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What's new in Microsoft Office 2016 (including Excel 2016 changes)
Part two of a five-part series of blogs

The latest incarnation of Microsoft Office (2016) should be released on 22nd September 2015 (Microsoft are always a bit ahead of themselves with versions). This blog gives a detailed guide to what's new, the biggest changes being in Excel and Outlook.

  1. The Wise Owl take on Microsoft Office 2016
  2. General changes for Microsoft Office 2016 (this blog)
  3. What's new in Excel 2016
  4. What's new in Outlook 2016
  5. What's new in Access, PowerPoint, Project, Visio and Word

Posted by Andy Brown on 07 September 2015

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General changes for Microsoft Office 2016

This page lists changes which apply to most or all MS Office 2016 applications.

General look and feel

Microsoft have smartened up a few things.  The backstage user interface (a horrible Microsoft term for what happens when you're opening/closing files) is better:

Backstage user interface

What you see in Excel, for example. The This PC icon is welcome.


Each application now has a separate colour scheme (Excel's, for example, is green).  The default Office theme is now Colorful:

The colorful theme

Excel, for example, using the new Colorful theme.

Here are the choices:


The themes you can choose from.


Freehand equations

You can now create your own equations, although when I tried it (below) the results weren't good:

Equation drawing

Nice idea, but that wasn't what I drew freehand!


In any MS Office application, you can now right-click on a phrase to get Bing Insights into it:

Smart lookup

Right-click on text to get more information on it.


Here are the results from the above lookup:

Smart Insight results

Offensively, the Wise Owl website isn't listed (Google would have shown us ...).



This completely new browser-based Office application allows you to combine text, graphics and videos to create interactive online presentations.  Here's a flavour:

Sway opening screen

The opening screen.

You can add content from a range of sources, some of which are suggested here:

Sources for Sway

I haven't checked whether FaceBook is a deliberate omission!


Here I've searched YouTube for Wise Owl videos, and chosen to add one:

Adding a video

Adding a video from YouTube.


You can then play your sway (which displays a Created with sway  legend in small letters on the background).

Think of Sway as a web-based PowerPoint for the social media age, and you won't be far wrong.

Tell me more ...

The most obvious new feature in all MS Office 2016 applications is the Tell me box.  Here's how it works, using the example of inserting a column in Excel.

You have a problem - you've missed out a horseman, and want to insert a row:

Missing horseman

Where's War? We need to insert a row, but can't remember how to do this.


You click on the Tell me box, and type in what you want to do:

the tell me box Tell me help
The Tell me box ... ... being used.

When you choose the option shown above, Excel will insert the row for you:

Inserted row

The row has been inserted - but how?


Good news: you have your new row.  Bad news: you've no idea how you did this!

This facility is very slick, and works well for infrequent tasks.  However, it's a bit like a bad trainer, who takes over your keyboard and does something for you, leaving you with no idea of how, and no ability to perform the same task in the future.

Other changes

In no particular order, here are some other changes introduced in Office 2016:

Change Details
Auto-rotation of images When you insert an image, Office will rotate it automatically if it's got the wrong orientation (and having tried this, it works and is very clever!).
Pan and zoom When you change the zoom setting for (say) a large chart, Office will show text placeholders allowing you to continue editing, without having to wait for the screen to refresh (I haven't tested this, however, as I couldn't get a complicated enough chart!).
Admin changes There are a huge number of changes to make administration of Office 365 easier (there's little point listing them here, as they will only be of interest to your IT department, who will already know about them).
The death of InfoPath InfoPath is no longer included in Office (which is good, as I never did find out what it did ...).
Lync evolves Lync has now become Skype for Business, allowing you to create online meetings with up to 250 people (even if they're not on Skype).
Data loss protection Office is evolving to include facilities to prevent confidential data leaking out to the outside world, although this is set up and controlled by Office 365 administrators.


Those are the general changes; time now to go through changes for specific Office 2016 applications, beginning with everyone's favourite: Excel.


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