Microsoft is set to release the latest update to its productivity and business software, Office 2019, later this year. Some businesses can preview the software now to test out new features, and you can sign up to be one of those if you can't wait.
This is the first big update to Microsoft Office since the 2016 version, and it brings lots of big changes for those who prefer downloaded software. Sure, the cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 subscribers have enjoyed app and feature updates throughout the last several years, but Office has always been the company's flagship business software. [Read related article: Microsoft Office 365: Best New Business Features]
When it's officially introduced, Office 2019 will be a perpetual offering. That means businesses will pay a one-time fee and have access to the new features and updates as they are released. Microsoft said in a press release that this model, while a departure from the subscription-based Office 365 plans it's been pushing, is designed for businesses that aren't yet ready for the cloud.
"Office 2019 will be a valuable upgrade for customers who feel that they need to keep some or all of their apps on servers on-premises," the company said in a press release.
While Office 2019 is the official, perpetual rollout of the software, Office 365 subscribers will also have access to these features as they're introduced. Previewers can enjoy new Excel features, a new OneNote for Windows 10, and other IT and security features.
Throughout Office 2019 beta, Microsoft is pushing improved inking features across apps, including roaming pencil case capabilities to PowerPoint. This allows users to move objects using their pen or write directly on slides.PowerPoint will support new inking features, like enhanced pressure sensitivity and tilt effects. Credit: Microsoft
There's also a host of IT and deployment updates, such as enhanced Click-to-Run technology, monthly security updates and reduced network consumption. Here's a full list of features by program.
- Excel: Businesses can take advantage of new Excel functions, Power Pivot and Power Query enhancements, and 2D maps. Users can also publish from Excel to Power BI in the Office 2019 version.
- Outlook: Microsoft is going to update contact cards, support @ mentions within Outlook and introduce focused inbox features.
- Word: Word will have a new black theme, sounds integrated into Office 2019, learning tools and text-to-speech features. There will also be various accessibility and usability improvements.
- PowerPoint: Microsoft is adding enhanced zoom capabilities, the ability to manage 3D images within the program and enhanced roaming pencil case features.
- OneNote: OneNote is arguably getting the biggest update. Microsoft said in a separate release that it will combine OneNote 2016's best features with Windows 10 usability. These features include ink-to-text, improved syncing and an enhanced user experience.
How to preview Office 2019
Businesses interested in previewing Microsoft Office 2019 beta can sign up through Microsoft's Collaborate portal. The Office 2019 preview program is not for companies that already have Office 365 subscription plans. Microsoft said that the apps included in 365 already have all the features that will be available in the Office 2019 release.
To preview Office 2019, you and your company must register with Collaborate, a platform run by Microsoft that enables the sharing of engineering system work items and content. You must already be running Microsoft Windows 10.
Once you've signed up, click Overview in the sidebar on the left. Then select Engagements and Office 2019 Commercial Preview. Click Join and accept the terms and conditions, then click Join again. You'll then need to download a couple files from the Packages icon labeled Office Deployment Tool and Office 2019 Commercial Preview Documentation.
The full suite of features will be more apparent once the preview period ends and Microsoft fully rolls out Office 2019. If you're running a business on an Office 365 subscription, your apps will be updated with the new features as they're released, so you don't have to worry about the official rollout. Beta testing of software like this is mainly intended for developers, and you should know that the pre-release versions of software often come with bugs. Beta software is not intended for everyday use on a primary device, so if you really can't wait till it rolls out officially, don't use your go-to device to download it.