Microsoft delivers public preview of Office 2016 for Windows desktops

A new test build of Microsoft's Office 2016 suite for Windows 7, 8 and 10 users is available, ahead of this fall's final release.

Microsoft is making available to the public a test build of its Office 2016 desktop suite for Windows desktops.

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The new Office 2016 public preview, available for download today, May 4, is the second public test version of Office 2016. The first preview, delivered in March 2015, was for IT Pros and developers. The new public preview is available to both Office 365 subscribers (with Pro Plus as part of their subscriptions) and non-subscribers -- and both home users and enterprise users.

Office 2016 works on Windows 7, 8 and Windows 10 PCs, laptops and tablets. Users must uninstall Office 2013 in order to use the new preview; the two versions cannot run side-by-side. Also worth knowing: Microsoft will be updating the public preview regularly, both before it is made commercially available and beyond.

Microsoft officials reiterated that the Office 2016 suite for Windows desktops will be available in the fall of 2015, the same timing officials had shared previously.

Microsoft also is working on touch-first/Universal versions of its key Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook) for Windows 10 devices that will be available for download via the Windows 10 Store. A second version of those touch-first mobile apps for Windows 10 Mobile are expected to be available for testers early this week.

Microsoft has been testing privately Office 2016 since last year. Testers have said they've seen relatively few brand-new features in the coming suite.

Microsoft is playing up the cloud connectivity enhancements to Office 2016 as one of its key selling points. The new Office 2016 suite also will include several enhancements such as document coauthoring, new "Tell Me" navigation support, integration with Power BI, and more lockdown/rights management capabilities.

Update: The coauthoring capability isn't yet available in preview. Here's a Microsoft Support article that explains more plainly as to what is in the current Office 2016 preview.

Microsoft officials also announced today at Ignite that the company will be adding its Sway application -- a new presentation offering which has been in consumer preview since last year -- to its Office 365 Education and Business plan subscribers starting later this month.

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