One of the benefits of being in the Office Beta Channel (formerly known as Insider Fast) is getting to see and test new Office features before they are generally available.
When you install Office, all new installations will default to the Current channel (formerly known as the Monthly channel). However, it is possible to change your update channel. The table below lists all the available update channels and their former names as these were recently changed.
|Current (Preview)||Monthly (Targeted)|
|Monthly Enterprise||Monthly Enterprise|
|Semi-Annual Enterprise (Preview)||Semi-Annual (Targeted)|
The Beta Channel typically receives new features 1 month in advance of the Current Channel. For more information on the specifics of each channel, check out this article from Microsoft.
How to determine your Office update channel
To determine your Office update channel, open any Office app. In our example, we will open Microsoft Word.
Once launched, click Account. In the About Word section, you will see both the build number and the current update channel. In the screenshot below, you can see our build is Version 2012, and our update cycle is the Current Channel.
Microsoft Outlook is a little different. To check your Office update channel using Outlook, navigate to the File menu and select Office Account. Like other Office apps, the build and update channel will be listed in the About Outlook section.
Tip: The build numbers are formulated from a two-digit year and a two-digit month. For example, the first two digits, “20”, designate the year 2020. The second two digits, “12”, designate December. Microsoft documents all build numbers and release notes here.
Switch to the Office (M365 Apps) Beta Channel
Microsoft documents several ways to switch update channels for the Office apps. Some methods, such as Group Policies, System Center, or the Office Deployment Toolkit, are geared towards enterprises. However, other methods, including modifying the registry, are better suited for a single device (e.g., a test or development device).
To use the registry method, click Start, type regedit.exe, and launch the Registry Editor. In the registry editor, expand the following:
Create a new String Value named “updatebranch“.
Note: You may need to create some of the keys if not present. For example, “officeupdate” may be missing.
Right-click on the new “updatebranch” string and select Modify from the context menu. Enter a value of InsiderFast and click Ok. Close the registry editor and restart your device.
Once the device has started back up, launch Microsoft Word. From the Account page, click Update Options and select Update Now.
The update process will then download and install the latest beta build for Microsoft Office. You will be prompted to close any Office applications during this process. Follow any on-screen prompts.
Microsoft Word will automatically restart after the update is complete.
From Word, navigate to the Account tab, and you should see a current channel of Beta and the latest build information.
How has your experience been in the beta channel? Drop a comment below or join the conversation on Twitter @SuperTekBoy.