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article imageReview: A new look and more ideas — Word 2016 from Office 365

By Paul Wallis     Nov 5, 2015 in Technology
Sydney - Word 2016 is part of Microsoft Office 365. It’s a familiar version of Word, following on from Word 2010. It’s OK, but also a bit hard to get used to, in some ways. I found that out the hard way, but there are some strong positives, too.
In fairness, this version of Word couldn’t possibly have had a less patient, or more irritable, reviewer. I had some work to do for a client, and was also getting a new Outlook email address from another client. When I saw the new Word, of course, I was very interested. I average about 5,000 words a day. “Productivity” to me means not typing my fingers in to hooves, so a new Word was worth checking out.
“Aha!” I said, from my imperial throne as thousands of terrified villagers fled and thousands of supermodels gnawed their way through steel reinforced concrete for a glimpse of my sweet smile from amid the piles of gems and golden ennui. The life of a freelancer writer is so fraught with these minutiae.
So — load and install the new Word, which was pretty easy, in fact the whole Office 365 really is quite well behaved as a download. No weird stuff; it’s all pretty self-explanatory and downloads quite quickly.
Word installs itself on the task bar, with a sort of folder-like icon, dark blue and white. It’s not really much of an icon, but I wasn’t expecting Da Vinci, either.
At this stage, I also had a lot of work to do, including 18 edits/total rewrites due by 3 a.m. the next day. I was running Dragon Naturally Speaking, which is a good, if pernickety, quick way of writing. Yes, I’m running a lot of stuff, in fact about 650k on the RAM at this point. However — that’s what I need Word for, after all.
These edits are so strange that my friend in the States has had a few of them framed. We’d just been discussing doing a Broadway musical of them when this all happened. It’s fairly demanding work. Generally, they’re rewrites.
So I downloaded the zip files. Some of them are old .doc files. Turns out Word 2016 doesn’t allow you to edit these things. They have to be copied, then turned in to .docx files. It also insisted in opening everything in secure mode, which is theoretically OK, but with a lot of work, it’d be nice to have an option, particularly when you know the file source.
The new file templates are pretty interesting  and quite functional  but take your time to learn how...
The new file templates are pretty interesting, and quite functional, but take your time to learn how to use them.
Word then went to work. The first thing you notice is that unlike Word 2010, the actual letters flow on to the page smoothly, like a sort of glissando. They don’t just “type,” it slides across the page. It doesn’t seem to have much trouble with my typing or dictating speeds. If I hadn’t been so busy, I might have been more appreciative. Not a major issue, of course, but aesthetics while working do affect editing. What you see is what you edit, in fact. Giving myself an unfamiliar bit of software to work with while being this busy was an experience in itself.
That said — the next thing that happened was that all my tech, including Word, Dragon, Firefox, and everything else, started to act up. The computer fan started blowing a symphony, not great when only a few feet from the ear. I don’t think Word was responsible for the frustration; it was the combination of the things in use, and my two-year-old custom computer’s vagaries. It’s very reliable, but it was feeling some heat in the box.
Word, in .docx only mode, was fine. I’ll put down the .doc issues to simple passage of time.
The first thing which was really different was the Save function. You don’t automatically save to a current folder. You have to use Browse, a folder icon, to access the Documents files. Mildly irritating, but at this stage everything was, so perhaps not a major issue for most people.
When you open Word 2016, you get a selection of templates. To be strictly fair, this isn’t a bad feature, unless you’re incredibly busy and working on a deadline, in which case your judgment may get a bit picky. The templates will be instantly familiar to pro writers, and they’re quite OK for letters, etc.
The next issue for me was Review. I have to check docs, and I have to try to get my accuracy as good as possible. The review is normal, to a point, but unlike Word 97 and 2010, you don’t get reading scale info, etc. You get either a dialog box or “the spelling and grammar check has been completed”.
To be a bit nitpicky — for me, the reading scale matters. My lowest reading scale is six, my highest is 18. If I’m writing a clothing catalog and get a scale of 18, it means I’m writing at postgraduate level to describe a pair of socks, for example.
One minor point which may be of interest to Microsoft — the “w” tends to render as a bit blurry on Trebuchet MS, my usual font. Might be me, might be it, but obvious ramifications if we’re talking text presentation quality.
Tab by tab
File: This is a list of files and options with a Back arrow. Nothing much new.
Home: Basic Word page, layout is more or less 2010. Not a great look in terms of the background, but with grey sides rather than glaring white to the page.
Insert:Some added functionalities, including Chart, Comments, Screenshot, and “Store”, which is the Office store. No real mysteries for Word users.
Design: This bar is instantly familiar. They’ve hived off some features from Page Layout, and it works pretty well.
Layout: Looks a bit no-frills, but all easy to see and use.
References: Good and familiar.
Mailings: Ditto.
Language: Upgraded from the Tools menu on 2010, and very much the same. Useful for fast clicking.
View: As per 2010.
Tell me what you want to do: Basically a search help function, with a few built-in menu items like Find, Leave a comment, change how table looks, etc. OK, not much of an issue for me.
Key functions: Control A, S, B, I and V all work as per normal. No new rituals.
Overall: 9/10. The real issue for us writers is how it performs on the job. The equation is “No fuss = Good.” They’ve done the right thing by sticking to a known formula for writing processes, which is really the core issue.
You’ll find the Microsoft Office 365 download, including free downloads, all over the net.
You can buy Office 365 here at the Microsoft Store with a range of choices for Home, Professional etc.
More about Word 2016, Office 365, Word 2016 review, Word 2016 productivity, software for professional writers