Microsoft is Adding AI-Powered Placeholders to Word

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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Conversation 11 comments

  • Jeffsters

    08 November, 2018 - 9:43 am

    <p>I recently went back to school for a second BS and have to deal with "Team Projects" and this might be an interesting way of managing the work. Have to give it a try once it's out for more users. </p>

  • RobertJasiek

    08 November, 2018 - 9:43 am

    <p>My OpenOfficeWriter placeholder is [—]. I cannot rely on AI but the placeholder is very easy to find visually or by search.</p>

    • locust infested orchard inc

      08 November, 2018 - 1:19 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#362012">In reply to RobertJasiek:</a></em></blockquote><p>The two down-voters within the six hours of you posting, clearly have no appreciation of the associated long-document-hell.</p><p><br></p><p>I do something similar, but with the passage of time worked on the document at hand, my placeholder gets longer with increasing frustration as a deadline looms large, i.e., {*****} on page 1, to {******************} on page nn.</p>

  • Daekar

    08 November, 2018 - 9:47 am

    <p>I will definitely use the "TODO:" function. @ mentions aren't really a thing for the way any business I've ever seen uses Office, but could be neat if you got more folks to use the Office collaboration tools.</p>

  • gregsedwards

    Premium Member
    08 November, 2018 - 10:29 am

    <p>Microsoft, make these integrate with the To-Do app, and I will literally throw my wallet at you.</p>

    • colmob

      Premium Member
      08 November, 2018 - 8:02 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#362033">In reply to gregsedwards:</a></em></blockquote><p>TAKE MY MONEY. Also, Andromeda, for this kind of thing</p>

  • locust infested orchard inc

    08 November, 2018 - 1:12 pm

    <p>This would have been really handy for my doctorate dissertation, as both citations and come-back-to-later placeholders are/were the two biggest headaches that frustrate the writing process.</p><p><br></p><p>EndNote solved the citation issue, and this AI-lead placeholder may solve the latter.</p>

  • sevenacids

    08 November, 2018 - 1:23 pm

    <p>Looking at the features as described, I don't see where AI comes into play here. I mean, managing a list of to-dos and mentions that can be recognized by simply processing the text of the document doesn't require any AI capabilities. A good old parser optimized for the task is enough. It's a well-known technique used for TODOs in comments in source code. IDEs offered this feature for ages, before the AI hype. </p><p><br></p><p>Well, it looks like someone just thought it's always a good idea to put the Cloud or AI badge onto something these days…</p>

    • locust infested orchard inc

      08 November, 2018 - 3:33 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#362095">In reply to sevenacids:</a></em></blockquote><p>You are correct in what you say.</p><p><br></p><p>When connectivity is unavailable for whatever reason, the placeholder nightmare resumes.</p>

  • chrisrut

    Premium Member
    08 November, 2018 - 5:01 pm

    <p>Very sweet – and me just getting ready to write a book with a lot of historical references.</p>

  • christian.hvid

    09 November, 2018 - 1:56 am

    <p>The TODO tracking function is no doubt useful, which is why Visual Studio has had it for about six million years. However, this is the first time I've seen anyone refer to it as "AI powered". Can anyone please explain to the marketing droids of this world that "clever" or "well-thought-out" does not equal AI?</p>


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