Microsoft is Adding AI-Powered Placeholders to Word

Posted on November 8, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Office 365 with 11 Comments

Microsoft this week announced that it is adding some new AI-powered features to Word across Windows, Mac, and the web. They are available in preview form on Word on the Mac for Office Insiders in the Fast ring.

“Word has long been the standard for creating professional-quality documents,” Microsoft corporate vice president Jared Spataro explains. “But at some point in the writing process, you’ll need some information you don’t have at your fingertips, even with the best tools. When this happens, you likely do what research tells us many Word users do: leave a placeholder in your document and come back to it later to stay in your flow.”

To counter this issue, Microsoft is rolling out new AI-powered capabilities in Word that will help users create and fill in these placeholders without leaving the application and losing their focus in the process. And it’s using a common memory trigger for writers, a “TODO” note, to implement this change.

That is, when you type TODO: followed by some phrase (“finish this section” perhaps), Word will track it as a to-do. And each time you come back to the document, you can see an interactive list of the remaining to-dos. To navigate to a to-do in the document, just select it in the list.

Word also uses @mentions (“at mentions”) so that you can tag collaborators in a document so that they can be notified and go immediately to where help is needed in a placeholder. And over time, Word will evolve such that it can automatically resolve these placeholders for you. Sometime “in the next few months,” Word will use Microsoft Search to suggest content for a to-do. You will be able to pick from the results and insert content from another document with a single click, Microsoft says.

Interested in getting started with placeholders? You’ll need Word for Mac and you must be an Office Insider with Mac Office configured for the Fast ring. But this functionality will be coming to Office 365 subscribers using Word for Windows or the web “soon”.


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