Admins—get ready for Office 2016, rollout begins September 22!

Editor’s Note 2/9/2016:
Based on customer feedback, we’ve changed how we refer to our update branches. The name changes are as follows:

  • Current Branch is now called Current Channel
  • Current Branch for Business is now called Deferred Channel
  • First Release for Current Branch is now called First Release for Current Channel
  • First Release for Current Branch for Business is now called First Release for Deferred Channel

Only the names are changing. The servicing model for each of these channels remains the same. We are in the process of updating our content, so you will continue to see the previous naming during this transition.

Today’s post was written by Julia White, general manager of Office 365 Technical Product Management.

In March, we announced the Office 2016 IT Pro and Developer Preview. Since then, we’ve been listening to your feedback and continuing to build, refine and improve Office 2016 for Windows. This is a seminal release for Office and one you won’t want to wait to deploy to your users, and thanks to the many new IT management enhancements, you don’t need to wait!

You may have heard the rumors, but today I’m happy to confirm that Office 2016 will be broadly available starting on September 22nd. If you have a volume licensing agreement in place, you can download Office 2016 from the Volume Licensing Service Center starting October 1st.

This post is your one-stop shop for the tools, guidance and resources needed to get ready for Office 2016. We’ve enhanced the upgrade and installation experience, and for Office 365 subscribers, we’ve made changes to how the 2016 apps are updated moving forward. We’re also delivering new tools and resources to help you prepare, deploy and manage Office.

Improvements to the Office update model

For customers who currently use Office 365 ProPlus, (the subscription version of Office apps for companies and organizations), you can continue to receive monthly feature and security updates just as you have been over the past few years. Moving forward, this always up-to-date approach is called Current Branch and means that you always have the most current Office apps and capabilities deployed. The next Current Branch will release on September 22nd and will have all of the new Office 2016 app updates included.

Based on feedback from many organizations running Office 365 ProPlus, I am excited to announce that we are adding a new option for updating Office called Current Branch for Business. If your organization typically waits a few months prior to rolling out a new version of Office or needs more time to test Office 2016 and your customizations between feature updates, this will be welcomed news.

Consistent with Windows 10 approach, the new Current Branch for Business update model delivers three cumulative feature updates per year, while continuing to offer monthly security updates. You’ll see the first Current Branch for Business build in February 2016—which is effectively the same feature set as the September 22nd release, but with four additional months of security updates also included. This tri-annual update model offers an additional way for Office 365 ProPlus to stay current moving forward. You can find out about the new servicing options on TechNet.

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Current Branch (CB) and Current Branch for Business (CBB) update model in Office 365 ProPlus.

Note: For Office 365 Personal and Office 365 Home users, you can start installing 2016 apps on September 22nd from, and automatic updates will begin rolling out in October—so this new tri-annual update model is purely for our organizational subscribers to Office 365 ProPlus.

More IT capabilities in the new Office

We’ve also addressed a number of the other top IT requests in Office 365 ProPlus, including deployment support for Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS) to help control network traffic when deploying updates and new reports on Office activation and usage available in the Office 365 admin portal.

Beyond the new deployment and management options, the new Office also adds support for Data Loss Prevention across the Office 2016 apps, Multi-factor Authentication and other mission critical control capabilities.

Also, back in March we pledged our commitment to compatibility with your existing Office customization by not making changes to the extensibility model for macros or add-ins. If you’ve been evaluating the preview, you would have seen that most of the tools and processes for managing and deploying Office 365 ProPlus (15.x) versions are very consistent with Office 2016. In August, we published guidance for updating Office 365 ProPlus to the Office 2016 version and kicked off the Office IT Pro Deployment Script project.

If you haven’t checked out the new Office capabilities, it’s time! Speaking of which, let’s talk about all of the ways to get ready for Office 2016…

New events, tools and resources for admins

In November, we’re kicking off a new IT and developer-focused event series—the Microsoft Cloud Roadshow—where we’ll provide free, two-day technical trainings in 12 cities around the world for topics spanning Office, Azure and Windows. These are free to attend, and we’ll be bringing top engineers from Microsoft to lead the training sessions. Registration is now open for the in-person events, and coming soon, we’ll publish the presentations for on-demand viewing along with hands-on labs and additional training resources.

