Tag Archives: office

Office Online: Now with Bing Integration in Insights For Office

Office Online, specifically Word Online, has a new feature which is rolling out now, which features tight integration with Bing. This new feature, announced on December 10, is called Insights for Office.

If you remember “Research” pane in earlier versions of Office, this may be familiar. Of course, Insights for Office is supposedly much more powerful because it is very contextual, and utilizes Bing to provide the best possible way to surface web content right inside Word.

The way it works is this: as you write something in Word Online, you can start searching for a word or phrase within the text (by right-clicking) and Bing’s various results are shown in a nice panel. You can see results from Bing Snapshot, Wikipedia, Bing Image Search, Oxford Dictionary, and the whole web. You can avoid switching windows in order to run the searches in a separate tab/window of the browser and instead, see the content right beside your text, thereby reducing workflow disruption.

Insights for Office - Amazon
Insights for Office – Amazon
Insights for Office - Abraham Lincoln
Insights for Office – Abraham Lincoln

Insights for Office will also be triggered through the TellMe search box since that is the other obvious place where someone may enter content-related queries.

The Bing Blog goes on to explain more about how this works:

Bing indexes and stores entity data from around the web representing real world people, places and things. Insights for Office utilizes Bing’s ability to index the world’s knowledge and our machine learned relevance models to semantically understand the most important content in a user’s document and then return the most relevant results. This capability is derived largely from patterns of text analysis developed in collaboration with Microsoft Research. The results deliver the most relevant web links, images, etc. for a given request in the form of entity cards – a quick overview of the most important attributes (description, date of birth, etc.) about a real world person, place or thing. In many cases, the entity card may provide enough information for the user’s query intent to be fulfilled without requiring any additional exploration.

This is yet another integration of Bing into a Microsoft product, further confirming that Bing cannot be spun off from Microsoft, if that thought is still in some investors’ minds. The tight coupling of Bing into a variety of other Microsoft products like Sway, Xbox, Cortana personal digital assistant, etc. solidify Microsoft’s positioning of Bing as a platform rather than a search engine.

Microsoft Introduces Work & Play Bundle: Office 365, Xbox Music Pass, Xbox LIVE Gold, Skype Unlimited World for $199

Microsoft has introduced a unique blend of “dual use” products in a single subscription, called Work & Play Bundle. This is a subscription to four of its popular subscriptions services, combined into a single bundle.

The products included are:

  • Office 365 Home (which includes 1TB of OneDrive space today, which is soon going to become unlimited storage, for 5 users)
  • Skype Unlimited World and Skype WiFi
  • Xbox LIVE Gold
  • Xbox Music Pass

As you can see, this is not a “consumer” bundle, nor is it a “business” bundle. In keeping with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s mantra, this is a product made for someone who wants to access productivity tools like Office and OneDrive as well as fun stuff like Xbox gaming and listening to unlimited music on demand. Of course, Skype calling applies naturally to both work and play scenarios.

Of course, being a bundle, the selling point is that the combined price of $199/year is better than buying all those subscriptions individually. Also, if you already subscribe to one or more of these products, adding this bundle will simply extend the subscription to those products by a year. Finally, in terms of actual delivery, each product is delivered as a $50 redemption code so potentially, you could give the stuff you don’t care about to friends and others.

This bundle shows that Microsoft is pushing even harder in the direction of making all their services into a recurring revenue model business. There have long been wishes for Xbox LIVE Gold to include the Xbox Music Pass and now we can see that Microsoft is making it a little bit easier to digest by combining these popular services together.

One thing to note, as is stated in the footnote on the site, the Xbox Music Pass is only for streaming on Xbox and the web. I wonder why they made that restriction, implying it won’t be available on mobile devices or Windows modern Music app.

At $199 per year, it is not a slam dunk choice for consumers to jump to, but there is a lot of value in the bundle if you use even three of the four services included here. Are you interested in this bundle? Would you consider buying it?

Office 365 Customers Can Start Using the New Outlook for Mac

outlook-for-mac

If you are an Office 365 customer, there are a lot of benefits you already can avail of, like unlimited storage, always up-to-date desktop software, centralized management of licenses, etc. Now, per the blog post on Office Blogs on October 31, if you are using Mac OS, you can get the new Outlook app for Mac.

