The latest iteration of Microsoft's web-connected Office 365 suite is packed with new, productivity-boosting features. Here's a rundown of the additions that will help you do your job.
One of the most interesting new features is the ability for developers to build extensions — small programs that run alongside Office — to let you do more without juggling multiple applications.
Microsoft demonstrated the new functionality by showcasing some extensions for Outlook, the company's email and calendar application. For example, the Uber application will let you set a reminder to book a cab directly within your Outlook calendar. When the time comes, you will automatically be reminded with a notification on your desktop, and have the option to book a ride with one click — the extension can even automatically grab time and destination information from corresponding emails in your inbox.
You also will get the ability to send money directly from your inbox using the PayPal add-on, or draft emails and schedule them for a later delivery with the Boomerang add-on.
And there are add-ons planned for other Office apps, too, like DocuSign for Word, which provides a secure authentication panel in which to digitally sign documents, or the PicHit.me pictures library for PowerPoint, which gives you access to a huge online photo library to help you build visually striking presentations.
Microsoft is also beefing up the security options for the 2016 Office apps. That includes the introduction of Data Loss Protection (DLP) functionality to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. DLP lets you set parameters on Office documents, ensuring that users do not send sensitive information outside of a company network by accident. Another noteworthy new security feature is two-factor authentication for Outlook, to ensure that only you can access your inbox.
Insights for Office
The new Insights for Office can help you polish your documents by bringing outside resources right into Microsoft Word. When reviewing a document, you can highlight a word to instantly access resources like images, definitions and other references in a sidebar. The feature is powered by Bing, Microsoft's search engine.
Universal office apps
Microsoft wants to blur the line between the mobile and desktop devices with Windows 10, so the company is prepping a new "universal" version of Office 2016 that will launch alongside the desktop suite. The universal apps are touch-optimized and feature scaling interfaces. That means they'll work equally well whether you're running them on your desktop workstation, your tablet or even your smartphone.
Office 2016 is now available on Chromebooks -- with some caveats. The first thing you need to know is that Google is updating the Chrome OS operating system to allow you to install and run Android apps on all Chromebooks -- and that includes the Android version of Office 365 apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint.. (Note that the feature is rolling out slowly to specific Chromebook computers, so not all systems support it just yet.) Additionally, you'll need to be an Office 365 subscriber to be able to create, edit or print documents when using the Office 365 apps on a Chromebook. Non-subscribers will still be able to view Office documents using the apps, though.
Integrated group chat
If you already use Microsoft Office 365 to do your job every day, why settle for a third-party app to communicate with your team? That's the question Microsoft is posing with the introduction of Teams, a chat app that's set to be integrated into Office 365 and take on rival apps like Slack and HipChat. It even offers some features you won't find in those apps, including threaded chats, integrated Office document collaboration, and multi-person video chat. The feature is set to launch early in 2017.
Microsft is also prepped to add Access -- its personal database-building software -- to the Office 365 Business and Business Premium plans.The app was already available in some other Office 365 subscription packages, including the ProPlus plan. The update will allow more small business owners to use the software as part of their existing subscription.
Collaborative editing in PowerPoint
Now you’ll be able to edit slideshows and presentations collaboratively with other members of your team. The new feature will let you see what others are typing and changing in real time. It’s already available in Word, but this marks the first time that real-time collaborative editing will be available in PowerPoint as part of Office 365.
Mobile alerts in Word, Excel and PowerPoint Mobile
Here’s another nice collaboration tool: A new update alerts you on your smartphone or tablet whenever there is activity in a shared document. You’ll also be notified when those documents are shared with others. That will help you stay up to date on the progress of team projects.
Email tracking and scheduling
Users can now schedule emails, track a message's delivery and find out if an email has been read. The company is also offering email templates, as well as the ability to turn email into calendar events.
Find shared documents
Additionally, you’ll be able to sort your documents to pinpoint shared files that multiple team members have access to. That way you can easily sort personal documents from group projects.