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Grow Your Business Technology

18 Microsoft Office 365 Add-Ons That Will Make You More Productive

image for Ridofranz / Getty Images
Ridofranz / Getty Images

Microsoft's Office 365 comes stacked with lots of features, but your account can be modified with various add-ons that offer new capabilities. These apps can help save you time, whether by making certain processes more efficient, keeping you on task or helping you communicate with team members faster. Here are our favorite Office 365 add-ons (sometimes called add-ins) that will have you doing your best work in record time.

Even if translation isn't a daily task for you, the ability to highlight text and automatically translate it to or from almost 50 languages is simply amazing – and much simpler than cutting and pasting text into a separate app or online service. The Translator add-on relies on Microsoft's robust Translator online service for its translations. You can easily edit suggested translations before inserting them into the document, and in the case of multiple potential interpretations of a passage, all versions will be displayed.

Scheduling meetings that work for everyone can be one of the most frustrating and time-consuming tasks in an office. FindTime can't automate the process completely, but it will definitely save you from endless back-and-forth. It first locates open slots in all participants' schedules, at which point you can select several times and put them to a vote among the attendees. Once sufficient votes have been tallied for a specific time, the meeting is automatically scheduled.

DocuSign is one of the most popular e-signature solutions. With this add-on or its Word counterpart, you can securely sign a document yourself or send it to another person for their signature. You also have the option to save all signed documents automatically to Microsoft OneDrive. A 10-day free trial is available for you to test the service, and monthly subscriptions start at $10 per month.

Looking to dress up that report or presentation with good-looking images without scouring Google for an hour? Pexels lets you easily search for professional stock photos and instantly drop them into your document. The images are all under a Creative Commons Zero license, meaning that you can use them for any legal purpose without the need for attribution. You can speed up the process even further by using the popular images gallery or save your favorites for future usage.

Grammarly is an unsurpassed proofreading tool that will help improve your writing, whether it's a simple email or a full-blown report. The Grammarly add-on operates in Word and Outlook to make your writing cleaner and more direct with more than 250 grammar and spelling checks, vocabulary and writing style suggestions, and even a plagiarism detector. Grammarly Premium costs $11.66 a month when paid annually.

Thanks to every modern web browser, we have all grown accustomed to tabbed interfaces. Office Tab brings that familiar paradigm to Word, PowerPoint and Excel. At a basic level, the add-in allows you to open multiple files within the same window, but the functionality goes much deeper than that. You can quickly close or save all documents with a single click, or all but the currently active document. You can make some quick changes, like renaming a document or saving it to a new folder, by right-clicking on the documents tab in the taskbar. If you are going head-down on a single document, you can easily hide the taskbar with a keyboard shortcut and then just as quickly bring it back.

Built into Office 365 subscriptions is an app called Teams – a hub for teams to collaborate on various Office 365 applications. Teams functions as an instant messenger, a file-sharing platform, and a collaboration tool that allows members to join in on documents and spreadsheets to work together and make edits while chatting and leaving notes. You can also use Teams to instantly set up calls and meetings from multiple devices. It offers 2GB of storage per user and 10GB of shared storage. It integrates with 140-plus apps and services, such as Evernote and Trello. There is now a free version of Microsoft Teams for small businesses.

This add-on for email productivity has several features that greatly expand Outlook's capabilities. Boomerang allows you to schedule emails to send at a later time. It also allows you to set reminders for emails when they go unanswered so you can follow up on them. Boomerang makes scheduling meetings less complicated, allowing you to make the meeting and invite others with a single email.

Exclusive to Office 365 subscribers, Dictation is a special tool that's not exactly an add-on. Microsoft enabled it to help those who are unable to type or prefer to dictate their writing. You can dictate in nine languages, which are automatically detected for OneNote, Outlook, Word or PowerPoint. Just hit the microphone icon in the app, wait for the icon to turn red to indicate that it's listening, and start talking. To insert punctuation, you just say the name of the punctuation mark.

