www.office.com/setup Blogs: Does Office in the cloud send productivity sky-high?
www.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.]
- 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.
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