The July/August timeframe is shaping up to be a busy one not only for Windows, but for Office, and today Microsoft is announcing a number of new features and services coming to Office 365, services that will help you research and edit papers, stay more focused in your Outlook inbox, and zoom in and out of PowerPoint presentations.
In a blog post today, Kirk Koenigsbauer introduced the new features, and earlier this week we had a chance to visit with Office Senior Product Marketing Manager David Alexander to get a rundown on the new services.
Alexander first showed off the two new Word services, Researcher and Editor. Here's a quick video explaining what they do:
While writing research papers has had the same basic structure for probably hundreds of years, we've come to expect a search engine to help us research topics for school or work. With the new Researcher, writers can bring the work of searching for inspiration and knowledge right to within Word. Opening up a sidebar on the right hand side of your document, you're able to input research topic terms into Researcher, and using the Bing Knowledge Graph, it will return results filtered for relevancy and present a cleaned up set of results.
But you can do much more than just find results. With Researcher, you can simply click on a topic or a quote, as Alexander did while working on a research paper on the Amazon rainforest, and the service will not only include the properly formatted results in your paper, but mark up the correct citations for the reference, all based on a number of citation styles you can set.
You can build out your paper as a kind of a rich outline, bringing in topics, details and citations from the Researcher pane, but of course you can also research your paper as you build it out, opening up links to further information and reading sources.
Researcher will be available in Word 2016 with the July Office 365 updates, first for Office Insiders, and rolling out to all subscribers shortly after that.
While Researcher can help gather and present information, there's a lot more to writing a paper, research or otherwise. Microsoft Office has been assisting with document writing for a long time, all the way back to Clippy and right on up to today's spell and grammar checkers. With Editor, Microsoft is taking that assistance one step further.
Editor works in much the same way as spelling and grammar checks, but goes further, becoming in effect your digital writing assistant. Microsoft is not only incorporating machine learning and natural language processing, but has brought in a team of linguists to understand just what makes your writing better.
Editor seeks to not only help you find and fix mistakes, but actually learn how to become a better writer. The new service offers explanations for why grammar is flagged, defines suggested words so that you understand use cases, and highlights not only spelling (the familiar red squiggly line) and grammar (double blue underline) but writing style suggestions (a new gold dotted line). Editor will begin simplifying and streamlining your writing this month, will learn with use, and Microsoft will deliver expanded capabilities for Editor this fall.
Outlook Focused Inbox
If you've been using Outlook for iOS or Android, you've already had access to Focused Inbox, an automatic way of filtering your most important email from the clutter. Focused Inbox came to Microsoft with the Acompli acquisition, and Javier Soltero teased that Microsoft would be expanding the service back in June. Now, Focused Inbox will be rolling out this week to Outlook for Windows and Mac.
Zoom for PowerPoint
If you're a PowerPoint user, you know that your precious slide deck just isn't one size fits all, but it's been difficult to tailor slide decks to different audiences without having to go through all the work of building out a deck for each individual audience. Zoom for PowerPoint seeks to solve that problem.
Instead of a linear, front to back approach to presentations, Zoom allows you to create topic and overviews, and then dive deeper into each one. This video explains how it works:
Like the PowerPoint Designer released earlier this year, Zoom makes it easier to build presentations, and makes it easier to give presentations as well. Instead of a top down, chapter by chapter approach, Zoom can create an interactive summary that's a map of your presentation. You'll know right where you are, and your audience will too, even if you've skipped ahead. PowerPoint Zoom will launch this month for Office Insiders, and for all subscribers shortly after that.
Oh, and just one more thing - Microsoft is also announcing a new feature for email, @mentions. Just add an @ symbol to a person's name in email, and it will be highlighted in blue, giving a touch of emphasis when you want to get someone's attention.
Microsoft continues to build on Office 365, and these new services should help Office users, as the company says, "do more."