Microsoft gives Office 365 a major upgrade

Lots of new features added, especially to Word

Microsoft gives Office 365 a major upgrade
Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

Microsoft has announced a number of features to be added to Office 365 users as part of the July 2016 update that are a group of "cloud-powered intelligent services" designed to save time and improve productivity for users of Word, PowerPoint and Outlook. The news came in an Office blog post by Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team.

New to Word

Word is getting two significant new features, called Researcher and Editor. As its name implies, Researcher is designed to help the user find reliable sources of information by using the Bing Knowledge Graph to search for sources, and it will properly cite them in the Word document.

Microsoft will expand Researcher's body of reference materials to also include sources such as national science and health centers, well-known encyclopedias, history databases and more. It will also bring Researcher to mobile devices so you are not limited to just your PC. 

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If Researcher helps you start your paper, Editor helps you to finish it. This new feature builds on the already-existing spellchecker and thesaurus to offer suggestions on how to improve your overall writing. In addition to the wavy red line under a misspelled word and the wavy blue line under bad grammar, there will be a gold line for writing style. The initial writing style covered will be for clarity, but Microsoft promises that Editor will get better over time.

PowerPoint Features

As for PowerPoint, Microsoft already launched two new features, Designer and Morph, last November that allowed users to add some flair to their presentations. Now the company is offering Zoom, a feature that lets you easily create "interactive, non-linear presentations. 

Instead of the 1-2-3-4 linear method of presenting slides, forcing you to place them all in the order you wish to display, presenters will be able to show their slides in any order they want at any time. This way you can change your presentation order as needed without having to stop PowerPoint or interrupt the display.

Outlook updates

Finally, there are some updates to Outlook. Office 365 is finally getting Focused Inbox, which has been available on Outlook for iOS and Android for some time. Focused Inbox separates your inbox into two tabs: one for the email that matter most to you and one for everything else. High-priority emails are in the "Focused" tab, while the rest are in the "Other" tab. As you move email in or out of the Focused tab, Outlook learns from your behavior to adjust to your priorities. 

Outlook 365 and Outlook for PC and Mac are all getting @mentions, making it easy to identify emails that need your attention, as well as flag actions for others. To flag someone, just type the @ symbol in the body of the email and pick the desired person. Their name will automatically be highlighted in the email and their email address automatically added to the To: line. If you are mentioned, the @ symbol will show up in Outlook, and you can filter to quickly find all emails where you are mentioned.

Microsoft didn't set a release schedule for these features, but count on them coming shortly.

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