Microsoft Office 2016 has quite a few changes. We’ll take a quick review of all the major app-changes as it relates to general law firm usage.

WORD  Microsoft has renovated the old Word layout. The new layout was first introduced back in 2013. Changes include control spacing, paragraph layouts, tables, and other structures. Document generation and formatting created in Word 2016 will only be compatible with Word 2013/2016. This means that documents from older versions of Word will remain intact when opened in compatibility mode but may be a bit off in terms of spacing, paragraph layout, and structuring. For law firms, this means that templates which were created in older version of Word may have unexpected changes in their layout. Our advice is to redo your templates with the new version of Office and start using the new 2013/2016 templates firm wide.

One of the most distinct updates to Word is the “Tell Me What To Do” search bar, located on the top ribbon bar. If you’re having difficulty figuring out how to do something or forget a command, simply search the description of what you are trying to do and related solutions will pop up. It’s actually very easy to use and very useful.

Word 2016 now offers “Co-Editing.” here’s how ti works. One user works on the original file while other users can edit simultaneously via an online version of Word. Users are different colors to keep track of who is changing what portion of the document and a refresh icon appears next to the text each user has edited for easy tracking. In Word, you can monitor the changes made and restrict permissions for certain users. This allows you and your colleagues to work more efficiently and collaboratively together on documents.

Along with editing, Word 2016 has introduced SmartLookup, also known as Insights. When a word or phrase is selected and right-clicked on, SmartLookup provides many useful options including translations, definitions & synonyms just to name a few. It even provides information from Wikipedia, Bing and even Bing Images.

EXCEL Excel has only added a few additional features including the “Tell Me What To Do” search bar. Excel 2016 now allows you to predict results based on data that is either entered or gathered through PowerQuery, another new feature. PowerQuery pulls data from online databases and sites. In addition, many new excel templates were added. Your firm can easily gather online data pertaining to your topic and utilize it accordingly in charts and graphs easier than ever before. Finally, the new Excel templates are actually very useful and professional looking, much better than previous years.

POWERPOINT  Just like Word, PowerPoint has collaborative editing as well. However, permissions cannot be restricted to certain users and changes cannot be tracked. All other features (like sharing via Cloud, working together on one presentation) are found in PowerPoint 2016. Other than the addition of the “Tell Me What To Do” search bar, PowerPoint has remained mostly the same, no major changes here. Your firm can now work on a presentation together and more productively. A benefit of this less updated app is that while Microsoft improved its efficiency, all the commands from past versions remain the same so you don’t have to learn anything new.

OVERALL  Sharing files has been simplified in Office 2016. Instead of attaching files which can be insecure at times, Office 2016 sends an embedded link that takes the recipient directly to the file over the internet. This way, documents that are stored on the Cloud and can be securely accessed. Rekall offers this as a form of email encryption. The difference being that the file is located on an encrypted server instead of office 365.

For Law firms, this means that your documents are being shared a lot more securely, which is a great benefit. The collaborative editing via an online browser will simplify all your tasks as well. Instead of emailing files back and forth for editing, all the changes can be done on one document together. As for all the major updates, Office 2016 is still fixing some minor issues, but overall the new Office is promising. Before adopting Office 2016, or any of the apps like Word 2016, be sure to check that your other software is compatible, such as PCLaw, document management, PDF readers, and other software. Also, check how your older documents will react with Office 2016 and how compatible they will be. Office 2016 offers a lot of great features that should definitely be considered.