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The Office 365 Community is also a great place to go if you have questions about Office 2016; the experts from Microsoft, our MVPs, and the broader community are all there to help. We’ll be promoting Office 2016 on the network in the coming weeks and will have a YamJam with the Office engineering team on September 24th to answer your questions following the September 22nd release.

We’ll continue highlighting new capabilities in Office 2016 for tech enthusiasts via Office Mechanics shows and short demos from our engineers in the coming weeks. You can see highlights of what’s coming in Office 2016 for Windows on Office Mechanics now.

Check back on September 22nd

This captures a few of the highlights of what we’re working on to support admins with the upcoming Office 2016 release. You’ll see a lot more coming on September 22nd and beyond. Of course, you can still download the Office 2016 Preview now to experience what’s coming, and don’t forget to register for a Microsoft Cloud Roadshow near you to learn more.

—Julia White

Microsoft’s unified technology event for enterprises

Over the past few months, it has been awesome to connect with our technical communities, customers, and partners at the SharePoint Conference, Lync Conference, Exchange Conference, Project Conference, and most recently, at TechEd North America. While the world is increasingly digital, there is still no replacement for time together, in person, to talk tech and business, and simply get to know each other better. Hands down, my favorite weeks of the past year have been those spent at these conferences, meeting with many, many of you!

As we took stock of the past conferences and looked forward to the next year of conferences, we decided we can do better – better for our technical communities, better for our business customers, better for our partners, and better for Microsoft. Part of this is a recognition that as our industry continues to evolve, so must our approach to creating valuable experiences for all of you. Part of this recognition is feedback from attendees across the past conferences asking for more content and product team engagement across Microsoft versus just within one product area. And, part of this is a recognition that Microsoft’s own cloud first, mobile first strategy must carry through to our conferences for all of us to be successful together.

With that backdrop, I am thrilled to announce we will be hosting an inaugural, unified Microsoft commercial technology conference the week of May 4, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. We’re bringing the best of what made our past conferences so valuable, plus adding more of what you’ve asked for including…

  • Clearer visibility into Microsoft’s future technology vision and roadmap
  • Unparalleled access to Microsoft senior leaders and the developers who write the code – many of whom will present and engage with you and answer your questions
  • A broader range of learning opportunities across all of Microsoft’s technologies, including actionable best practices from industry experts
  • Deep community interaction with the top technology professionals and industry peers in structured and informal settings
  • Epic after-hour festivities for you to unwind and turn up the fun!

If you attended the SharePoint Conference, Exchange Conference, Lync Conference or Project Conference, this is the conference for you. And, if you’re interested in or already using Office 365, this is the conference for you.

As someone who has attended all of these conferences, I know that some of you might be thinking that this new, unified conference can’t possibly be as magical as the past conferences you’ve attended. Or, that you really enjoyed the conference in the past and don’t want it to change. I totally get that and am here to reassure you that this unified conference will be every bit as awesome, every bit as valuable and in fact, it will exceed on both these measures. That is our maniacal focus and commitment to you, so hold us to it!

Save the week of May 4, 2015 and follow us on twitter @Office365 or join the Office 365 Technical Network to stay connected – we’ll be back in September with more details. I can’t wait to see you in Chicago for this unparalleled event.

Save the Date: May 4 - 8, 2015 Chicago, IL

The best free alternative to Office is Office on the web

Office on the webLately, it seems there’s a new, free productivity application launching every week. They’re flooding the market with point solutions that have rudimentary levels of functionality and a variety of user experiences. With this comes speculation of if these free offerings can replace Office.

We know the crowded app market is creating confusion for customers, but the reality is, the best free alternative to Office is Office–Office Web Apps. The Office Web Apps are a free version of the Office applications you already know and love with the same familiar user experience you want. And, they trump the free alternatives hands down.  Here’s why:

