Ignite Day 3: What's new for Office 365?
We’re having a fantastic time here at Ignite so far, (if you’re in Atlanta for the event, there’s still plenty of time to come and say ‘Hi’ – we’re at booth 2557).
There have been a lot of exciting announcements over the past few days – here’s a quick look at some of the new features announced for Office 365.
Cloud powered intelligence capabilities
If you managed to catch Satya Nadella’s keynote on Monday, it was impossible to miss the ongoing developments Microsoft are making with AI and machine learning. This focus infiltrates many of the feature, and product announcements that have come out of Ignite so far, and Office 365 was no exception to this.
Delve Analytics evolves, and gets a rebrand
One of the announcements we heard on Monday was the ‘evolution of personal analytics in Office 365’. Building on the technology formerly known as Delve Analytics, the newly named Microsoft MyAnalytics can be used to help you understand how you work, and give you insights that can help you improve your focus and productivity.
According to the release blog, in addition to Delve’s previous capabilities, ‘MyAnalytics will allow you to stay up-to-date with important contacts, share key metrics with a coach and help you prioritize the time you spend with different groups.’
Using your MyAnalytics dashboard, you can monitor important contacts, such as colleagues or prospects by pinning them to your dashboard. This will allow you to see response times for communication, as well as insights into ‘meeting hours’, ‘focus hours’, and how well you are collaborating in projects or tasks. These metrics will be shareable with relevant stakeholders, ‘to help you stay aligned on priorities or get coaching on your work habits from a mentor’. You will also be able to review how you are distributing your time between group projects, to ensure that this coincides with your priorities.
MyAnalytics is available now, as part of the E5 plan or as an add-on. Some of the features mentioned above are available now, but you will have to wait until early 2017 for dashboard sharing, and group insights.
Most of us are well-acquainted with what Nadella referred to as the ‘red squiggly’ in Word, denoting a spelling or grammatical error (if it’s blue). Using AI, Word is now aiming to help you to improve your writing style as well as basic accuracy. Editor will flag up sentences that suffer from wordiness or redundancy to ‘simplify’ and ‘streamline’ your writing: their example is instead of ‘the majority of’, they suggest that you use ‘most’. The feature also evaluates your style based on other areas such as: informal language, double negation, slang, jargon, and gender neutrality (the example given on stage was suggesting a change from ‘Policemen’ to ‘Police Officers’).
It will be interesting to see how the new gold squiggly is received. While the concept (and technology) behind it is impressive, it assumes that all Word users want or need to be concise, formal, and ‘correct’, which may constrain more creative, intentionally ‘wordy’ or non-traditional writing. Where many users could see the benefits, the Shakespeares of the modern age will probably find it more than a little frustrating. It will also be interesting to see if there is an ‘off’ switch built in.
‘Research while you write’ is the aim with this new feature for Word, enabling you to carry out internet research within Word itself. The suggestions it includes might be a little random (see below), but the search capability is powerful. For basic information, sources and quotes, Researcher is a very helpful tool. Whether it will be able to withstand more extensive research tasks and citations remains to be seen (many journals, critical essays and titles have their own portal and log in, which many conflict with this interface) – but even if it can’t tackle this yet, it provides a solid starting point for research.
As you will see with many of the features Microsoft releases for Office 365 past, present and future, most of them have one thing in common, they aim to eradicate the necessity to move away from the Office 365 application or portal. Everything you need should be available or integrated into the Office 365 ecosystem, and features like Researcher demonstrate the ongoing developments Microsoft are making towards this end.
Tap in Word and Outlook
Tap is another new feature, this time for Word and Outlook, which is designed to help you find and integrate your documents with one another. For example, if you are working on a big project, and have a number of different documents with different elements that contribute to it, you can use this tool to select and combine your documents quickly and easily. This technology relies on Microsoft ‘MyAnalytics’ to identify relevant documents from both you and your colleagues. Simply go to ‘Insert’ and click the ‘Tap’ button in the banner. The options will appear in the right-hand navigation, use the ‘+’ sign to select the element you would like to add. The tool enables you to add PowerPoint slides, images, graphs and tables from one document into another quickly and easily. It doesn’t appear to be available in Outlook just yet, but it doesn’t look like we’ll be waiting long before the option turns up in emails too.
Finally, QuickStarter in PowerPoint and Sway
The final feature in this round-up is designed to help speed up the content and design processes in both PowerPoint and Sway. The technology behind QuickStarter is powered by internet search through the Bing Knowledge Graph, which means it is able to provide ‘carefully curated outlines for any topic’, and will even help you to select images with the appropriate licences for sharing. Its intention is to provide a starting point, and remove the wasted time that many of us experience when staring at a ‘blank canvas’, wondering where to start. Details about the feature can be found in the full Office 365 Ignite release here, and there’s also a handy video, which helps to communicate exactly what QuickStarter is able to do.
As you can see, Ignite is introducing you to a much more ‘intelligent’ Office 365. Why not test out the features that have arrived, and see what you think?
Looks like it’s only going to get smarter.
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