It's a good day for SharePoint aficionados: Microsoft just put the SharePoint Server 2016 Release Candidate (RC) on the market.

It follows the release of the second SharePoint 2016 Beta two months ago.

The RC is as close as you can get to a full release. And it is “mostly feature complete,” Bill Baer, senior product manager for the SharePoint team, noted in a blog post.

“SharePoint Server 2016 RC is mostly feature complete and represents an important milestone for customers and partners looking to deploy and evaluate SharePoint Server 2016 before general availability in Spring 2016,” Baer wrote.

Responding To Previews

Baer noted that more than 5,000 customers have downloaded the two SharePoint Server 2016 previews. Microsoft has listened to their feedback to create the RC — the “most reliable, scalable, secure and high-performant server release ever."

It comes with better data security, enhanced support for regulated industries and easier access to mobile applications. However, the focus is on hybrid computing in what is a tacit acknowledgement that not everyone is rushing to SharePoint Online.

The blog post singles out four areas of development:

  1. Enhanced IT: The hybrid focus along with the data and compliance features are supported by simplified configuration and tighter administration to give IT more control over access to company- and customer-sensitive data. This also means authorization and audit management that is more flexible and seamless.
  2. Ongoing Development: The new SharePoint offers a set of standardized APIs that cover both cloud and on-premises experiences for better hybrid environments. There are also new ways to create contextual solutions that span SharePoint Server 2016 and Office 365 from the web, mobile apps and Office. The APIs also make tool development easier.
  3. User productivity: There is easier mobile access to content, people and applications through touch-based devices of all sizes. Users of SharePoint Server can now take advantage of new and developing productivity apps like Delve, and OneDrive for Business.
  4. Future Foundations: The RC has been designed to ensure that improvements to the online version will be passed on to the on-premises version a lot quicker.

“We’ve designed SharePoint Server 2016 to position our on-premises customers to take advantage of innovations more quickly whether SharePoint is deployed on-premises, in the cloud or somewhere in between," Baer stated.

The RC, an update to SharePoint Server 2016 Beta 2, can be installed over Beta 2.

It is also worth noting that this release of SharePoint 2016 will not result in a corresponding, newer version of InfoPath 2013 and SharePoint Designer 2013. Both InfoPath and Designer are Microsoft solutions for developers and information workers building lightweight business applications for the enterprise.

However, Baer wrote that existing versions of both will support the lifecycle for SharePoint Server 2016 running until 2026.