Outlook for Android has an exclusive feature (also not precisely an add-on) that could help boost your focus and productivity. Office 365 subscribers on Android can set timed or scheduled periods of time when email and calendar notifications will be muted using the Do Not Disturb feature. To enable it, open Outlook, tap the hamburger icon on the top left, click the bell icon on the top right, and select the times when you want to be left alone.

Priority Matrix uses four quadrants to help you focus on top priorities and projects that matter the most with Microsoft Outlook. As an add-in, it allows you to turn your emails into action items. With Priority Matrix, gone are the days of trying to remember which emails you did not read by flagging them; just create a task right in Outlook, which will convert to Priority Matrix.

We have all made the mistake of accidentally deleting an email that we needed. That's no longer a concern with the Email Recovery feature. You can use this add-on to recover any emails you deleted. The recovery process is simple: Just select the folder you'd like to recover emails from, which would be either the Recoverable Items or Purges folder. What's also great about this add-in is that it can be used to search emails for certain keywords, giving you access to information like subject line, sender, attachments and recipients.

Find yourself being asked many of the same questions over and over by prospects, customers or co-workers? The Template Phrases add-in can save you time through the creation of custom templates to answer those questions. You can create a wide assortment of templates with simple or complex questions, then allow the add-in to generate a variety of keywords that you can insert directly into your emails. If you are not sure where to begin, use the tool's business letter samples and everyday phrase examples.

Zoom Scheduler is available on both desktop and mobile to make scheduling meetings easier. Like its website suggests, you can schedule and start instant Zoom meetings and sync your free and busy times to Zoom Client. Unfortunately, Zoom Scheduler can only run on version 3.5 or higher on PC and macOS 10.14.1 or higher – you'll need to update your computers accordingly.

You don't have to be a graphic designer to make attractive presentations. Pickit gives you access to an unlimited number of images, such as licensed photos (images are 100% legal and compliant) and clip art. You can then pull in the images you need to Microsoft Office from the easily accessible image library.

Available only to Office 365 subscribers, PowerPoint Designer helps you create impressive slides. It automatically generates a wide range of designs for you to choose from in various colors, patterns and styles. To access it, select Design > Design Ideas. Be sure to select “connected experiences” to get ideas as you create your slides. Design Ideas will select layouts with text blocks and images that you can customize. Make your presentation pop with a chart, graph or timeline that can also be automatically generated. Finalize your presentation with one of the many readily available illustrations.

Map charts are used in Excel to "compare values and show categories across geographical regions. Use it when you have geographical regions in your data, like countries/regions, states, counties or postal codes," according to Microsoft. If you're not sure where to begin, like with PowerPoint Designer, visit the link above to download chart samples. Your charts can be created with countries, states, counties, cities, zip codes and more. To create the maps, just input the data of your choosing.

The Woodpecker add-on connects to your Office 365 email to assist you with the legal documents you use often by giving you the functionality to create and easily reuse them. By standardizing and automating all the documents you use often, you save time and mistakes when preparing legal documents. You can easily share and collaborate on these documents with your team and customize important fields such as name, address and phone number. Keep track of your document settings with a secure Woodpecker account. Woodpecker's website offers step-by-step instructions on how to add and use this add-on; setup should only take a few minutes.

Andreas Rivera contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.

Marisa Sanfilippo

Marisa Sanfilippo is an award-winning marketing professional who has more than six years experience developing and executing marketing campaigns for small and medium sized businesses with a focus on digital marketing. After graduating Stockton University with a B.A. in Communications and minor in writing, Marisa worked as a freelance journalist for numerous publications, ultimately earning a position as an e-marketing specialist for a credit union. While in that position, she earned HubSpot's Inbound Marketing Certification and helped build the organization’s digital marketing strategy from the ground up. Her efforts helped lead the credit union to success on and offline including: a 200%+ organic increase in Facebook followers, a sales generating blog, and much more. Later on, she worked on a social media campaign that gained recognition by The Huffington Post.