Office 2016 Breakdown

Hello! It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Apologies for the delay, but life has been good. So much has happened the last few months, with so many shiny, new things to talk about! And I love shiny, new things. 🙂

Office 2016 is here!

The new Office version is out for public consumption. Before you drink the Kool-Aid, it’s my hope to give you some information to make the decision if it’s for you or not. There are several links below to what I consider relevant information.

If you don’t read anything else, then read Jon Peltier’s blog post on the subject. He’s included super relevant information.

The official scoop on what’s new: and

There is also the Office Training Center, which has some cool stuff if you haven’t seen it before. The Office Blog is always a good source of information too. Last month Kirk Koenigsbauer posted the top questions about Office 2016.

A lot of people have been blogging about Office 2016 since it came out, so I’m way behind the ball here. In fact, I’m just going to give you some good links to info you may want to know about it.

What versions of Office 2016 contain PowerPivot? Rob Collie gives you the breakdown.

My personal thoughts

Overall in Excel there hasn’t been too many changes.

New chart types


There are six new chart types for desktop Excel.

  • Treemap
  • Sunburst
  • Histogram
  • Pareto
  • Box & Whisker
  • Waterfall

Why is this good? Not because I love shiny new things (but I do love shiny new things), but rather these are very popular chart types which workarounds have been made for. Now they are native in the app, which makes it much easier to create them. And for non-chart junkies like me, that’s a good thing.


Get and transform (aka Power Query)


If you’re familiar with Power Query, you might be wondering, “why in the hell is this a good thing?!” Yes, they renamed your favorite new and powerful tool to something utterly ridiculous and non-descriptive, but, it’s native to the app! In my book that’s a big win. This shows commitment from the Excel team at Microsoft to delivering an extremely valuable resource, up-front and center.

Get and transform


One-click forecasting


This tool is pretty cool so far, but the jury is still out. Access this from the Data tab right next to the What-If Analysis menu, as seen in the below image. It creates a new sheet based on your data, with a table which extends with some calculations to forecast, along with a line [default] or column chart.

Forecast button

Below is an example of what the dialog looks like with some sample data.

Forecast dialog


3D Maps (aka Power Map)


Yet another Power tool to make its way into the native Excel app. Say bye-bye to the add-in. This can be found on the Insert tab of the ribbon. I’ve only dabbled with this feature, but it shows promise and is very powerful. I’m just not a big charting guy.

This feature is not enabled by default on install. You actually have to enable this feature, which is not that easy to find. It’s found by going to File, Options, Advanced, (scroll all the way to the bottom) check the box ‘Enable Data Analysis add-ins: Power Pivot, Power View, and Power Map’. If you don’t want to remember all of that, you can just click on the 3D Map split menu on the ribbon (click the button, or hit the drop-down and click ‘Open 3D Maps’). You’ll get a message box asking if you want to enable this or not, as seen below.

Enable 3D Maps


Other stuff

The rest of the features I’ll just briefly list along with my opinion, take it for what it’s worth.

Financial templates


While cool, I’m not sure I’ll be using either the ‘My Cashflow‘ or ‘Stock Analysis‘ templates anytime soon. I love the effort though.


Calendar Insights template


If you want to dissect your calendar and analyze how you spend your time, this might be for you. Dashboards are cool, but the jury is still out on this one. I’d love some feedback.


PivotTable enhancements


Dare I say GREAT?! Some much needed changes were made here. Albeit small and not earth-shattering, I’m very happy with what’s going on under the hood with these bad boys.

  • Search in the PivotTable – finally!
  • Automatic time grouping
  • Smart rename (not sure about the name, but loving the feature, which lets you rename data model parts)
  • Custom measures from the fields list (about time!)
  • Automatic relationship detection
  • Drill-down navigation buttons (the +/- buttons)


Multi-select slicer


While this hasn’t really been an issue with desktop Excel, it certainly has for touch devices. I mean, how do you multi-select on a touch device?! I have no idea. Now we have a toggle button we’re able to click to enable this feature, perfect for touch devices and super lazy.

Slicer multi-select


Publish to Power BI


Not familiar with Power BI? You should be. It’s pretty awesome. And there is a free version. ‘Nuff said.


Quick shape formatting


Basically there are 35 new preset styles you can choose from with drawing objects (i.e. shapes). While I like the new presets better than the 42 original styles to choose from, I’m not sure how much I’m going to use them. I appreciate the effort, however small. Thanks MS Excel peeps.


Insert pictures with correct orientation


Mostly because, well, I have no idea what this actually does. But I’m sure someone worked hard on it, so for that, we thank you.


Tell Me


This is a modern Clippy. The idea is you type in what you want to know about and you’ll get a list of features matched. This won’t list online help files, or community posts, or anything useful. Instead it just lists features as if it were an actual menu, which are clickable and launch those specific features.

For example, if I type in “create a table”, this is what I’ll get:

Tell me 1

From the above picture I get several options of commands which are indeed helpful in creating a table. But let’s say I get a little less clear in what I want, and I tell pseudo-Clippy I want to “win the lottery”. As you can see below I get absolutely nothing to help me with that.

Tell me 2

Ok, so that might be a bad example, so I tried something more serious and, like I told my 5th grade teacher when she asked what I wanted to do, I said “be president”. Like speaking to my parents, it came back with a bunch of things that didn’t have a damn thing to do with my original question. In fact it left me with more questions. Suddenly I reverted back to my teenage years when the world was nothing but an endless sea of questions without answers.

Tell me 3

While this is a cool idea in concept, I think it needs more work. I didn’t want to give it a bad grade, because I like some of the functionality, it needs something like Siri or Cortana to make it better. Jury is out for now.


