(Pocket-lint) - Microsoft has finally released the Windows 10 version of Office 2016, which follows from the Mac OS X software released in July, and we can safely say that it's the best version of its productivity suite we've seen.
There are several key changes you'll need to get used to if you have been using Office 2013 for the last few years, but almost all of the major differences are of immediate benefit. And several of them hold your hand as you learn new ways to do things, so it's easy enough to get to grips with it.
We also thought it would be handy to outline some of the more important additions and give you an overview on what the new Office 2016 offers. Even if you've been using the preview beta version for a while, you might notice some new features you've not used before.
How do I get Office 2016 for Windows 10?
Firstly, we'll focus on how you can get yourself a copy now that it's available.
As Office 2016 is designed with OneDrive cloud storage very much part of its DNA, its main availability is through an Office 365 subscription available through a dedicated website at products.office.com.
There are several price plans you can choose, with different licences on how many devices you can install it on. Plus, you can pay either monthly or yearly, with the latter offering a discount but needing to be paid in one lump sum.
Prices start at £5.99 a month or £59.99 for a year's subscription to Office 365 Personal. That gives access to the downloaded desktop apps for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, Access and the newly-added Sway. You can download on one PC and you also get access to the tablet and phone versions of the apps to download and use once for each of those two devices.
Opt for an Office 365 Home package and it costs £7.99 a month or £79.99 for a year's subscription. That expands the number of devices the apps can be downloaded to and used on greatly. You can install it on up to five PCs (or Macs), five tablets and five phones.
Both subscriptions also come with 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage, although the pricier Home subscription gives 1TB each for each additional user in the household you assign to your account, up to five in total.
You also get 60 minutes of Skype minutes a month - which is again available for each of the five assigned users on the Home package.
Microsoft is yet to reveal pricing details of a standalone "perpetual licence" version of Office 2016, but has confirmed to Pocket-lint that one will be available in time. Of course, if you use Office 365 already, you can upgrade from today at no extra cost.
What's new in Office 2016 for Windows 10?
There are hundreds of tweaks and minor changes that you might discover over the coming weeks and months as you use the Office apps more and more, but there are some that are definitely in the "headline" category.
Microsoft has worked on four distinct areas for major improvements across the suite: teamwork, making the most of Windows 10, security and making sure it "works for you".
Each of those areas cover significant new features, so we'll detail a few of them.
Built for teamwork
The sharing side of Office 2016 has been dramatically improved and collaboration is very much central to the new experience. Especially in Word, PowerPoint and OneNote.
As well as being able to put teams into groups, with shared conversations, a dedicated OneNote Notebook that is available to all, Outlook group in-boxes and more, Skype in-app integration means you can call or message any members you've invited to edit a doc from within the application.
For example, if you are all working on the same Word document, you can click the share button in the top right-hand corner and all of your invited colleagues will appear down a column on the right. You only need hover over their pictures and names to get contact options.
Like with an online document service, like the Office web apps or Google Docs, you can also see when your colleagues are making changes to a document in real time, even though it is in a desktop app rather than a browser.
Perfect with Windows 10
Several Windows 10 features help improve Office 2016, including Cortana.
Cortana can be linked with an Office 365 account, so can then be used for things like preparing for meetings and controlling calendars.
The new app Windows 10 app Sway can also be used to make "interactive stories" from conventional documents.
For example, you can import a Word document into Sway and it will create a rolling presentation from the words and pictures. And if you don't like the result you can click the remix button and it will lay it out in a different way. Keep clicking until you find the one you like most.
Windows Hello, Microsoft's security system that can be controlled through biometrics, is now available for Office 2016 too. What's more your accounts are linked so if you have an Office 365 account, you can be logged into Windows 10 and Office 2016 in one simple step.
It "works for you"
Several clever engines work in the background to help you get the most from Office 2016. Plus, Microsoft has added some interesting new features that make the most of the OneDrive cloud service and its Bing search.
Smart Lookup is a feature that works within Office documents and provides extra, contextual information about words and phrases you might want to know more about. You hover over a word in PowerPoint, for instance, and you can look it up using the feature.
A sidebar will appear that will give you a rundown on the word's usage and also extra information about the subject matter in the document because it also looks at the words around it to find out the context of its usage.
A cool new feature in Outlook allows you to send attachments as cloud links rather than the entire file. Not only is this handy to avoid large downloads for the recipient, it helps keep the to-and-fro nature of edited documents to a minimum as you can make changes to the cloud version instead, with just the link being sent back and forth.
Sending an attachment will also automatically give the option to edit it to the person in the "to" box. Anybody who has only been cc'ed can only view the document. Of course, the option can also be manually changed before sending an email.
In addition, Office 2016 will automatically offer the most recent documents you've saved to either your hard drive or the cloud when you click the attachments button. It speeds up the process if you want to send something you've only just created.
Outlook also gets another new feature in the form of a new section of the in-box called Clutter. It basically learns as you use Office which things are most important to you and filters all other emails out of the equation. It works more aggressively to the junk mail filter and is therefore a section all on its own.
Other new features include Delve, which again uses algorithms based on your ongoing usage to bring together the most relevant information or documents in the one place. And Tell Me is a new help service at the top of Office applications that you only need to tap a few letters or words into to get all manner of suggestions of how to progress.
For example, use the Tell Me service to find out how to change a chart in an Excel document and it will come up with different options that you even get a preview of next to the box.
Charts themselves have been expanded greatly in Excel and are accessible instantly. You can change data into charts and alter which type of chart easily. Among the new chart designs are waterfall, treemap and sunburst.
There are plenty of extra new features, including new Office themes to make sure the apps look their best on your specific screen set-up and to your own personal tastes. And in Excel there are one-click forecasting options, to create forecast charts based on historical data with just a tap of a button. But half the fun of getting a new piece of software, whether it be a productivity app or game, is in exploration and finding specific features for the way you work.
We'll leave many of those to you as we suspect we'll still be finding new elements months from now. What we can say is that from what we've seen and used of Office 2016 so far, it's the best work solution Microsoft has built. By far.
It might not be Forza Motorsport 6 but seeing as it will get much more use over the coming months and possibly years, it's just as exciting to explore.