Microsoft Office 2019 client app preview now available to business users

Microsoft is rolling out test versions of a number of its Office apps for x86-based Windows devices in phase one of its Office 2019 preview program.

Microsoft is making available preview versions of many of its Windows x86 versions of its Office 2019 client apps today, April 27, but for volume-licensing customers only.

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Credit: Microsoft

Office 2019, due in the second half of calendar 2018, is the successor to Office 2016. Office 2019 will only run on Windows 10, not Windows 7/8.1 and in the case of the server apps, Windows Server 2019.

When it ships, Office 2019 will include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, Access, Project and Visio, as well as Exchange, SharePoint, Project Server and Skype for Business Server.

The Office 2019 Commercial Preview includes the Win32 versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote (the Universal Windows Platform version), Publisher, Access, Project, and Visio. Previews for the Office 2019 servers, including Exchange 2019, SharePoint 2019, Project 2019, Skype for Business 2019, will be available "over the next few months," officials said. And the Mac Commercial Preview program for Office 2019 also will go live "in the next few months," officials said.

I've asked when and if Microsoft intends to open the Office 2019 preview program to consumers/non-volume-licensing customers. No word back so far.

Update: Sorry, consumer customers. A Microsoft spokesperson said Microsoft will not have a consumer preview for Office 2019. However, "consumers can purchase Office 2019 when it becomes generally available," the spokesperson added.

As Microsoft execs have said previously, Office 2019 includes features that are already in Office 365 ProPlus, either in generally available or preview form. Office 2019, which Microsoft calls its "perpetual" Office release, is meant for those who want to run Office 2019 locally and receive no regular feature updates, only security updates.

On its Office 2019 preview sign-up page, Microsoft reiterates that "This preview program isn't intended for organizations that plan to deploy or have already deployed Office as part of an Office 365 subscription plan. The Office apps that are included in Office 365 already have all the features that will be available in the perpetual (volume licensed) version of Office 2019."

On its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, Microsoft lists what's new in the Office 2019 desktop apps. Outlook 2019 gets support for Office 365 Groups, Focused Inbox, Updated Contact Cards and more. Excel 2019 adds the ability to publish from Excel to PowerBI, PowerPivot and PowerQuery enhancements, among other features. PowerPoint 2019 includes the ability to manage icons, SVG and 3D images, and Word 2019 adds learning tools captions and audio descriptions and more.

To join the Commercial Preview program, users and/or their companies must be registered with the Microsoft Collaborate portal. (Collaborate is the successor to Microsoft's Connect beta testing site, which the company shut down last year.)

The Office 2019 apps will be supported on any Windows 10 Semi-Annual Channel release that's in active support; Windows 10 Enterprise Long Term Servicing Channel 2018 (which will be out around October this year) and the next LTSC release of Windows Server.

The Office 2019 client apps also will be released as Click-to-Run only. Microsoft won't be providing a MSI option for Office 2019 clients, but will continue to do so for Office Server products.

Microsoft also is cutting back on how long it will support the next perpetual version of Office. Instead of providing five years of mainstream and five years of extended support for Office 2019, Microsoft is going to provide five years of mainstream support and approximately two years of extended support so as to align with the extended-support end date for Office 2016 (which is October 14, 2025).

Microsoft officials won't say if there will be another version of on-premises Office client and server apps after Office 2019, but said they are taking cues from customers as to whether this makes sense.

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