It is a surprising release because everyone expected Outlook to be part of the Office suite, and the rumored dates for the new Office for Mac were pointing towards a beta in November with a release in the first half of 2015. It is also a surprise that Outlook was released by itself, perhaps because it was probably the one app with the most complaints about, in Office for Mac 2011.

As for the rest of the suite, Microsoft said that the public preview of Excel for Mac, Word for Mac, PowerPoint for Mac, and curiously, OneNote for Mac will be made available as a public preview in the first half of 2015 and a final release in the second half of 2015. What’s curious about OneNote is that there is already an app in the Mac App Store called OneNote so I am not sure how they are going to distinguish between that app and the potentially “full” OneNote for Mac. This mirrors what Microsoft has on the Windows side, with a “desktop” OneNote and a Universal OneNote app which is available in the Windows Store.

To get the new Outlook:

  • Office 365 Commercial customers can get the new Outlook for Mac by accessing their Office 365 Portal, (Gear icon > Office 365 Settings > Software > Outlook for Mac icon) or visiting the Software page.
  • Office 365 consumer subscribers can get the new Outlook for Mac by going to their My Account page.

Finally we see the benefits of being an Office 365 customer, specifically regarding access to the latest software. Until now, Office 365 has not delivered any desktop software updates which perpetual license holders have not got. Now, a perpetual licensee of Office for Mac will be one version behind, at least for a year.

Attach and Share Files in Outlook Directly From OneDrive (Business and Consumer)

In two separate posts on the Office Blogs on October 8, Microsoft announced ways to easily share files in Outlook Web App and Outlook.com directly from OneDrive for Business and OneDrive respectively.

Advantages of sharing links vs attaching files

The advantages of attaching links as opposed to actually sending the files are:

  • Large files don’t have to move in email necessarily, thereby reducing the chances of emails bouncing off email servers which don’t accept attachments above a certain size.
  • If this is a file which can be edited online (for example, Office apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint which can be co-edited in Office Online), it does not have multiple versions floating across multiple people’s emails.
  • Permissions can be revoked at any time by the person sharing the file. This way, if a project is done and one does not want the rest of the team to have access to that file anymore, they can go to OneDrive for Business or OneDrive and remove that person’s email address from the list.

How it works: Outlook Web App

The way it works on Outlook Web App is as follows: start an email as always, and under the file attachment area, use the “attachments or OneDrive files” option. After a file is selected from OneDrive for Business, it creates a link to the file in the email as well as applies the appropriate permissions to everyone in the To and CC list. By default, everyone on To and CC get permissions to edit the file, but each file’s access can be edited after attaching, so certain people can be limited to read-only vs edit.

Insert attachments from OneDrive
Insert attachments from OneDrive

 

Insert files from OneDrive for Business
Insert files from OneDrive for Business

 

Attachment from OneDrive or local PC choice
Attachment from OneDrive or local PC choice

 

If one chooses a file on the local PC instead of from OneDrive for Business, the file is first uploaded to OneDrive for Business and then a link is generated to the file as above.

 

Outlook Web App attachment from OneDrive
Outlook Web App attachment from OneDrive
Outlook Web App attachment permission edit
Outlook Web App attachment permission edit
OneDrive attachment manage permissions
OneDrive attachment manage permissions

 

In addition, this functionality is also available on the OWA apps on iPhone, iPad and Android.

 

Outlook Web App for iPad
Outlook Web App for iPad
Outlook Web App for iPhone
Outlook Web App for iPhone

 

Co-authoring

Another feature to note here is that when someone gets an attachment in this way, and they open the file, it opens the file in co-author mode. This way, multiple people can edit the documents at the same time, keeping a single version of the file.

 

Outlook Web App attachment editing
Outlook Web App attachment editing
Outlook Web App co-authoring
Outlook Web App co-authoring
Outlook Web App Side-by-Side view
Outlook Web App Side-by-Side view

 

How it works: Outlook.com

Much like how it works with Outlook Web App, when you insert an attachment from OneDrive in the Outlook.com web app, it will send the file as a link. In both Outlook Web App and Outlook.com, the recipients will see the attachments almost the same as how they see normal attachments. The recipients will see a cloud icon on the icon of the attachment, and text which says that the file is on OneDrive.

 

OneDrive attached file in other email clients
OneDrive attached file in other email clients
OneDrive attached file in Outlook Web App
OneDrive attached file in Outlook Web App


This is a neat idea and I do hope we move away from email attachment overload, it’s just that we are so used to physical attachments, it is going to be a hard change to see through. However, with more and more cloud storage being offered by the key players in the platforms space (Google, Apple and Microsoft), I do see a future where many of us will make cloud storage our primary document repository. If that happens, I am hoping the email attachment culture will reduce and we move to link-sharing.

