Microsoft Announces a Stunning Array of Office 365 Updates for September

Posted on September 27, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Office, Office 365 with 8 Comments

Microsoft Announces a Stunning Array of Office 365 Updates for September

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.

Microsoft MyAnalytics

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.

tap

You can learn more about Tap here. or in this YouTube video.

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.

qs

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.

designer

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.

maps

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.

 

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3 Comments
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  1. 4 | Reply
    bradster62 Alpha Member #521 - 2 months ago

    MyAnalytics is scary. Now I will know exactly how distracted I am when I listen to Windows Weekly.

  2. 2 | Reply
    Chris_Kez Alpha Member #320 - 2 months ago

    My company had E5 licensing and I had just started getting people into Delve, then we switched to Google Apps for Work.  Every time I read about the latest Office updates I want to show it to our CTO and ask "Why?!?"

    • Gmail and Calendar have been very good for people who weren't Outlook power users.  
    • Google Drive is great.  UX/UI is nice, the syncing works just as well if not better than OneDrive, and the way "folders" work more like tags is fantastic (i.e. the same document can be in multiple "folders")  
    • Docs/Sheets/Slides are great if you meet a few key criteria:
      • No one on your team needs any of the advanced features from Office
      • You don't have tens of thousands of existing Office documents that cannot be converted because they utilize elemets or features not present in Google Apps
      • Most importantly, your clients don't use Office themselves.  As long as we're working internally or just producing stuff strictly for consumption then Google Apps are mostly alright.  But most of our work is meant to be digested and used by clients- so they need everything in Office, which means we're working in Office anyway
    • Hangouts is shockingly inferior to Skype for Business
      • It lacks real-time, automatic status/presence so you have no idea if someone who is "online" is actually free to talk.  People will often appear offline (no green dot) even when they're active.  Meanwhile SfB has a robust presence system that automatically updates based on your calendar and your activity. 
      • The "desktop app" is so flaky that IT has pulled it from the default setup and encouraged people to just use the browser, but then people seem to miss notifications.
      • There is no remote control capability
      • There is no built in "conference bridge".  You can directly dial up to one person from within a Hangout, or you can use an extension like UberConference, which we're piloting but which requires its own setup, login, subscription, etc.  So most people have been using their Skype dial in with Hangouts for the time being.
      • The screen sharing doesn't work as well; the quality is variable; it doesn't fill the screen
      • There's no ability to take notes in the meeting as you can with OneNote in SfB, nor is there a whiteboard
      • I could go on but it's too depressing.
    • Google Plus looks nice (aside from the insane decision to have a multi-column grid to show posts) but just doesn't work as well as Yammer for a corporate social network
      • Your corporate G+ universe sits alongside the public G+, and if you search for something you cannot limit results to just stuff from your company.  Also your work profile is visible to the public by default.  Google also pushes "featured" public groups in your face.
      • There's no way to just send a message to someone within G+.  See an interesting post and want to have a private conversation about it?  Well, you need to go to Hangouts or Gmail, type in the person's name and send them a note.
      • You can't add files or images to G+.  Everything is a f'ing Drive link.   We had a G+ community dedicated to the transition from MS to Google, and one of the most common things you'd need to do is grab a screen cap and throw it in a post to get feedback.  Well, you can't just paste that image from the clipboard.  You need to first save it to Drive, then create a link, then insert the link.  Until a few weeks ago, you weren't able to even embed a photo link in a reply; you had to just paste a hyperlink and folks would have to open it on the web.   
      • The layout and navigation are sub-optimal.  
        • Want to look at a different Community?  You have to go back to the page with the list of communities and find it.  Whereas Yammer just keeps a persistent list of your groups in the left column so you can just click on it.  
        • When you reach the end of "new" posts in a Yammer group, the next thing is an option to jump to the next group with unread posts.  G+ has no indication of which posts are new.  And switching groups is a PITA. 
        • To fill up screen real estate, G+ uses a multi-column grid which makes it much harder to scan.  Yammer uses a nice single column. The right side is used to show a list of members; a Search bar; pinned files; a list of associated groups
      • Most people find the UX/workflow confusing- Communities, Collections, Circles- and few people seem to have figured out how these things all fit together.  
    • Google Sites does not equal SharePoint; nuff said.
    • Visio?
    • MS Project?  Or the nice new lightweight Planner feature in O365?
    • O365 Groups, with unified mail/calendar/file storage/messaging???
    • I've seen thousands of versions of the question "Now that we're in Google Apps, how do I...?"  and the answer is usually one of the following:
      • I think there's an Extension that can kind of do that
      • Tags are not the same as Folders
      • But Google has great Search, and it's web-based
      • You can't do it; because Google.  There are hundreds of requests/posts about that on Google Help going back five years. 

    Seriously I could go on like this for hours, but I have to go explain to someone that Google Calendar invites do not allow formatting.

  3. 0 | Reply
    chrisrut Alpha Member #193 - 2 months ago

    Big Data for the rest of us...

    I'll be curious to see the penetration/adoption rates for these new tool sets - I suspect the biggest problem will be integrating them into established - make that long-established - work flows. I'm a old timer with some complex presentations on my agenda just now... I'll give :Quickstarter" a try and see where it leads.