Artificial Intelligence

Intelligent Office tools, SQL Server 2019 preview and Microsoft 365 Search head up AI-themed releases at Ignite

Updates that provide new automated tools and intelligent behaviors aimed at simplifying daily were revealed at the Microsoft Ignite conference today.

Microsoft has announced a range of new AI-assisted tools for existing products and cloud services.

These updates seek to provide new automated features and intelligent behaviors for simplifying daily workflows and were revealed at the Microsoft Ignite conference today.

These updates include:

Microsoft Search

    Microsoft Search is a new feature that will be available to businesses running Microsoft 365, the suite of software and services that includes Windows 10 Enterprise and Office 365.

    Windows 10 and Microsoft 365 apps will be able to use the built-in search tool to locate documents, content, and other data — both inside and outside of an organization — without leaving the Microsoft 365 app.

    The new service uses both the Microsoft Graph and machine-learning technology from Bing to make results relevant. Microsoft Search will be available in preview from today in select apps and services, and will eventually come to the Edge web browser, Windows 10, and Office apps.

    SQL Server 2019 public preview

    This latest release updates the relational database with new big data capabilities that enable it to be used for a wide range of tasks, including OLTP, data warehousing and Business Intelligence (BI), as well as what Microsoft calls "AI and advanced analytics".

    Microsoft says these new features are designed to turn SQL Server into a "hub for data insights", allowing data to be analysed without being moved between silos.

    Built-in support for Spark and Hadoop Distributed File System also makes it easier for data scientists to ingest, store and analyze large amounts of data, and new connectors enable other databases like Oracle, Teradata and MongoDB to be queried directly from SQL Server.

    Ideas in Office

    Starting with Excel and PowerPoint, users will be able to click the lightning bolt icon in Excel or PowerPoint to launch the Ideas pane, which provides app-specific suggestions for designs, layouts, and images, tailored to what the user is working on.

    For instance, in PowerPoint, Ideas recommends designs, layouts, and images, and in Excel, it recognizes trends, suggests charts and identifies outliers in data.

    Ideas is generally available in Excel today and will begin rolling out in preview soon to the other apps starting with PowerPoint Online.

    Excel upgrades

    Excel gains several minor upgrades, including the AI-powered Data Types tool being now generally available, and a new image recognition capability that lets users convert a picture of a data table into an editable Excel file. This Insert Data from Picture functionality is now available in public preview.

    Other Excel improvements include faster lookup-type functions, which now take seconds, instead of minutes.

    Microsoft Teams

      Microsoft Teams also gains the ability to automatically transcribe recorded meetings, providing a searchable transcript and automatic captions, alongside a new automatic background blur feature for video meetings.

      Office 365

      Office 365 will be able to be connect to LinkedIn accounts, allowing users to send emails and share documents with people directly connected to you on LinkedIn. Users will be able to share content directly from Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

      Microsoft also announced that, later this year, meeting invites will display LinkedIn information about other participants.

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      About Nick Heath

      Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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