How do you send large attachments? Let us know in the comments below!

Microsoft Adds Another App to Office: Sway

In a blog post on Office Blogs on October 1, Microsoft announced the launch of a new design-focused app in the Office family, called Sway. In keeping with the new “mobile-first, cloud-first” mantra at Microsoft, this app is built for the web and for all kinds of devices from the ground up. It is not a desktop application which was fine tuned to run on mobile devices, but instead it was built keeping a multi-device world in mind.

Sway can be thought of as another “storytelling” app which makes it easy for anyone to tell a story. This is done in a beautiful interface which scales itself to fill screens of all sizes, and leverages popular cloud storage and services like OneDrive, Facebook and YouTube. It blends text, images, embedded video and search in a variety of formats and layouts and makes creating projects (or “telling stories”) a fun exercise. The layouts get adjusted according to the content that keeps getting added to the canvas, which itself is called a Sway, and this is thanks to the work done by Microsoft Research.

An introduction video posted on the Office Blogs shows many different devices used to create the story:


Interestingly, much like PowerPoint’s Mix app/feature, Sway lets the stories be interactive so it enables collaboration among teams, friends and family. Currently, it looks like it supports many consumer services but the Office team promises increased business functionality in the form of support for OneDrive for Business and SharePoint, integration with the Office Graph and more.

Sway is currently in preview and one can request an invite at Sway.com.

Here is an example of an embedded Sway:

 

OneNote for Android Tablets Is Here

 

onenote-for-Android-tablets

Microsoft’s OneNote team announced on August 19 that OneNote for Android is now available for Android tablets. However, that was not the only update made to OneNote for Android.

Handwriting support

OneNote for Android now supports handwriting. So on the tablet, one can write and draw with a stylus (or fingers too). These notes are of course synced across all devices. Much like on the desktop version of OneNote, the inking works with images (for annotation) as well as for pure writing/drawing. For devices which come with active digitizer, the stylus can instantly invoke the inking mode so one can start writing/marking immediately.

Other features included are changing pen colors, as well as changing the paper style and color to make handwriting stand out even more.

OneNote for Android Drawing
OneNote for Android Drawing
OneNote for Android Inking
OneNote for Android Inking
OneNote for Android Annotations
OneNote for Android Annotations

Tablet support

The UI now supports a larger real estate on the screen. Much like the iPad and Windows Store versions, the Android tablet UI now shows a cascading list of notebooks, sections and pages with the selected page occupying much of the screen.

OneNote for Android Tablet UI
OneNote for Android Tablet UI

Ribbon for Android tablets

Similar to the iPad and Windows Store UI, the Android tablet UI now has the ribbon with several formatting options.

OneNote for Android Ribbon: Formatting
OneNote for Android Ribbon: Formatting
OneNote for Android Ribbon
OneNote for Android Ribbon

 

A quick video overview of the new OneNote:

Given that Android apps normally stretch to fill a larger screen, it is commendable that the OneNote team did not rely on that, but instead chose to build a separate UI for larger screens. It is also nice to see inking support in OneNote, and like the blog post says, it is directed towards the students going to or returning back to school.

Office 365 Subscriber? Your Terabyte of OneDrive Storage Awaits!

OneDrive 1TB with Office
OneDrive 1TB with Office

On July 16, Microsoft announced via their OneDrive Blog, that the increase in storage that they promised last month are now rolling out.

So, what changed? First of all, if you have OneDrive, your base storage goes up from 7GB to 15GB. You have OneDrive (formerly, SkyDrive) if you have a Microsoft account which you would have if you ever had a hotmail account or an Outlook.com account, a Zune subscription, an Xbox Live account, or if you have a Windows 8 PC and chose to sign in with a Microsoft account. So, Microsoft has effectively more than doubled the free storage that you get with your Microsoft account.

The bigger jump is for Office 365 subscribers. For Office 365 Personal, Home and University subscribers, the alloted storage (in addition to the 7GB free storage) was 20GB. This storage is now bumped up to 1TB. In addition, if you are an Office 365 Home subscriber, each user on the subscription (it could be up to 5 users) will get their storage bumped from 20GB to 1TB. That’s a pretty sweet upgrade.

