Get ready, Office 365 administrators: Microsoft is ending support for the Office 2013 client apps that it previously distributed through its cloud-based productivity service. Instead, administrators and users will be pushed to use Office 2016, the latest version of the productivity suite that includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
Starting on Feb. 28, users won’t be able to download the Office 2013 apps from the Office 365 self-service portal, and they won’t be downloadable through the Office 365 Admin Center. Microsoft also won’t release feature updates for those products, and won’t provide support through Customer Service Support or Premier Support.
Microsoft released Office 2016, the new version of its productivity software suite for Mac and Windows, in September 2015. The company has been aggressive in rolling out new features for those apps but has kept the previous version available for businesses that haven’t wanted to migrate yet. Now, administrators have a little over a month to install all the copies of Office 2013 that they want to.
Migrations can be tough work because the Office 2016 apps look and behave differently to their predecessors. Getting people used to a new version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook after they’ve been using another for years can be a disruptive change.
Furthermore, administrators still using Exchange Server 2007 have another hurdle in front of them. Office 2016 client apps, including Outlook, don’t support connecting Exchange 2007. To make everything work, they’ll have to upgrade to a supported version of Exchange Server first.
Microsoft is offering assistance to companies that still have to migrate their users through its FastTrack migration service. That offering gives administrators access to tools and experts to help them make the move from one set of client applications to another.
Office 2016 offers a number of feature improvements over its predecessors, including one that might help with migration. Tell Me is a function available in — among other apps — the Windows versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint that lets users search for what they want to do, without having to find it in a nested series of menus.
Microsoft will continue to issue critical and important security updates to Office 2013 until April 10, 2018, however. Companies that still have the software installed will be able to keep it running at least until then without fear of gaping security holes.