Facing a constant barrage of competition from Google, Microsoft is always striving to make its industry-leading productivity tools easier to use. Many users prefer Google for its simplicity, but it’s often said to lack the sophistication and sheer functionality of Microsoft Office 365 and its associated tools.
Just like its purely cloud-based competitor, Office 365 is the product of a constantly evolving technology ecosystem. Every month brings a raft of minor updates and the regular release of major overhauls. Familiarizing yourself with the latest updates and aligning the benefits they offer with your company’s operational goals is the best way to get more out of the platform.
Here are some of the biggest recent and upcoming changes to Office 365 you need to know:
The latest Office 365 revamp comes two months after Google started rolling out the new interface for Gmail. One of the major new features of the update is a redesigned version of the ribbon interface, in which the most commonly used controls appear by default, while an expanded ribbon menu remains available as an optional extra. This should help users better focus on their work without additional features they hardly use getting in the way. Advanced users with more specific requirements will be able to continue using the classic, three-line ribbon view should they prefer.
The latest interface change is undoubtedly a result of Microsoft listening to feedback from its users and acting on the vast amount of usage data it has collected over the years. With that in mind, the first app to be updated with the new ribbon interface will be the web-based version of Word, followed by the desktop version of Outlook next month. Other apps, including the traditional desktop productivity programs like Excel, will likely eventually receive similar updates in the months ahead.
Aside from the simplified ribbon layout, Microsoft has also overhauled the colors and icons to provide a more modern and immersive experience. Moreover, users of multiple monitors — particularly if said monitors have different resolutions and scaling settings — will be delighted to learn that scalable graphics have finally become a thing. Initially, these changes will appear in the web-based version of Word before going live in the Windows apps for select Insiders and, eventually, for everyone else.
Modern businesses routinely have to deal with vast amounts of documents and data, which makes having a powerful search function on your side crucial for saving time and boosting productivity. Inspired by its Fluent Design System, recent updates have also started rolling out a proactive search function in various products belonging to or associated with the Office 365 suite.
Starting with SharePoint Online, Office.com and the Outlook mobile app, commercial users will now notice improved access to their content with AI-powered recommendations that appear as soon as they mouse over the search box. For business users seeking to make better use out of the data available to them, this new feature is powered by the Microsoft Graph API for transforming data into live insights, which you can act upon in real time.
New features are all well and good in any product or service, but they’re not of much use to anyone who doesn’t know they exist or how to use them. Recognizing this fact, Microsoft announced the launch of its new training services back in May. A fully customizable digital learning service designed for Windows 10 and Office 365 users, the program is designed to quickly onboard users with new features and create learning experiences tailored to the specific needs of your organization.
The hope is that this new system will help companies reduce the amount of time and money they invest on staff training, particularly whenever a new edition of the software they use every day is released. A pilot of the Microsoft Training Service will be launched in July this year for anyone who registers in advance.