Finally, if you want to purchase additional storage (regardless of whether you have the free OneDrive account or through Office 365 subscription), the plans are now more inexpensive than earlier. For example, a 100GB plan is now $1.99 per month instead of the earlier $7.49 per month.

So, what do you do with so much inexpensive or free/included storage? How about moving all your music there? I did that, and am pretty happy with it so far. OneDrive has excellent sync clients for Windows 7, Windows 8.x (where it is included in the base installation), Mac OS, iOS, Windows Phone, Android. These apps will allow you to access your files from virtually anywhere, and best of all, keep the dirty work of backing up your critical data out of your plate. Everything is in the cloud and synced to your devices so you don’t have to worry about losing your data. For your digital memories like photos, videos, music and documents, especially if you have Office 365, you won’t have to worry about backup at all. Not only will OneDrive provide you access to your files anywhere and anytime, it will also be a safe offsite copy of your data in case you lose your local disk for whatever reason.

One other note, Office 365’s business and enterprise editions have OneDrive for Business included and those plans’ subscribers also get 1TB storage. Although the two services OneDrive and OneDrive for Business are named similarly, they are not the same on the back end, although Microsoft has made 1TB available to all OneDrive customers, consumer or business. The OneDrive for Business storage upgrade has also started rolling out.

How do you plan to take advantage of the extra storage? My next move, given that I have an Office 365 Home subscription, is to move my photos and videos to OneDrive. It is a much bigger effort so it may take some time for me to plan it out and do it. Plus of course, I have to keep an eye on the bandwidth consumption since my ISP has a cap on how much I use every month. However, with my cloud storage being 1TB, I can now say that I have more storage in the cloud than on any of my PCs!

 

TheRomit tweet OneDrive
TheRomit tweet OneDrive

New Office 365 Plans Coming For Small Businesses

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As part of the evolution of Office 365, the service is going to see three new plans this October, per a post on the Office Blogs on July 9.

The three new plans, catered towards small businesses (from 1 user to 300 users), will eventually replace the existing Small Business, Small Business Premium and Midsize Business plans.

 

Office 365 Small Business Plans
Office 365 Small Business Plans

The new plan details are as follows:

Office 365 Business

This plan is more in line with the Office 365 Personal and Office 365 Home in that it is essentially the desktop Office suite available on a subscription basis. Compared to the consumer edition of OneDrive that comes with Office 365 Personal and Home, Office 365 Business will come with the 1TB of OneDrive for Business. The applications included in the desktop suite are Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Publisher. Curiously, no mention of Access.

This plan will cost $8.25 user per month.

Office 365 Business Essentials

This plan includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online and Yammer, but there is no desktop software subscription included. It will also have the 1TB of OneDrive for Business.

This plan will cost $5 per user per month.

Office 365 Business Premium

This is somewhat of a combination of the above two, so it comes with the desktop suite as well as online versions of Exchange, SharePoint and Lync along with the 1TB of OneDrive for Business.

This plan will cost $12.50 per user per month.

Office 365 Small Business Plans ComparedOffice 365 Small Business Plans Compared
Office 365 Small Business Plans Compared

 

Some overall benefits include the ceiling of these plans being raised to 300 seats, as well as being able to upgrade to Enterprise plans if the growth of the company goes beyond that number. Additionally, since the new Business Premium plan replaces a plan that currently costs more ($15 per user per month), current customers on that plan will see the reduced cost applied at the next renewal. All of these plans of course unlock the ability to edit documents on Office apps for iPad.

This announcement comes days before the annual Worldwide Partner Conference, with a clear intent to incentivize partners to sell these plans to small businesses, which should be the most likely candidates to move to the cloud given their limited IT resources.

Are you an existing small business Office 365 customer? Do these plans sound interesting to you? Let us know in the comments.

 

Images courtesy Office Blogs

OneDrive Increases Free Storage and Office 365 Gets 1TB Free

On June 23, Microsoft announced several updates related to its OneDrive consumer-oriented online storage service including bumping up the free storage tier, reducing costs for purchasing storage dramatically, and adding 1TB to Office 365’s non-business plans.

