Microsoft has officially started the worldwide rollout of its Office 2016 application suite - the first new version of Office for Windows in almost three years. For the 1.2 billion people who use Office, this latest iteration brings a slew of new features including a greater focus on collaboration and cloud services.

Office 2016 - which is available as a standalone package or as part of a subscription to Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud service - will bring new versions of familiar Windows apps such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook.

"The way people work has changed dramatically, and that's why Microsoft is focused on reinventing productivity and business processes for the mobile-first, cloud-first world," said Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft. "These latest innovations take another big step forward in transforming Office from a familiar set of individual productivity apps to a connected set of apps and services designed for modern working, collaboration and teamwork."

Bringing a new focus on teamwork, Office 2016 introduces a real-time document co-authoring feature to Word. The application’s new ‘share’ button enables the creator of a document to invite others to collaborate on it.

With Office 2016, Outlook will see the biggest changes in its history; Microsoft claims it has improved the app's search function to make it faster and easier to trawl through huge numbers of emails, while the new ‘clutter’ folder will be used to sort low priority messages.

Outlook 2016 can also use the new Groups feature instead of distribution lists so users can communicate and collaborate with their team members.

Additionally, Microsoft has introduced a new feature called Tell Me to several Office apps. This allows users to type in what they want to do in an app using their own words, and then Tell Me will explain what steps to take as well as offering additional resources.

"It's moving to a ‘tell me what you want to do' process rather than just describing how a function works in the Help system," explained Richard Ellis, Microsoft's Office Division Lead in the UK.

The new Office 2016 apps are available in 40 languages and require Windows 7 or later. A one-time purchase costs $149 for the Office Home & Student; $229 for the Office Home and Business; and $399 for Office Professional. Any customers who subscribe to Office 365 can get always-up-to-date, fully installed apps for use across their devices, combined with a continually evolving set of consumer and commercial services, such as OneDrive online storage, Skype for Business, Delve, Yammer and enterprise-grade security features, Microsoft stated.