Microsoft starts rolling out real-time coauthoring in Office 2016 preview

Microsoft now has more than one million testers trying out Office 2016 for Windows and Mac, officials said, and they'll be getting more new features to test drive 'in the coming weeks.'
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is starting to roll out to testers the real-time coauthoring functionality it has promised will be part of the next version of Office for Windows desktops.

Microsoft officials said in early May that real-time coauthoring would be coming to Office 2016. The first public preview of Office 2016, which Microsoft made available in May, did not include this functionality.

In a blog post that Microsoft inadvertently published on June 3 and later unpublished, company officials said that real-time presence -- a key piece of real-time coauthoring -- is rolling out to Word 2016 testers. The real-time typing component of coauthoring is still not there and will be included in subsequent test builds, officials said.

From the blog post:

"Real Time Presence in Word: While Real Time Typing will ship in subsequent builds, we are rolling out a key part of that collaborative experience with Real Time Presence. Real Time Presence allows you to see where in a document your teammates are editing. We are turning this on first for OneDrive for Business subscribers but it will be available more broadly soon."

Update: Microsoft republished the blog post on June 4.

In the blog post, officials said that Microsoft now has more than one million testers of Office 2016 for Windows and Office 2016 for Mac, combined. Microsoft made its first public preview of Office 2016 for Mac available in March 2015. Microsoft officials have said to expect Office 2016 for Mac to be commercially available this summer, and Office 2016 for Windows to be out before the end of calendar 2015 (most likely by fall 2015, I've heard).

Testers who are part of the preview program for these two coming desktop Office suites are on tap to receive regular updates and features on an ongoing basis.There are not many significant brand-new features in Office 2016. But Office 2016 preview testers have been able to check out the simplified file-sharing capabilities Microsoft is building into the suite via a new "Share" button on the Ribbon; Insights for Office (in Word and Outlook), which provides users with contextual information from Bing Web searches inside their documents; and improvements to version history.

There's also now a "Tell Me" search capability in Outlook -- in addition to Word, PowerPoint and Excel -- that help users figure out how to perform specific Office tasks using natural language queries.(Update: Microsoft's updated blog post removed the reference to Tell Me availability for Outlook. A spokesperson said Microsoft may add this functionality in a later test build.)

And there are Power Pivot improvements and better grammar checkers in the test version of Office 2016, too.

Late last month, Microsoft added Visio 2016 and Project 2016 to the applications available to testers as part of its Office 2016.

The Office 2016 preview program is still open to new testers. More information on how to sign up is here.

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