016’s interface hasn’t changed much, but it has some great new features. For example, when attaching a file to an email, you'll get the option to copy it to the cloud. This not only makes it easier to find in the future, it also means that people can collaborate on one version of a file instead of constantly sending each other updates.

Outlook also has a new email filter called "Clutter," which uses machine learning to identify messages that, though not spam, might rank low on your list of priorities.

Word supports real-time collaboration

For a while now, Office Online users have been able to use "Live Typing" to watch colleagues edit a shared Word document in real time. Now it’s coming to the desktop version, making collaboration even easier.

Word 2016 also features a new way for you to find the exact button you’re looking for. "Tell Me" lets you avoid Office’s menus and simply tell Word what you want to do. It’s a similar idea to Clippy, Office 98’s assistant – but more effective and less annoying (sorry Clippy …).

PowerPoint gives the power back

One common complaint about PowerPoint has been that it offers a limited range of editing tools. With Office 2016, however, it’s easier than ever to develop a visual style that suits your subject matter.

For example, "Variants" allows you to change color schemes for the included design themes. Similarly, a redesigned Format Options pane lets you quickly select text and shape options for every feature of your presentation.

Excel is better at integrating new data

Microsoft has tweaked Excel 2016 to be more efficient in the "Big Data" world.

Excel 2013 users could use Power Query, a data analysis plug-in that simplified data integration and combined multiple data sources into single spreadsheets. Excel 2016 includes Power Query as a standard feature. It also integrates completely with Power BI, Microsoft’s online tool for visualizing data and using personalized dashboards to track key data metrics.