Smart Lookup (aka Insights)


This is more like the References task pane feature from way back (2003?) but better. I like this because I no longer have to leave Excel if I want to check out information from various sources. I’m always using Wikipedia to bounce facts/stats off of (they take donations, btw). The less time I have to leave the app to get stuff done, the happier I am.


Ink equations


If I had to add equations to my spreadsheets I might care a little more. But I don’t.


Simpler sharing


I know there’s been a lot of clamoring these days for increased sharing capabilities, real-time co-authoring, etc. I just don’t have a big need for it. If you’re into that kind of thing, you’ll probably enjoy this.


Improved version history


This has been needing improvement for quite some time, like forever. Just glad to see this. The only downside is this feature only works with files saved to OneDrive for Business and SharePoint. While that sucks, I understand the constraint.

Data Loss Protection (DLP)


This functionality started in Outlook and has made its way into other Office applications, including Word and PowerPoint also. Again, not a big draw for me, and without any real-world application or ability to test this, it sounds cool, so I have to keep the jury out and say undecided. I’d love feedback for anyone who has used this feature.


New themes


Ok, so this is the last one – I promise. It’s the only feature I think SUCKS. Maybe because I hyped myself up about it, or maybe it is just lame and the worst UI implementation Microsoft has ever done. It’s anyone’s guess.

Let’s start with what I do like about this, because there is one thing I like. Yup, you read that right, just one part of this feature which I like, and I hate everything else. That one thing is a dark theme. I mean, come on Microsoft, it took you almost 10 years of the ribbon to come out with a dark theme. That’s gotta be some kind of record in stupidity. I’m seriously amazed the Office UI/UX team gets away with what they do. They must have platinum tongues.

Office2016 theme choice

From the image above you can see there are three themes to choose from: colorful, dark gray, and white.

Oh, and those super annoying ALL CAPS RIBBON NAMES? Yeah, they’re gone. Office 2013 will be the only version in the history of Office to have that shitty style. I’ll avoid it like the plague. (Yes, there are workarounds.)

So the bad news comes about when looking at the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT). There are times when they’re monochromatic, others when they’re full color. Which you get depends on which theme you’ve selected, as well as the location of the QAT.

If you’re worried about the spacing on the QAT, you’ll be happy to know that, because of our loud voices, Microsoft is changing that! (Jon gives a good explanation on what UserVoice is here.)

These images show how the QAT has color and in which theme.

Colorful theme, QAT above the ribbon (no color)

Home shot

Colorful theme, QAT below the ribbon (color)

Home shot - QAT low

Dark theme, QAT above the ribbon (no color)

Ribbon - dark theme

Dark theme, QAT below the ribbon (color)

Ribbon - dark theme - QAT low

Light theme, QAT above the ribbon (color)

Ribbon - white theme

With the light theme, the QAT has color regardless of the position.

While I’m happy we finally have a dark theme, I hate having to put the QAT below the ribbon for color. Monochrome makes it look confusing to me, and putting it below the ribbon loses a bit of real estate from the grid. And yes, I hate the white theme.

In conclusion

Overall the changes are good. Albeit not many, they are in a positive direction. And with the subscription-based service Office 365 offers, updates are rolled out much more frequently and feature sets can be acquired much more easily. I like 2016 more than 2013, but 2010 is still the most stable, recent version for me. Thoughts?

9 thoughts on “Office 2016 Breakdown

  1. Zack, great summary!! and I just finished your Excel Tables book which is top notch!

    I was wondering if you could speak to what changes and/or additions were made to Excel 2016 that directly effect Tables?

    Also will your Table Tools Excel add-in work with Excel 2016 when it comes out?

    1. Dave, thanks for the response! That is a great idea for a blog post, I’ll make my next post about Tables in Excel 2016. Love the idea, thanks so much!

      Yes, the add-in will work in 2016. I’m going to be adding a beta sign-up for the add-in. I would like it to work in all versions. We are also working on an Office Add-in which will work cross-platform on all Excel endpoints (i.e. desktop, online, Mac, iOS, Android). 🙂

        1. Dave, thanks for the reminder! We’re re-tooling the add-in and using pure VBA, so no more COM. There are several reasons for this, ease of use and no IT needed being at the top of the list, but also for use on Mac’s. I’d give it a month for beta. I’ll blast the newsletter and blog it when we do.

          I’ve yet to complete the new blog post. It’s been crazy busy over here – which is good, but I haven’t had a lot of time for the site. Keep on me! 🙂

  2. Good summary.

    The only thing you’ve said that I really don’t get along with is the Smart Lookup thing. I have hated that Research task pane, and I have never found a reliable way to disable it. I’ll think I found the trick, and then suddenly it appears.

    For me, the application is for doing work, and a browser is for looking up things that I may want to use in the application. The browser doesn’t take up precious real estate, and in my normal working mode, it can be on the secondary monitor.

    The same thing bothered me about the earlier generation of JS API apps, too. They couldn’t do anything useful; the examples we got were, I don’t know, a weather map embedded in the worksheet. Even the charts that some apps could create were not native Excel charts, so they were like embedding a picture. As above, that’s what browsers are for, eh?

    1. I hear you Jon. I didn’t like the Research task pane at first either. And I also have my browser on a second monitor, which works very nicely for myself.

      Smart Lookup may not be so smart either. Like if you select any part of a formula in the formula bar, right-click and choose Smart Lookup, it will still only lookup based on the value/result of the cell. But I do like how it lists search data from multiple sources, including Wikipedia and Bing, which I use a lot.

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