OneDrive 1TB with Office
OneDrive 1TB with Office

Free Storage

While OneDrive (then called SkyDrive) offered 25GB free long time ago, Microsoft changed the free tierto be a then reasonable 7GB around the time of Windows 8 launch. The reasoning then was 7GB was higher than the competition at the time. Of course, as cost of storage has gone down, and as cloud services become more essential for ecosystems, Google and even Apple, have announced very inexpensive plans for their respective online storage services. Now, Microsoft matches some of the recent competitive updates by making the free tier to be 15GB.

Office 365 Personal, Home and University plans join the 1TB party

Microsoft had already announced that Office 365’s business editions would be getting 1TB of included storage (although that would be under OneDrive for Business, which is not the same product as OneDrive). With this announcement, Office 365’s non-business editions, which is Personal, Home and University, also get 1TB of included storage.

This makes Office 365 a pretty fantastic deal if you have the need for desktop Office, or if you want to be able to edit Office documents on the iPad. Not only does Office 365 now come with 1TB of storage, it always included 60 minutes of free Skype worldwide calling and of course desktop version of the Office suite, as well as edit rights for iPad version of the Office apps. If you have more than one person who needs Office, then Office 365 Home is a killer deal @ $99 per year for 5 users.

Office 365 Consumer Plans
Office 365 Consumer Plans

Reduced prices for additional storage options

Of course, as storage costs have gone down, each of the online storage providers have kept cutting their prices. OneDrive will no longer have the 50GB option since the $100GB option is now at $1.99 per month, down from $7.49 per month. An additional 200GB will be $3.99 per month, down from $11.49 per month.

These are great updates to an already useful storage service. As a reminder, OneDrive has a presence on all platforms, making it a truly universal online storage service: Windows 7, Windows 8.x, Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac OS. The price changes were not completely unexpected because it is much easier for a larger company with scale, to keep lowering costs to meet the competition’s prices. I wonder what this means to the likes of Dropbox and Box, especially the former, since it has long been the darling of consumers for being so easy to use, sync and share. With OneDrive (and Google Drive and soon, iCloud) being so front-and-center in those various ecosystems, it will be interesting to see how many consumers will decide to switch away from the smaller companies. We shall see.

Edit: An earlier version of this article stated that OneDrive is perhaps the only service with apps across all platforms. Dropbox and Box also have apps across all platforms. Author meant to say, only one among the big ecosystem providers, but the sentence has been modified to refer to OneDrive by itself.

(Images courtesy OneDrive blog and Office Blogs)

Skydrive App Update on iOS Finally Live

On April 3, Mike Torres announced on Windows Blogs that the SkyDrive app for iOS was updated to v3.0 and was available in the iTunes store.

Some of the changes and additions in this update are:

  • Support for iPhone 5 and iPad Mini
  • Updated app icons and user experience
  • Works better with your photos:
    • Download full resolution photos to your iPhone or iPad
    • Control the size of photos you upload and download
    • Photo metadata is retained when you upload to SkyDrive
  • Opening and saving files to SkyDrive works better with other apps on your iOS devices
  • Many other small changes, bug fixes and performance improvements
SkyDrive on iPhone 5
SkyDrive on iPhone 5

Given that the last update to the app was about a year ago, this news is very welcome for those who use SkyDrive.

What was not mentioned in the change log was that the option to buy additional storage on SkyDrive has been removed. This is because as per Apple’s App Store policies, if any app provides such functionality or even a link to their own site, the company has to pay 30% fee to Apple.

In fact, it is widely believed that the app was held back from being released because the negotiations between Microsoft and Apple were not going anywhere. Microsoft was trying to convince Apple that this is a special case and they should not be charged the 30% fee for the functionality. Clearly, Apple did not budge and Microsoft had to remove the link.

However, the silver lining here is now that Microsoft has published the SkyDrive app, we may not be too far away from Office on iOS making its appearance. The generally believed theory among those who watch Microsoft is that Office on iOS (specifically, iPad) is going to be free apps with read-only functionality unless a user has a Office 365 subscription. If they sign in with their Microsoft account tied to the subscription, they will be able to edit the Office files on iPhone and iPad. Given how important the “real” Office is for consumers and enterprises alike, it is natural that Microsoft would not want to pay 30% of the entire Office 365 subscription fee to Apple. Here’s hoping there was a good deal worked out between Cupertino and Redmond so end users like us can finally see Word, Excel, PowerPoint (and wishfully thinking, Outlook) on the iPad.

Do you use SkyDrive? Do you use it on iPhone/iPad? What do you think of the latest update? Let me know!

 

Image courtesy Microsoft from the Windows Blogs