Office 365 Gets a End of the Year Update

One of my favorite services and one that I use daily for both work & home is Microsoft’s Office 365. I have both a home account as well as a professional account. Both of these services have improved quite a bit over the past two years and are now my most important productivity solution for both home and work. As this year is winding down Microsoft pushed out a very nice update for Office 365.

If you are an Office 365 user or simply use Microsoft Office for personal use, there’s a good chance you have already heard about Office.com. It is the official website for Office which also lets you work on Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other Office suite apps online. Now, Microsoft has released the first major update for Office.com with an aim to improve the overall user experience and productivity.

As Office comprises of a number of apps with each of them meant for a specific purpose, it can be frustrating when you are looking for that particular app in the time of urgency and could not find it easily. To make it easier, Microsoft has now added a section which will show your most frequently used Office apps and services. As you will keep on using Office online, this section will get updated accordingly so that you don’t go through the whole list for a particular application.

But it’s not only about apps all the time as more often than not, you are looking for a particular document to get started with your work. And with so many apps and file formats along with files themselves, it can be a tiresome experience to find that particular file you need. To solve this issue, Microsoft has now introduced new filters under the ‘Recent documents’ section. You can now search documents on the basis of document type and even pin the ones you use or need quite frequently.

And apart from documents and files, the most important thing is to stay updated with meetings coming up as well as one’s to-do list to make sure that things happen on time. Now Office.com will show you all your upcoming meetings and tasks right in the front. It will show you all the relevant details including contact’s photo, time, date, and venue along with a shortcut to join a Skype meeting. As for tasks, you can easily look for yet to be finished tasks and check the ones completed. This list is synced with Outlook which means ones you manage your task on Office online, the changes are reflected on Outlook as well.

All these features have been made available to Office.com and you should see them the nex time you log in. If you are not a regular user of Office.com, you might have to use it for some time before you can start seeing features like Frequently used apps and services along with Recent documents.

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SharePoint Is Coming to Your Mobile Device

For any users of Microsoft’s SharePoint here is some exciting news.

Earlier today, Microsoft reported that they are planning to release the long awaited SharePoint mobile app, designed for Windows, iOS and Android to put intranet in your pocket. With this upcoming app, users can get full access to company news and announcements, people, sites, content and apps. This app will incorporate on-premises SharePoint sites, as well.

SharePoint-the-mobile-and-intelligent-intranet-1

Features that will be available in SharePoint Mobile app,

  • The Sites tab takes you to your Sites, Recent sites and Followed sites, where you can keep up with site activity, navigate using quick launch or see recent files.
  • The Links tab takes you to sites and portals programmed for everyone in the company.
  • The People tab gives you access to the people you work with and visibility into what they are working on.
  • Search is available throughout with clean results filtered by sites, files and people.
  • Users can also have multiple accounts online and on-premises, and can easily switch between them.

At the Future of SharePoint conference, Microsoft today shared their roadmap for the mobile and intelligent intranet. Here’s what you can expect to see starting this quarter:

  • Modern document library experience (currently rolling out to First Release tenants).
  • SharePoint mobile app for iOS.
  • SharePoint home in Office 365.
  • Modern lists experience.
  • Site activity and insights on the Site Contents page.

And during calendar year 2016:

  • SharePoint mobile app for Windows and Android.
  • Integration of SharePoint sites and Office 365 Groups.
  • Simple, fast site creation.
  • Modern pages experience.
  • Team and organizational news and announcements.
  • PowerApps and Microsoft Flow integration with SharePoint.

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Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Office Insider?

Much like the Windows Insider program that has vaulted Windows 10 into a popular beta operating system, Microsoft is now taking the wraps off a similar program for Office.

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This ongoing program is for consumer Office subscribers and includes Office 365 Home, Office 365 Personal and Office 365 University editions. By joining the program you get first access to the latest Office innovations.

If you already have one of these editions installed and want to join, use the following link:

https://products.office.com/en-us/office-insider

When you visit the link you can choose to install the latest Office Insider build and gain links to participate in the Office community. This offer is currently only for Windows users. Insider builds are for Mac are expected soon.

Business users (Office 365 business, enterprise, or 365 Pro Plus) already have access to the First Release program.

