Jared Spataro, general manager for the Office marketing team, updated the Office blog with news that consumers can now check out a public preview of Office 2016. The new Office release includes real-time co-authoring in Word, smart applications that "learn" as you work, new data analysis capabilities, new deployment and security features, and more.
Spataro said in Monday's blog that Microsoft is now looking for feedback from a wider audience after having released the IT Pro and Developer Preview back in March. This method is similar to how Microsoft is handling the Insider Preview of Windows 10, by providing a tool that will help Microsoft shape the product based on consumer feedback.
"Office 2016 previewers will get an early look at the next release of Office on Windows desktop, but more importantly they'll help to shape and improve the future of Office," he said.
There are actually two versions for consumption: Office 2016 Preview for the home and Office 2016 Preview for enterprise. For Office 365 subscribers wanting the home version, simply go to the My Account page, click "Language and Install options," click "Additional install instructions," and then choose the 32-bit or 64-bit Office 2016 Preview in the drop-down menu. Office 365 customers will remain on the Office 2016 Preview release schedule until (1) Office 2016 is released to retail or (2) Office 2016 Preview is uninstalled.
If you don't have an Office 365 subscription, you can still download the beta by using the product key located here and downloading either the 64-bit or 32-bit version. Naturally, customers can't keep using this version forever. They will have an option to purchase an Office 365 subscription or to reinstall the original Office retail version using the original product key.
For businesses, Office 365 administrators with an Office 365 ProPlus subscription can now download the preview by turning on "First Release." These customers can sign in to the My Software page, click "Try the next version of Office" and click "Install." For those not willing to join First Release, you can obtain the Office 365 Preview by heading here.
One of the neater features provided in the new Office 2016 Preview is real-time collaboration. Customers using the desktop and online versions of Word will be able to see what the other is writing in real time when editing the same document. There's also an updated Clutter folder in Outlook that, according to Microsoft, uses machine learning to figure out what emails are important to the user and what is considered clutter.
On the business side of things, the new Office provides one-click forecasting, an easy way to publish and share Excel workbooks to Power BI users, improved Power Pivot features in Excel, an integrated Power Query and more. For IT, Data Loss Protection is now available in PowerPoint, Excel and Word. Microsoft has also added multi-factor authentication in Outlook.
As Spataro pointed out, Office 2016 Preview is a "work in progress," so keep in mind that the suite may not run as smoothly as the final retail version. Plus, there are a number of features that are not included in this release, but new features will be added each month. Spataro will provide more information about each build as they are released.