Microsoft has really outdone itself with this month’s massive list of Office 365 updates, which once again spans all of the client platforms that they support. Here’s what’s new.
“Today, at Microsoft’s Ignite Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, we announced updates across Office 365 to help IT professionals drive digital transformation within their organizations,” Microsoft corporate vice president Kirk Koenigsbauer explains in a post to the Office blogs. “I was excited to showcase new intelligent cloud services that help make your employees more productive and your organization more secure. Here’s a breakdown of today’s key news, including new services for Office apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, as well as new security capabilities, richer communication features and enhancements for team collaboration across Office 365.”
I spoke with Mr. Koenigsbauer after his Ignite appearance—I’m here in Atlanta for the show this week—and even he seemed impressed by the sheer amount of updates his team was able to pump out this month. But next month will be a bit easier to handle, he said. He also addressed my recent Office 365 editorial and said he was quite happy with the progress, and that his team would have new numbers to share soon.
For now, of course, we have this month’s updates to deal with. Since the list is so long, I’ll focus on the features I actually got to see in live demos at Ignite. They’re all pretty impressive.
Availability: Now available to all Office 365 Enterprise E5 subscribers.
Formerly called Delve Analytics, this amazing new web-based tool will show you how you are spending your time so that you can make changes and be more productive. It shows you how much time you spend in meetings (and when you’re distracted while doing so), reading and responding to emails, focusing on work, and more, and provides productivity goals so you can set things right. Based on the demo I saw, this tool is almost scary and will require a bit of introspection some will find uncomfortable. But its insights and value are quite clear, and I suspect this will be expanded greatly in the future so that organizations can track their operations and make changes that impact lots of people. For example, many are probably wasting too much employee time in meetings.
To see what I mean, please watch this video. MyAnalytics is amazing.
Tap for Word and Outlook 2016 for Windows
Availability: Today, to Office 365 Enterprise E3 and E5 subscribers in First Release for Current Channel.
This new feature works a lot like the Researcher feature, except that it’s oriented for finding and re-using content within your own organization. It’s powered by the Microsoft graph, naturally, and lets you access content in documents, presentations and spreadsheets used by you or your co-workers. And it’s coming to PowerPoint, too, in a future release.
Quickstarter for PowerPoint 2016 for Windows and Sway on the web
Availability: Today, for Sway on the web, and coming to PowerPoint 2016 for Windows by the end of 2016, for Office 365 subscribers.
This one will be a dream come true for anyone who has struggled, as I have, to turn a blank new presentation into something that is both content-rich and attractive. QuickStarter iprovides carefully curated outlines for any topic, including recommendations on information to include, categories to consider and associated images tagged with Creative Commons licenses, Microsoft says. And they’re right, you really do need to see QuickStarter in action to understand what it can do, so you should watch this YouTube video to learn more.
Improvements to Designer for PowerPoint 2016 for Windows
Availability: Now available in PowerPoint on Windows desktops, for Office 365 subscribers in the Office Insider program. Coming soon for PowerPoint 2016 for Mac, for Office 365 subscribers.
PowerPoint’s Designer feature just keeps getting better, and in this update it can now recommend amazing layouts for bulleted lists.
Maps charts in Excel 2016 for Windows, Excel for Windows Mobile, and Excel for Android
Availability: Coming by the end of 2016, for Office 365 subscribers.
Excel is picking up a new Maps chart type, and it’s as awesome as it sounds. Powered by Bing Maps, Maps in Excel lets you turn geographic data into professional map-based visualizations in just a few steps. Really cool.
There is a lot more, including sweeping security enhancements across Office 365 for enterprises, improvements to SharePoint and Skype for Business, a new Azure-based back-end for Office for Android and iPhone, and more. But … this is the big news, I think. For the full list,please refer to Mr. Koenigsbauer’s blog post.