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Microsoft Backtracks On Unlimited Storage

If you have read many of my previous posts regarding Microsoft’s OneDrive you no doubt recall that I had praised them for offering “unlimited” cloud space to their subscribers. However as you will learn nothing is at it seems and a few bad eggs can ruin so much for everyone else.

This week a new post on the OneDrive blog, Microsoft has revealed reported that a small number of users have been abusing the cloud storage service since Microsoft began rolling out “unlimited storage” for Office 365 subscribers late last year.

Some of this abuse resulted in these users storing in excess of 75 TB, yes terabytes, of data in their accounts that included complete music, DVD, DVR recordings and backups for multiple PCs. Completely unacceptable and something Microsoft could obviously not allow to continue.

According to Microsoft, this small number of users were taking up over 14,000 times the average storage that was used by others users on the service. If you do the math that means the average user on OneDrive is storing approximately 5.4 GB of files on the service.

It was just over a year ago when Microsoft announced that all Office 365 subscribers would ultimately get unlimited storage at no additional cost.

Of course, an offer like this was very well received and they began the roll out immediately. However, sometime earlier this year the process of upgrading Office 365 Home, Personal and University accounts ground to a halt without any explanation.

Recently it appears that with this update from the OneDrive team, we know exactly why those upgrades to unlimited storage stopped being applied to accounts on the cloud storage service.

Apparently the unlimited storage for Office 365 customers is not the only area that is going to change.

According to the the OneDrive team the following storage options will be modified:

  • 100 GB and 200 GB subscription plans are being discontinued and will be replaced with a 50 GB option for $1.99 per month. This will happen in early 2016.
  • The 15 GB of free OneDrive storage, which everyone with a Microsoft Account receives, will be reduced to just 5 GB for all current and new users. Those changes also roll out in early 2016.
  • The 15 GB Camera Roll bonus has been offered for sometime with Windows Phone devices and was even a marketing ploy when iPhone users did not have enough space to upgrade their phones to the latest iOS version. At the time, Apple recommended that users delete photos in order to free up space so Microsoft offered the free 15 GB Camera Roll to them instead.  This free 15 GB of space for photo storage will be discontinued in early 2016.
  • Office 365 subscribers will still receive 1TB of storage with their subscription instead of the previously offered unlimited option.

Microsoft states that they want to make this transition as easy as possible for customers and will implement it as follows:

  • Any Office 365 customer using in excess of 1 TB of storage will be notified directly and be allowed to keep the extra storage for at least 12 months.
  • Office 365 customers who feel the 1 TB storage offer with their subscription no longer fits their needs will be offered a pro-rated refund for the balance of their subscription.
  • If you are using more than the 5 GB of free storage you will retain access to all of your files for 12 months after these new changes go into effect. Those users will also be offered a free one year subscription to Office 365 Personal (credit card required to sign up) to increase that storage to 1TB for the following 12 months. In order to retain that level of storage the same users will need to renew their Office 365 Personal subscription at a cost of $69.99 when the free subscription expires.
  • Current subscribers of the 100 GB and 200 GB storage plans are unaffected and will be allowed to maintain these subscriptions.

In all of these situations if your storage allowance is lowered you should not lose access to your files on the service however, you will be unable to store any new data on OneDrive until you remove enough files to drop below your new storage allowance. This is how OneDrive has always worked in the past and handled overages in a storage account.

Responsible users of OneDrive are going to be upset at this news and rightly so. A promise was made to deliver unlimited storage if those users subscribed to Microsoft Office 365 offering and that is now being pulled out from under those same loyal customers. The offers of pro-rated refunds are fine but this is more than just offering refunds.

It is never a good thing to punish the majority of users for the actions of a few inconsiderate ones and the backlash from this unexpected announcement is going to put a dent in any good will Microsoft has recently been earning with its dedicated customers.

All of this being understood I continue to believe that Microsoft 365 and OneDrive (1TB of storage) is an excellent deal for the majority of reasonable users.

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Microsoft Office 2016 Details Emerge

Microsoft Office 2016 is now available and it is bringing real-time collaboration, improved Skype integration and quick access to many options to the suite that includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

The updates are behind the scenes but they are very real nevertheless. It’s not about new icons or fancier menus with Office 2016, in many ways 2016 looks almost indistinguishable from 2013.

