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Here’s everything that’s new in Microsoft Office 2021

If you’re not interested in subscribing or paying a monthly fee to use Microsoft Word and other apps, then you might want to consider buying what’s known as the “perpetual” or “stand-alone” version. The most current version of this is Office 2019, but on October 5, Microsoft will be releasing Office 2021.

Pricing details for Office 2021 haven’t been shared at the time of writing, but it’s expected to be the same as Office 2019. Yet, there are a few minor differences in the core apps, including Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook. Office 2021 brings a new visual look for all the core apps and a set of new features. Here’s a look at some of those.

New in Microsoft Word 2021

The new inking tools in word.

Microsoft Word 2021 brings a few new features absent from Word 2019. Note that we’ll be talking about both Windows and Mac throughout this piece. We’re starting first with Windows in all of our sections, followed up by Mac.

On Windows, the first of those new features in Word 2021 is the ability to enjoy a new collection of stock media. Microsoft says that it is adding more rich media content and a better-curated library of stock images and icons. Basically, you’ll have more ways to make your documents look nice!

Also new is the ability to use Microsoft Search. This is a new tool that can help you find text, get online help, use commands, and more. It is at the top of the screen.

Rounding out the list of new features in Word 2021 is an updated Draw tab, support for OpenDocument format, and the Sketched style outline. New drawing tools let you quickly access and change the color of all your inking tools, all in one place. The new Sketched style outline, meanwhile, gives a casual, hand-drawn look to shapes in your presentation.

The new pen strokes in Microsoft Word.

As for Word 2021 on Mac, you should notice a big visual refresh, with cleaner tabs and monoline iconography. Some of the other new features include advanced page color support in the immersive reader, natural-sounding voices with Read Aloud, and the ability to save pictures and charts in the .SVG file format. Note that the new stock media and search button from Windows also are rolling out on Mac, too.

New in Microsoft Excel 2021

The new design in Microsoft Excel 2021.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Microsoft Excel 2021 is one of the apps that gets the most new features. On Windows, there are a lot of new functions to analyze data, including Dynamic Arrays, XLOOKIP, and LET functions. These are catered to enterprise users, however. For everyone else, the most notable new features will be performance improvements, new stock media, an updated Draw tab, the new Microsoft Search button, as well as support for the OpenDocument format.

With XLOOKUP, you can find anything you need in a table or range. With the LET function, you can assign names to calculation results for storing intermediate calculations, values, or defining names inside a formula. Microsoft describes the other new Excel features below:

  • Dynamic Arrays: Write one formula and it return an array of values.
  • XMATCH function: This searches for a specified item in an array or range of cells, and then returns the item’s relative position.
  • New input field in the colors dialogue for Hex color values.
  • New workbook statistics function.

Over on Excel 2021 for Mac, you can expect all the same features mentioned above, plus the addition of a new “Watch Window” option. Microsoft says this window should make it convenient to inspect, audit, or confirm formula calculations and results in large worksheets.

New in Microsoft PowerPoint 2021

New slide controls for PowerPoint in 2021.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

When it comes to Microsoft PowerPoint 2021, the many new features are designed to help you improve your presentations, as well as your slideshows. We’re starting first with PowerPoint for Windows.

One of the biggest features in PowerPoint 2021 is an improved Record Slide Show feature that now supports presenter video recording and laser pointer recording. You can also expect a new ability to replay your ink strokes, the ability to find what you need in Microsoft Search, and new ways to arrange elements on your slides for screen readers.

The other features from Excel and Word are here, too. Those include the Sketched style outline, new colors, updated Draw tab, support for OpenDocument format, and new stock media.

On Microsoft PowerPoint 2021 for Mac, meanwhile, you can enjoy a big visual refresh, which Microsoft says is a “modern clean, clear style.” Other new features include the ability to make an animated GIF from a slideshow and to save your pictures and graphics as SVG, as well as the Sketched style outline.

New in Microsoft Outlook 2021

The new Microsoft Outlook for Mac 2021.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Outlook is one of the most used Microsoft Office apps, and it’s getting just a small set of features themed toward discovery and translation. On Windows, a new Instant Search feature lets you find emails anywhere when in Outlook.

New translation features, meanwhile, let you translate email messages in more than 70 languages via a sidebar. Of course, the ink features are there, too, letting you annotate email images or draw in a separate canvas using your finger, pen, or mouse. Other features include more stock media and a new input field in the Colors dialogue for Hex color values.

Over on Microsoft Outlook 2021 for Mac, you’re getting a visual refresh, as well as the ability to save your pictures and charts as SVG.

Other new features

We’re only covering the core apps, but Microsoft did list all the major changes in the other Office apps over on its support page. Those apps include Access, OneNote, Project, and Visio. These apps are more catered to enterprise and education users. The changes are mainly relating to formulas, new templates, and new datasets.

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Arif Bacchus
Arif Bacchus is a native New Yorker and a fan of all things technology. Arif works as a freelance writer at Digital Trends…
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