www.office.com/setup Blogs: Does Office in the cloud send productivity sky-high?
office.com/setup Blogs: Office 365 is a simple and cost-effective way to get a powerful range of cloud Office services plus access to regular new features in desktop Office 2016. Microsoft is doing well in terms of making useful improvements on a regular basis, although some fresh tools are basic and some changes are a step backwards. Smaller companies will appreciate the reliability and the simple interface, but there are powerful options for larger firms too.
- Regular new features in Exchange, SharePoint and more
- Regular updates to the Office 2016 desktop apps
- Familiar tools work well, new services build on existing investment
- Simple and cost-effective plans
- Some new features like Planner are still underpowered
- New features don’t reach all customers immediately
- Some changes to Office desktop apps remove features
- Mobile Office apps for Windows remain less powerful
[Editor’s Note: What immediately follows is a rundown of the latest developments and features Microsoft has added to Office 365 since this review was last updated.]
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- Microsoft Teams got new classroom experiences, allowing Office 365 for Education customers to benefit from virtual classroom environments with rich chat capabilities.
- Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection received improved reporting on malicious emails which have been blocked, and a new Safe Links policy was introduced.
- Microsoft Forms, a web tool for creating surveys, is rolling out for commercial customers, entering public preview for these users (previously it was only available to education customers).
- Microsoft Stream was introduced for Office 365 commercial customers, an intelligent video service which allows users to share videos and benefit from speech-to-text transcription.
- Microsoft pushed out iOS and Android apps for Microsoft Planner, allowing Office 365 users to update their plans while they’re on the move.
- An annoying (but not critical) bug was found to be affecting Office users in May, involving a reappearing pop-up window – but Microsoft’s working on a fix that should be out soon.
- Office 365 is set to get improved inking features to benefit the new Surface Pen, including new pencil texture and ink effects, along with Microsoft’s collaborative whiteboard app.
- Microsoft Graph received considerable new capabilities, including fresh APIs which have become available to developers – namely SharePoint, OneNote, and Planner data APIs.
- Microsoft revealed that Office 365 is steaming ahead in terms of its subscription base, with the online productivity suite now boasting 100 millionmonthly active commercial users.
- It emerged that the full desktop version of Microsoft Office will be available in the Windows Store in June (as opposed to the touch-focused apps currently in the store).
- Microsoft used another tactic to push folks towards Office 365, announcing that those with a standalone version of Office will eventually lose access to OneDrive and Skype for Business.
- It was confirmed that Windows will have twice-yearly major updates to align with Office 365 ProPlus’ update schedule, with said upgrades coming in September and March.
- Outlook Customer Manager, which is designed to make it easy for SMBs to track and manage customer relationships, is now rolling out worldwide.
- The PowerPoint app for iPad was improved with the introduction of Designer, which gives you quick and easy ideas for designing and laying out slides.
- Microsoft revealed that Wunderlist – which is available as an add-on to Office 365 subscribers using Outlook 2013/2016, and on the web – will be replaced by To-Do.
- Microsoft enabled co-authoring in Excel for Windows desktops, extending Office 365’s collaborative chops, albeit for Office Insiders (testers) only at the moment.
- Microsoft Bookings, which allows SMBs to manage appointments with customers, is now being rolled out worldwide for Office 365 Business Premium subscribers.
- A huge addition arrived on Office 365 in the form of Microsoft Teams, a Slack-like messaging and collaboration app which is available to business subscribers.
- Office 365 calendars are now supported by Amazon’s Alexa-driven devices(such as the Echo) for commercial users who subscribe to Office 365 with Exchange Online.
- Microsoft announced that Visio Online, the firm’s veteran diagramming app, is now available to commercial customers running Office 365.
- Microsoft has updated Visio Pro for Office 365 with a database reverse engineering tool that allows you to easily create a visual representation directly from source data.
- Office 365 benefited from the introduction of a security analytics tool which rates your current security configuration, and makes suggestions on possible improvements.
- The Office team announced that the OneNote REST API now supports application-level permissions.
- Excel got new features based on Power Query technology, including support for the percentage data type, along with a new OLE DB connector.
- Microsoft released Office Training Roadmaps which help businesses keep track of training programmes for the various productivity apps.
- Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection got several new features for tighter email security, namely URL Detonation and Dynamic Delivery.
- Microsoft graced Office 365 with a new Setup section on the navigation menu, which provides convenient and easy access to all setup-related settings in one location.
- Office 365 was crowned king of all productivity apps by Okta, outdoing second-place Salesforce.com by a factor of 1.3 to 1 as 2016 came to a close.
- Microsoft brought in a raft of new courses from LinkedIn Learning to the Office Training Centre, with over 20 offerings on working with Word and PowerPoint.
- StaffHub, a nifty new app which allows for the management of shifts for deskless workers, became available for Office 365 users with a K1, E1, E3 or E5 plan.
- A new OneDrive for Business admin centre began rolling out to release customers, with general availability promised for early 2017.
- Microsoft laid out its grand vision of how the firm intends to integrate Teams (its Slack rival) with Microsoft Planner so working across the two is a seamless affair.
- Microsoft made the Accessibility Checker more easily found across all Office 365 apps, and introduced automated alternate text descriptions in Word and PowerPoint.
- An official guide on the ‘preferred deployment practices’ for Office 365 ProPlus was released, including advice on preparing the ground, and maintenance afterwards.
- New statistics emerged from data protection firm Bitglass showing that Office 365 is twice as popular as Google’s G Suite.
- Office 365 users got the benefit of real-time co-authoring in PowerPoint, as well as in the Word app.
- Office Lens received a couple of new features, including the full integration of Immersive Reader, and a new tool called Frame Guide to help the visually impaired.
- Outlook Customer Manager arrived in Office 365, enabling businesses to track and manage – and hopefully grow – their customer relationships.
- Microsoft reintroduced Access, its heavyweight database software, to Office 365 Business and Business Premium customers.
- Microsoft officially took the wraps off Teams, the firm’s Slack rival that leverages the whole gamut of Office 365’s apps and services.
- Excel 2016 got new features based on Power Query tech, including an improved web connector and enhanced Query Editor, as well as Query Parameters support.
- Microsoft introduced the ability to create (and collaborate on) Office documents from within a Yammer group.
- In an earnings report, Microsoft announced Office 365 user numbers: 85 million active commercial users, and 24 million consumers.
- A batch of new apps were revealed for Office, including an app for invoicing, and tracking expenses, along with one for keeping tabs on your business’ web presence.
- Microsoft announced several new intelligent features which are coming to Office 365, including Tap for Word and Outlook, and QuickStarter for PowerPoint and Sway.
- New usage reports arrived for SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and OneDrive for Business, aiming to provide better insights into how staff are using Office 365.
- Office 365 Groups were changed so that you can invite guests from outside your organisation to join.
- Microsoft changed its system of Office preview builds on Windows (and Windows Mobile) to include a fast and slow ring, just as with Windows 10 testing.
- SharePoint Online got tighter integration with Office 365, so when you create a group in Office, you get a SharePoint Online team site into the bargain.
If you want to see older news and developments pertaining to Office 365, then check out the Archives page at the end of this review.
Otherwise, now move on to Page 2 for our full review and detailed look at what Office 365 offers, and how it can help you become more productive.
Darren Allan contributed to this article