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The updates includes a Groups feature in Outlook for a corporate team or even just a group of friends planning a trip to manage messages and documents. Word lets two people work on a document and see each other’s changes in real-time. Skype video calls can sit comfortably on top of the document during editing.

A user must learn to save files to OneDrive or Sharepoint, and switch between browser apps and the traditional desktop programs. New tools like Sway and Planner, are ways to make instant PowerPoint presentations, and manage projects.

Recently Microsoft has made Office programs compatible with more Apple and Android devices.

With Office 365, a service that starts at $7 a month and includes online versions of the apps, users get monthly updates: New Excel chart types, new co-working tools, more tie-ins with the Cortana virtual assistant app and other enhancements based on user feedback.

Microsoft has successfully persuaded 15 million consumers and 4 of 5 Fortune 500 companies to subscribe to it’s new “software as a service” model.

Office 2016 requires Windows 7 or newer, and it’s free to new and existing Office 365 subscribers. Office also includes note-taking program OneNote.

Old-school, buy-it-once versions are still available for $149 for Windows and Mac (a $229 business option includes Outlook). These non-subscription copies get security updates, but they’re locked in to the Sept. 22 version on the feature side. They will not have the Publisher or Access programs either.

New items include several “intelligent” tools. Outlook will try to determine how you manage your inbox and automatically organize it for you. A new search box called Tell Me on PowerPoint, Word and Excel lets you search for a feature — say “Columns” — and immediately pull up the relevant menu. That saves you from reading through a help article or digging around menus. When not connected to the Internet, some features will automatically turn off while the document remains accessible.

You can learn more about Office 2016 here.

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Office 2016 Arrives

Today Microsoft released its Office 2016 productivity suite. On the surface Office 2016 may not seem to look much different then Office 2013 however under the hood is where some real enhancements have been made.

Office 2016 upgrades Office desktop apps for Windows. The productivity suite includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Project, Visio and Access. Microsoft is encouraging customers to access the apps through Office 365, which offers continual updates for use across multiple devices. Office 365 also offers services like OneDrive online storage Relevant Products/Services, Skype for Business, Delve, Yammer and enterprise-grade security Relevant Products/Services features.

Microsoft is billing Office and Windows 10 as “the most complete solution for doing”. Beyond the traditional productivity suite, customers using Windows 10 can tap into Sway to create presentations while Office Mobile apps on the platform work to keep road warriors and remote workers productive, working with Continuum to let users operate smartphones like PCs. Windows Hello lets users log on to Windows and Office 365 at the same time and Cortana interfaces with Office 365 to help users prepare for meetings. Microsoft said Outlook integration is coming in November.

Co-Authorizing

Office 2016 has been built with teamwork in mind. One example that I really like is the co-authoring feature, which is now available in Word, PowerPoint and OneNote desktop software. Co-authoring allows real-time Relevant Products/Services typing in Word that lets users see others’ edits as they make them, and the Skype in-app integration lets users tap into IM, screen share, talk or hold video chats within Office documents.

Office 365 Groups & Planner

Office 365 Groups are now part of Office 2016. Groups strives to help drive a team experience in the productivity suite. Meanwhile, Office 365 Planner gives teams tools to create new plans, organize and assign tasks, mark deadlines, and update statuses.

Sway

Another new feature which I have been using in a preview for a while know is Sway. With Sway you are able to create presentations in seconds right from any mobile device or your PC and share them on social media sites like Facebook.

Data Protection

Later this year, Microsoft will enable enterprise data protection Relevant Products & Services in Windows 10, with support in Office Mobile. This will allow for more secure corporate content sharing across corporate managed apps and network and cloud locations, which prevents inadvertent content sharing outside corporate boundaries.

The new Office 2016 apps are available in 40 languages and require Windows 7 or later. Office 365 subscribers can choose to download the new Office 2016 apps as part of their subscriptions. Automatic updates will begin rolling out to consumer and small-business subscribers in October, and to commercial customers early next year. Office 2016 is also available today as a one-time purchase for both PCs and Macs.

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Office 2016 Gets a Launch Date

I have been using Microsoft’s soon-to-be released Office 2016 for about 6 months now and I must say that although it is not flashy it is a improvement over 2013 and offers new integration for social media and cloud services that make it a must for Office users.

