Software & Web Development

Microsoft enhances Office 2016 collaboration with tools that track team input

Collaboration has been a central focus of Office 2016, and this month’s updates really take it up a notch: You can find out about anyone who’s working on your document, and even call an all-hands virtual meeting to discuss new changes.

The Office 2016 Activity hub.

The Activity feed presents a slightly different tweak on the familiar Track Changes function. While Track Changes allows you to see what edits have been made to a particular document, the Activity feed reports who saved a particular document, and allows you to jump back to the version he or she was working on.

The Office updates also provide a separate threaded comments workflow where you can actually create items or tasks and mark them as complete. (Note that the document in question must be stored in OneDrive for Business or on a SharePoint share.)

The People Hub lets you click on the person currently editing the document and jump to where he or she is editing the document in real time. Clicking that person also optionally brings up their contact card—where you might discover that yes, the regional vice president is the person that’s changing your bullet points to the Comic Sans font. 

And if that isn’t enough, Office 2016 allows you to tap the Skype icon and create an all-hands Skype for Business group chat. Time to settle things once and for all!

Changes to the Office mobile apps allow for more convenient editing on the go.

Unfortunately, these capabilities are only integrated as part of the Windows desktop Office 2016 client for Office 365. If you’re on the go and need to make some last-minute changes in the Windows Phone, iOS, or Android versions of the Office apps, however, Microsoft has added a handy convenience: As you’re working in the document, Office will peer over your shoulder and figure out what you’re trying to do. It then will show you a shortcut down at the bottom of your document—a nice way to avoid browsing through menus in the back of a jouncing cab. 

Microsoft also added audio recording to OneNote for Windows Phone—not the real-time voice annotation feature I love in the desktop versions of OneNote, but a start.

Why this matters: Your first reaction to some of these collaborative additions might very well be “Wow, do I really need this?!”  But both the Activity feed, the threaded comments, and the ability to jump right to where someone is working not only provide a trail of breadcrumbs demonstrating who contributed (and improved) a document, but also a quick way to pull a task back on track.

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