  1. They’re complete.
    With Office Web Apps, you can create, edit and share Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote files. Instead of addressing just one need, Office Web Apps provide a complete suite–all with a consistent user experience and functionality that works across the applications.
  2. They work anywhere.
    Whether you’re a PC, Mac, iOS or Android fan and whether you use a touch device or mouse and keyboard, Office Web Apps work across all devices and browsers. Office Web Apps live in the cloud, so you can get to your files and documents anywhere. Your content is always in sync and available across any device.
  3. They’re consistent.
    Office Web Apps look and feel like Office, so you already know how to use them. This means nothing new to learn. And, because Office always ensures your content formatting and functionality remain intact, you can share with confidence knowing that your documents will look as intended (and don’t get garbled like they do with some alternatives).
  4. They’re shareable.
    Sharing through SkyDrive is easy, and it integrates closely with Office. So you can work with other people without version control issues or having to use an additional file storage and sharing service.
  5. They’re rock solid … and always getting better.
    Tens of millions of people already use Office Web Apps, so they’re proven. We are always taking feedback and continually improving the Office Web Apps for the future; in fact, if you’ve tried Office Web Apps in the past you might want to take a second look, as there have been many improvements to the product suite to make it more intuitive, touch-friendly and more seamless with your Office experience.

I should note that, because Office Web Apps are browser-based, they don’t do everything Office 2013 or Office 365 does. Some of the more powerful features require the desktop version, but the Office Web Apps are a great solution for a lot of people, and a better option than the alternative point solutions.

If you’re looking for a free alternative to Office–or are just looking for a convenient way to access your files on the go–give the Office Web Apps a try by logging in to and clicking Create in the top menu.  We think you’ll like what you see.

–Julia White

Office 365 subscribers get Office Mobile for Android phones

Office 365 subscribers get Office Mobile for AndroidLast November, we delivered a brand new version of Office Mobile, preinstalled on all Windows Phone 8 devices. In June, we released Office Mobile for iPhone as a unique benefit for Office 365 subscribers.

Today, we are launching Office Mobile for Android phones in the United States at no additional charge for Office 365 subscribers. This means that Office 365 subscribers can now work on their Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents from virtually anywhere–using their Windows Phone, iPhone or Android phones.1

Office Mobile for Android phones can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. To use the app, you need a qualifying Office 365 subscription, including Office 365 Home Premium or Office 365 ProPlus (you can find the complete list of qualifying subscriptions here). Office Mobile for Android phones is initially available in the United States, with more countries coming on board over the next several weeks.

So what’s great about Office Mobile for Android phones?

A true Office experience

Office Mobile is the official companion to Microsoft Office. Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents look great on your phone, thanks to support for charts, animations, SmartArt Graphics, and shapes. When you make edits or add comments to a document, the formatting and layout remain intact. When you return to your PC or Mac, your document looks like it should.

Easy access

Office Mobile is designed for people on the go.  We made it easy to access your Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents in the cloud on SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro.  When you’re on your phone, you’ll see the list of documents you recently opened on your computer in the Recent Documents panel–no searching needed. And of course, you can view and edit documents you receive in email.

Designed for the phone

Office Mobile has been optimized for the small screen of your phone so you can get things done efficiently.  When reviewing Word documents, the Resume Reading feature takes you to the exact point in the document where you left off on your PC so you don’t waste time searching. The new Slide Navigator lets you browse through PowerPoint presentations fast while Speaker Notes help you practice on the run. 

Sharing built-in

Edit documents and share them right from your phone. You can review comments in Word and Excel documents on your phone and add your own.  When you’re done, you can save the file back to SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro or just send it as an email attachment.

Go ahead and download Office Mobile from the Google Play store.

If you want to try Office Mobile for Android phones, but don’t have an Office 365 subscription, you can sign up for a free 30 day Office 365 trial at And of course, if you’re already using a Windows Phone, then Office Mobile is already installed on your phone.

Want to learn more? You can find more details in the Office 365 Tech blog.

–Julia White

 1Compatible phone and WiFi or mobile network connectivity required. See

Announcing Power BI for Office 365

Mobile BIToday, at the Worldwide Partner Conference, we announced a new offering–Power BI for Office 365. Power BI for Office 365 is a cloud-based business intelligence (BI) solution that enables our customers to easily gain insights from their data, working within Excel to analyze and visualize the data in a self-service way. It works with Office 365 to help customers share insights, find answers and stay connected to their data from their favorite mobile devices.

