Microsoft keeps adding new features to its mobile and cloud apps at a rapid rate. Now, if you're using Excel for Android, you'll be able to take a photo of a table and Excel will perform its own OCR, or should I say AI, magic and make it into a live, editable spreadsheet!
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The ribbon interface introduced in Microsoft Office 2007 was easily one of the most radical changes the company ever made to its productivity software. But Microsoft has made other, more subtle, changes to Office over the years, going so far as to keep the icons for Word, Excel and the like up-to-date. The last time these icons saw any attention was back in 2013, so I suppose it was about time they were refreshed.
While cloud services offer us lots of flexility when it comes to to choosing infrastructure and services, and how we pay for them, they are not infallible. There's an outage in progress with two-factor authentication services that's affecting Azure and Office 365 at the moment which highlights the importance of having a reliable Plan B.
The cloud offers lots of benefits for consumers as we all as for small business. But, as a consumer, how do you know what cloud services to use and what they're all for? Here's our dive into the world of personal cloud services.
Microsoft has rebuilt the web version of Office, giving it a performance boost and updating the Ribbon to make it more streamlined. Now, instead of seeing everything on the Ribbon, you'll only have the most-used options visible, although you can easily display the full set of options when you need them. The changes are available on Word on office.com now, with Insiders getting the update on Outlook in a few weeks.
Microsoft has made a bunch of announcements at their SharePoint Virtual Summit. The big change on the SharePoint side of things is Spaces - which give a virtual reality spin to how people interact with information stored in SharePoint. Artificial intelligence has been further integrated in to Office 365 with the ability to better understand what you were working on as well offer more information about images you use and an improved way of working with files in Microsoft Teams.
Build is Microsoft's annual developer conference. It's a busy couple of weeks for developers with Facebook running their event last week and Google has their event kicking off now as well. Microsoft has announced several new tools and services for developers today. Here's a snapshot of some of the more interesting announcements.
Microsoft has announced the release, to commercial customers, of Microsoft Forms. This is a handy tool for collecting information from people, much like Google Forms, Survey Monkey and other options that are available. Forms has been available to education customers for some time and there's been a preview program with 50,000 participants. The company says the product is ready and has now lost the 'Preview' tag.
We're not even halfway into 2018 but Office 2019 is already hitting the hard drives of early adopters - but there's a catch. Microsoft is releasing a preview version of the next version of their office productivity suite but only to organisations that plan to deploy the volume licensed version when it's released later this year. If your business is in that boat, there's a registration process to follow so you can get ahead of the curve with the next version of Microsoft Office.
Microsoft has made plenty of high-profile errors over the years. But they have also proven they can adapt quickly when the world around them changes. Those of us with a few grey hairs will remember the late 1990s and Microsoft's bet on the MSN Network. Bill Gates had recently released his book, The Road Ahead, which had to be hurriedly rewritten into a second edition because the first version totally underestimated the impact of the internet.
Two decades later, the company faced a shift to cloud computing and subscription software - direct threats to their server and software cash-cows. But their latest earnings report shows that they have adapted and are thriving again.
Airbus recently announced a switch from Office 365 to Google. And while, on the surface this looks like a loss for Microsoft, it turns out that the initial story isn't the whole story. It's likely that what looks like a win for Google will turn out to be a vindication for Microsoft's hybrid approach to the cloud rather than Google's cloud-only approach. And there are some broader lessons to learn as well.
Chrome OS: Chromebook users looking for an alternative to Google's set of editing tools can now turn to Microsoft Office, which is finally available on Chromebooks. The suite of office apps - Word, Powerpoint, Excel and Outlook - has been available on macOS, iOS and Android devices, but Chromebooks have been left out of the picture until recently. Depending on your device, however, it could cost you a few bucks for what most would consider essential features.
As Office 365 continues to become Microsoft's core productivity software platform, the premium, ad-free version of outlook.com is being shutdown with its features folded into Office 365 as of today. That means the only way to get an ad-free cloud-email service from Microsoft will be to pony up for the dearer Office 365.
Microsoft has announced the release of Visio Online so you can open and edit diagrams from just about any device. Although it will cost you an extra US$5 per month (assuming an annual commitment), that's pretty decent value. It allows your to share Visio diagrams which can be viewed for free using the iOS or online viewers.
If you're a browser-based user of Office 365 you'll see some changes. Microsoft has given the online version of their productivity suite a spruce up, refreshing the application launcher and improving the search tool. There's a also a task-based tool that suggests which tool to use to best complete a particular job
Skype for Business is joining the Microsoft Teams family, as the company marches forth on their quest to crack the enterprise collaboration nut. While Skype may have started life as a way to disrupt the traditional telco business, it's become a key tool for businesses wanting to connect distributed teams.
At the Microsoft Inspire conference being held this week, the company announced a number of new products and programs to their global partner network. Office 365 has been bundled with Windows 10 and Enterprise Mobility + Security. Their Surface as a Service program is in Australia and three partners are delivering an on-perm Azure stack for those wanting to run private cloud solutions.