Just as Microsoft has made available a preview version of Windows 10 to all users for free, it’s now done the same thing with Office 2016 with a preliminary version with a fully functional license for 180 days. We’ve tested it and these are the early conclusions.

The small Office installer precedes a short installation of almost 3GB if your Internet connection is up to it. It asks you surprisingly few questions during the process. In fact, there are no popups nor undercover ads, it just does the installation and then you’ll find the shortcuts to each of the tools in your ModernUI panel (we’ve done this trial on Windows 8.1). Another curious addition is a background service that manages file-synching with your OneDrive account. Seems like the cloud is going to play a big role here.

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Instinctively the first thing I go to open is Word. Although everything smells a bit new I feel at home. Opening each program is fast, even from a cold start. Later checks show that opening a document stored on my desktop takes no more than two seconds, and this process is repeated across the entire suite, although at certain times the Internet connection holds things up. For example, many of the templates offered on each tool have to be previously downloaded from the Microsoft servers to work, but luckily they are actually useful: not stupid things like ‘template to make a calendar with pretty photos’ but things like ‘template for invoices with integrated PayPal certification’. YES, Microsoft.

Now, a review. The programs included in the package are: Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Publisher, Outlook, OneNote, the automatic clipper for OneNote, and the updater. Everything that should be there, no more, no less. This time they’ve taken special care to unify the interface: for the first time in a long time you get the feeling you’re using modern tools that fit with the rest of Windows and the desktop. Even still, it keeps the layout of the 2013 version for the upper tools. (P.S. If you have Office 2013 installed you have to uninstall it to use this new version.)

Delving deeper into the online possibilities I come across the fact that it’s possible to edit online documents in real time with other users, even if they don’t have Office installed. To do so, using your OneDrive account, you can share your local edition with other people, who can view it and make changes right from their web browser.

The possibilities don’t stop there. You can even post entries to your blog directly from Office, share documents publicly via your social networks, integrate email creation thanks to Outlook, display a PowerPoint presentation via a web browser … in short, Microsoft has clued into the concept behind the Google universe in terms of online mobility and linking of services and has put it into practice very cleverly. Another point for Microsoft, and they already had a few in the bag.

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