Business data is continuing to grow at an exponential rate and making sense of all of the incoming information is now fundamental to a thriving business. Success can literally be determined by the tools a business makes available to employees as they deal with the flood of data.  People love Excel for analyzing data, so we’ve built Power BI for Office 365 right into this experience, making it an even more powerful tool. You may have already seen the Power Pivot and Power View capabilities in Excel and today we continue to extend our BI offerings. Power BI for Office 365 now includes:

  • Power Query, enabling customers to easily search and access public data and their organization’s data, all within Excel (formerly known as “Data Explorer“).
  • Power Map, a 3D data visualization tool for mapping, exploring and interacting with geographic and temporal data (formerly known as product codename “Geoflow“).
  • Power Pivot for creating and customizing flexible data models within Excel.
  • Power View for creating interactive charts, graphs and other visual representations of data.

We know that it’s not only essential for people to have the ability to easily identify new insights from their data, but also to collaborate and provide access to that data in a trusted environment. That’s why Power BI for Office 365 extends beyond your existing on premise systems to deliver value within an already trusted service, providing:

  • Power BI sites, dedicated collaborative BI workspaces in Office 365 for sharing data and insights with colleagues. The Power BI sites also keep customers’ data up to date with connectivity and data refresh back to their on premise data sources.
  • New natural language query capabilities that allow customers to ask questions and get answers. They simply type their question into a dialog box and the system interprets and automatically generates interactive charts and graphs based on available data.
  • Connected BI experience, dedicated native apps for Windows 8, Windows RT and iPad to stay connected with your reports and data wherever you are as well as HTML5 support for browser based viewing on any device.

To learn more about how Power BI for Office 365 can help you unlock the insights hidden in your data, check out these two blog posts: What powers Power BI for Office 365? and Introducing Power BI for Office 365. And go here to register for the preview, coming later this summer! 

–Julia White, General Manager, Microsoft Office Division

Office Mobile for iPhone now available for Office 365 subscribers

Office Mobile for iPhoneToday, we’re releasing Office Mobile for iPhone available at no extra charge from the Apple App Store for Office 365 Home Premium and Office 365 ProPlus subscribers. Similar to our free Office Mobile for Windows Phone that ships with every handset, the iPhone app enables great Office content viewing and on-the-go content editing capabilities.

Update 3/27/2014:  You no longer need an Office 365 subscription to edit documents with Office Mobile for iPhone.  You must update to the latest version of the Office Mobile app to enable free document editing and creation.

After signing in to an Office 365 account, you can access, view and edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents from anywhere. And, you can count on Office Mobile to keep all your content and formatting intact so the document still looks great when you’re back on your PC or Mac.

When we launched Office 365 earlier this year, we committed to delivering regular updates and new capabilities to Office 365 subscribers. Since then, we’ve expanded Skype calling and added new OneNote features. Office Mobile is another great example of the value of subscribing to Office 365, and I can guarantee you, there will be lots more to come.

So, let’s get into the fun stuff and look at what this app can do!

Consistent Office experience

Because Office Mobile is from Microsoft, your formatting and layout remain intact when viewing, editing or adding comments, thanks to support for charts, animations, SmartArt graphics and shapes. When you return to your PC or Mac your document looks like it should.

Excel on Office Mobile for iPhone

Easy access

Office Mobile is designed for people on the move.  We made it quick and easy to access your Office content in the cloud on SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro. When you’re on your phone, you’ll easily find the content you viewed on your computer in the Recent Documents panel. And, of course, you can view and edit Office documents sent in email.

Recent Documents on Office Mobile for iPhone

Optimized for the small screen

Office Mobile has been optimized for the small screen of your phone so you can get the important things done quickly. For instance, the Slide Navigator allows you to page through PowerPoint presentations fast while Speaker Notes help you practice presentations on the go. When reviewing Word documents on your phone, the Resume Reading feature takes you to the exact point in the document where you left off on your computer so you never miss a beat.

Sharing built in

You can make quick edits and share your documents right from your phone with Office Mobile. When working with others, you can review comments in Word and Excel documents on your phone and add your own. When you’re done, you can save directly to SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro or just send as an email attachment.

If you don’t already have an Office 365 subscription, a great way to try Office Mobile is to sign up for an Office 365 trial at And of course, if you’re already using a Windows Phone you have Office Mobile already installed on your phone.

For those of you who want to see the app in action, check out this video. You can also learn more at the Office 365 Tech blog.

–Julia White, General Manager, Microsoft Office Division