The new suite of Office applications which is set to launch on September 22 will give Office 365 ProPlus business subscribers a choice of two types of ongoing updates. As they have in the past, company and organizational users can continue to receive feature and security updates on a monthly basis under an option now called “Current Branch.”

For enterprise users, there will also be a new update option called “Current Branch for Business,” which will deliver three feature updates annually while providing monthly security updates. The option is designed for organizations that prefer to wait for updates, need time for testing or want to better manage customizations, Microsoft said.

Users with personal or home subscriptions who update to Office 2016, meanwhile, will begin seeing automatic monthly updates starting in October.

New Ways To Upgrade and Deploy

“We’ve enhanced the upgrade and installation experience, and for Office 365 subscribers, we’ve made changes to how the 2016 apps are updated moving forward,” Julia White, general manager of Office 365 Technical Product Management, stated earlier this week in a blog post. “We’re also delivering new tools and resources to help you prepare, deploy and manage Office.”

The Current Branch for Business option was developed based on feedback from many users who currently run Office 365 ProPlus, White said. The approach is similar to that taken by Microsoft with its new Windows 10 operating system, she added.

The first Current Branch for Business build, which will come out in February, will be “effectively the same feature set as the September 22nd release, but with four additional months of security updates also included,” White noted.

Business users with volume licensing agreements for Office will be able to download the Office 2016 suite from Microsoft’s Volume Licensing Service Center starting October 1.

 

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Staff Technology Training – Session 17

Today we provided our regular – quarterly technology training to the staff. The topics covered included SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, Skype for Business, Password Management & Two Factor Authentication.  You can check it our here, as well as all of our previous training classes here.

 

 

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Office 365 Welcomes Box Aboard

Microsoft’s cross platform strategy continues with new integration with cloud storage service provider Box.

Starting today the new deep integration with Office Online will allow users to preview, edit and even create new Office Online files right from Box’s Web interface.

It all happens via Microsoft’s Office Online interface, but syncs automatically onto your Box storage.

The change makes document editing on Box a much more seamless experience. Previously, you’d have to download a file make your changes, and then remember to re-upload it. Without those additional steps, editing documents is a lot more convenient.

It’s an interesting move by Microsoft, given it has a cloud storage service of its own: OneDrive. It’s not nearly as popular as Box and Dropbox are, however, so adding deep integration with other cloud services makes sense – Box says there are “over a billion” Office documents on its platform alone.

It’s also a way for Microsoft to save off Google Docs’ popularity. People use drive primarily for the convenience of saving and editing all your documents on the cloud.

Office’s apps are generally more powerful, however, so deep integration with existing storage platforms can help Microsoft retain customers on its platform instead of Google’s. Box, meanwhile, gets feature parity with its biggest competitor.

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Microsoft’s Clutter Wants to Help Your Inbox

Last November, I reported that Microsoft made a new service, “Clutter” available to Office 365 users. Of course I had to check it out back in November and found it an extremely useful tool to de-clutter my inbox. I have been using it ever since.

I am glad to see that Microsoft is now enabling the de-cluttering feature by default as part of its email experience for Office 365 users. I bet many users do not even know this existed because it had been off by default and not promoted very well by Microsoft. However enabling this by default soon, default users will probably come to love it.


 

What is Clutter?

As mentioned previously, “Clutter” was a service introduced by Microsoft for Office 36 last November. The service utilizes machine learning to help keep your inbox organized; Clutter can learn from the user and tailor the email inbox allowing for a more productive experience.

Everyday email like newsletters and advertisement may not be spam but they certainly can clutter up your inbox. With clutter messages like these automatically go into a special “Clutter” folder where you can look at them when you want to. This keeps your inbox cleaner and you will be less likely to miss important email messages.

More Enhancements & Control of Your Email Clutter

Starting June 1st, Clutter will be activated by default for those in the First Release program. This will be followed up by a release to standard participants on June 15th. With the mainstream release, Microsoft will also introduce administrative controls and status reports for Clutter. These reports will show you exactly how Clutter is organizing your email and inform you when new email is being moved.

Although Clutter will be enabled by default, users will still have the ability to opt-out and disable the service on Outlook’s webpage, Outlook 2016 Preview, or clicking the the disable link at the bottom of each status report.

Check out my original November 14, 2014 article when “Clutter” was first introduced by Microsoft.

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