May 01, 2016


Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene


Figure 1: Microsofts latest enhancements focus on collaboration and the Cloud.
Image courtesy of

As of today, Microsoft has three different “current” versions of Microsoft Office: Microsoft Office 2016, Microsoft Office 365, and Microsoft Office Online. It is a little confusing to keep up with. Each offers slightly different features.


For starters, Office 2016 is the latest version of the desktop Office suite, available for both Windows and Mac OS X. You can buy or upgrade to Office 2016 for a one-time purchase price, which grants you a single PC license to continue using Office as you have likely done in the past. But, when a new version of Office rolls out (say 2017 maybe?), you will have to buy another license and upgrade if you want to use the new features. Currently Office 2016 is available in a Home & Student version, on both Mac and PC, for $149.99. The Home & Student version does not include Outlook on either platform. There is a Home & Business version for either platform that includes Outlook, available for $229.99. If you want Publisher and Access, you will need to look at Office 2016 Professional, which is available for $399.99 for a single license.

Office 365 is Microsoft’s online Office Service. It started out being a means of sharing email, communications, and files in the cloud, but has grown now to include licenses for using desktop software and their corresponding mobile applications. To subscribe, you can pay either monthly or yearly, and you can choose from a variety of feature combinations and plans to tailor the service to your needs. Plans can start at as little as $5.00/user/month, up to $35.00/user/month, depending on how many enterprise features you need. One major difference between Office 365 and Office 2016 is that Office 2016 grants you a permanent license (on one PC) while the Office 365 is an ongoing subscription service, so if you cancel your subscription you will be unable to use the Office products. The overall cost may be a wash, however, if you are the type who likes to upgrade to the latest and greatest available. If you fall into that category, Office 365 may prove the better bet for you. Not only will you have the perk of staying up-to-date with the latest changes and features, but every user can install the Office suite features on up to five PCs, tablets, or mobile devices. So if you use Office 365 for your computer at work, you can install it at home, on your laptop, your iPad, and your mobile smartphone, and still have one more device installation available.

Figure 2: Office 365 Infographic, courtesy of


Office Online is a free, dumbed-down, web-based version of Microsoft Office. It appears to be Microsoft’s attempt to compete with Google Docs. As a web application that runs in your browser, it has the ability to run on most platforms (PC, Mac, Linux, Chromebooks, iPads, Android Tablets, etc.). It does not require you to download any plug-ins and will work on most popular web browsers (including Firefox, Chrome, and Safari) in addition to Internet Explorer. Documents that you work on here are saved to your Microsoft OneDrive storage online. Office Online offers nice collaboration features, allowing multiple users to work in and edit the same document. Only Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote are available with Office Online. Publisher and Access are not offered. You will not be able to use features like Mail Merge or run Macros in the online version either. It also only works when you have an Internet connection, so you will not be able to work on documents offline. If you are a fan of collaborating with Google Docs, this product might be worth checking out (especially since you can’t beat the price tag). For business purposes, however, it is not a sufficient substitute for Office 2016 or Office 365.

Now that you understand the subtle nuances between the current available options, here are some tips and advice for making the most of the new features.

TIP 1: Check out the new Clutter feature in Outlook. Clutter, a new feature in Outlook, analyzes your email use to determine whether emails should actually make it to your inbox. For example, if an annoying acquaintance insists on sending you weekly updates of their fishing adventures and you never open the emails, Clutter will interpret that to mean it doesn’t belong in your inbox and begin automatically moving those messages to your “Clutter” folder. You can always check this folder and move messages back if you really like seeing them in your queue.

TIP 2: Get Smart (or at least check out Smart Lookup). Previous versions of Microsoft contained spell check and thesaurus features, but the newest version adds a Smart Lookup feature that allows you to go beyond spell check and the thesaurus to look up almost anything on the web. To do so, simply highlight a word or phrase, right-click, and select Smart Lookup. The tool opens a side bar with web-based search results that fit your highlighted criteria.

TIP 3: Wunderlist, Facebook, and Evernote integration with Outlook on iOS and Android. Office rolled out some heavy hitters for what it refers to as “Calendar Apps,” including Wunderlist, Facebook, and Evernote, in an effort to improve collaboration and project management. Connecting to these apps through Outlook will allow you to see all of your tasks, events and notes from your digital life on your Outlook calendar.

TIP 4: Capture more with Office Lens. Office Lens can save you time by allowing you to take a camera-phone image of a document and then turn that image into an editable Office document. You can use it to scan photos, receipts, documents, business cards, or whiteboards. For former CardMunch fans, this is a handy tool for getting those business cards you pick up at meetings and networking events from your card case into your contacts.

TIP 5: Tell your story with Sway, Microsoft’s digital storytelling app. PowerPoint is still a part of Microsoft’s Suite, but Office 365 subscribers should take some time to check out what the authors are calling Microsoft PowerPoint’s younger sibling, Sway. Sway does not replace PowerPoint, but PowerPoint grants users more control over minute details. Sway controls the templates and a lot of the design elements, leaving you to provide the content. You can throw together some pretty cool reports, presentations, newsletters, personal stories, and more fairly quickly. You don’t have much control over the format design, beyond selecting from Sway’s pre-design options, but this can be a great tool for simple presentations and communication.

Figure 4: Author screenshot from


The newest iteration of Office includes a slew of additional features, some only available in select versions or packages. We have identified a few highlights that we think you should consider when selecting an Office Application or to explore if you already have your Office Suite of choice.


Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene

Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the Graves & Allen law firm in Oakland, California, where he has practiced since 1973. He is active in the ABA (particularly in the GPSolo and Senior Lawyers Divisions), the California State Bar Association and the Alameda County Bar Association. A frequent speaker on technology topics, he is editor-in-chief of GPSolo Magazine and GPSolo Technology eReport. He serves as an editor and the technology columnist for Experience Magazine and has served on the Board of Editors of the ABA Journal. He also serves on the ABA’s Standing Committee on Information Technology. Recently, he coauthored (with Ashley Hallene) Technology Solutions for Today's Lawyer and iPad for Lawyers: The Tools You Need at Your Fingertips. In addition to being licensed as an attorney in California, he has been admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He teaches at California State University of the East Bay. He may be reached at You may also get technology information from his blog: Ashley Hallene is a petroleum landman at Alta Mesa Holdings, LP, and practices Oil and Gas law, Title Examination, Due Diligence, Acquisitions and Oil and Gas Leasing in Houston, Texas. She maintains a diverse solo practice on the side. Ashley is the coauthor of the technology overview Making Technology Work for You (A Guide for Solo and Small Firm Attorneys) along with attorney Jeffrey Allen. She has published articles on legal technology in GPSolo Magazine, GPSolo eReport, and the TechnoLawyer Newsletter. Ashley is an active member of the American Bar Association’s General Practice Solo & Small Firm Division, ABA’s Young Lawyers Division, the Texas Young Lawyers Association, the Houston Young Lawyers Association, and the Houston Association of Petroleum Landmen. She frequently speaks in technology CLEs and is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Technology and Reviews Department of the GPSolo eReport.