Today, September 22, is the day Microsoft is making the latest version of its fully featured Office suite -- Office 2016 for Windows -- generally available worldwide.
Microsoft made a first public preview of the suite -- which runs on Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10 PCs and laptops -- back in March of 2015. Testers had been working with private previews of the suite since 2014.
The full Office for Windows 2016 suite includes new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Project, Visio and Access.
There are not a lot of major new features in this release. Microsoft's main focus with the new version of Office for Windows has been on adding team-collaboration functionality. Among some of the new features in the suite are coauthoring for Word, PowerPoint and OneNote; real-time typing in Word; new integrated Power BI publishing functionality in Excel; and updated search and navigational capabilities in Outlook.
Users who subscribe via Office 365 consumer and/or business plans which include rights to the Office apps also get will get additional, supplemental services and features, including Microsoft's Sway digital-storytelling app/service; new Office 365 Groups functionality; and more.
As is the case with Windows 10, Microsoft is planning to fill out some of the partially baked Office 2016 features in the suite with regular updates in the coming months. Microsoft is still working on improving and syncing its OneDrive online-storage service. The promised new sync clients for Windows and Mac are due later this year. Built-in coauthoring for the other Office 2016 apps beyond Word is also still in the works. And Enterprise Data Protection, a security feature that Microsoft has promised for Windows 10, also will be coming for Office 2016 for Windows in early 2016, and the Office Mobile apps later this year, company officials said.
Starting with the Office 2016 for Windows release, Microsoft is moving to a new servicing model for Office 365 which is similar to the one it has put in place for Windows 10, with different servicing "branches" providing users with new Office features and fixes on a regular basis.
While on the subject of dates, here's what Microsoft officials are saying in terms of availability for Office 2016 for Windows (and other related Office apps and services).
The Office 2016 apps are available in 40 languages starting today. Office 365 subscribers can choose to download manually the new Office 2016 apps as part of their subscription starting today. Automatic updates of the Office 2016 apps will begin rolling out to consumer and small business subscribers in October 2015, and to commercial customers early next year. Office 2016 is also available today as a one-time purchase for both PCs and Macs.
Update: A Microsoft spokesperson said MSDN subscribers will have access to both Office 2016 for Mac and Windows today, starting at about 9 am PT/noon ET. Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC) availability for Office 2016 for Windows will be October 1. (VLSC customers got Office 2016 for Mac in August.)
Office 365 Planner, the lightweight project-management service (formerly codenamed "Highlander"), which Microsoft is building into its Office 365 business subscriptions, will be available in preview to Office 365 First Release customers starting next quarter. And GigJam -- a new task-completion service which Microsoft demonstrated earlier this summer -- is in private preview as of today, and will be available to Office 365 business subscribers in 2016.
Office 2016 for Windows and Office 2016 for Mac are Microsoft's two fully-featured Office desktop suites. The company also offers a variety of 'universal' and/or mobile Office mobile apps for iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets, Windows Phones and Windows PCs and tablets.