Microsoft adds real-time collaboration to PowerPoint and Outlook cloud attachments

Four new Microsoft Office 365 updates aim to help enterprise users collaborate better. The most useful one may be a powerful new capability in OneDrive.


Microsoft Office's latest update includes mobile notifications for changes to shared documents.

Image: Microsoft

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced four new features that will allow for easier collaboration among users--especially those in the enterprise.

The updates, which include real-time collaboration in PowerPoint and the ability to move attachments to the cloud in Outlook, follow a number of recent steps Microsoft has taken to enhance its enterprise offerings. Earlier this month, it announced a new chat-based workspace, Teams, as a Slack competitor for Office 365 users. It also recently released a scheduling assistant for Outlook on iOS, and a Power BI data visualization toolset.

The new updates allow Office 365 users to do the following:

1. Collaborate in real time in PowerPoint

Users can now share a PowerPoint slide deck with others, and update the document together in real-time, said Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team, in a blog post. This means you can see what a colleague is adding or changing in a slide deck as it happens.

SEE: Google Apps vs. Office 365: A side-by-side analysis (Tech Pro Research)

This addition does not come as a surprise: When Office 2016 launched last year, Microsoft said it was committing to expanding real-time co-authoring to each of the company's native apps over time. Microsoft Word has already rolled out this feature.

Real-time collaboration is currently available for PowerPoint on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers in the Office Insider program, and for PowerPoint Mobile on Windows Tablets.

2. Move attachments to the cloud and share with others in Outlook

With this update, Outlook users can "easily transform a traditional document into a shared cloud document right within Outlook," Koenigsbauer wrote in the blog post. While Outlook previously allowed users to attach cloud-based documents to an email, this marks an easier way to send large files and collaborate on those files with others.

Users can upload a file to their own OneDrive or a document library as part of an Office 365 Group, the post stated, and then designate sharing permissions for the email recipients.

This feature is now available in Outlook on the web, as well as for Outlook on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers.

3. Receive mobile notifications for changes to shared documents

With this update, users will receive mobile notifications when changes are made to shared cloud files in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. "Notifications let you know when changes are being made while you are away from a document, so you can stay connected and know when you need to act," Koenigsbauer wrote in the blog post.

This feature joins the integrated activity feed available on Windows desktops, to help business users improve collaboration. Users will receive notifications when documents are shared with others, and when they are edited. Koenigsbauer wrote that Microsoft will continue working on this notifications feature "to provide more detail and transparency around activity in shared documents in the future."

Sharing and editing notifications are currently available for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint users on Android and Windows Mobile for Office Insiders. This feature will be available for iOS users in December, and for commercial users in all Office mobile apps in the coming months.

4. Find, open, and save documents in a Shared with Me and Recent Folders tab

Microsoft added a Shared with Me Tab in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, to make it easier for enterprise users to find and open documents that colleagues shared without leaving the app you are working in. It will be similar to the feature in OneDrive, the post stated.

Users can also find a Recent Folders list in the Recent tab to help find files faster.

The Shared with Me feature is currently available in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on Windows desktops and Macs for all Office 365 subscribers, as well as on iOS and Android. It will soon be available on Windows Mobile. And the Recent Folders feature is now available in Word, Excel and PowerPoint on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers in the Office Insider program.

Office 365 is now available in 150 markets worldwide, the post stated. Other November updates include built-in accessibility with Learning Tools in the Office apps, and PowerPoint Online updates for education customers.

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