Software

Microsoft boosts Office productivity with AI for Word and other features

Microsoft 365 got a number of upgrades this month aimed at increasing user productivity and focus.

Microsoft Office 365 users will see a number of upgrades this month, including new capabilities to simplify common tasks in workflows, saving time and increasing productivity, according to a Thursday Microsoft blog post.

Microsoft Word received several new features powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that aim to help users focus on their writing. When a user types a to-do item, like "TODO: finish this section," Word will recognize and track the items for you. When you come back to the document, you will see a list of remaining to-dos, and you can click each one to navigate back to the right spot in the doc, the post said.

The feature also has a collaboration tool built in: If a user @mentions someone within a to-do item, Word will email that person a notification with a link to the relevant place in the document.

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These features are now available in preview for Word on the Mac for Office Insiders. Availability for all Office 365 subscribers will be coming soon, the post said.

Microsoft also announced a number of other updates for 365 products in the post:

  • Microsoft Teams app: Users of the app on iOS and Android can now schedule meetings, search for colleagues within your organization's directory, and set Quiet Hours to control push notifications. These features are all available now.
  • Outlook Tasks: An updated Tasks feature in Outlook on the web lets users create a task by dragging and dropping an email into your Tasks pane. You can also more easily schedule a task by dragging it from the Tasks pane into your calendar. The tasks will also travel to the To-Do app for easier access. This new capability will start rolling out to customers who opt into the new Outlook on the web in December.
  • Outlook sign in: Users with an Office 365 account who use Outlook on the web will be able to sign into their work or school accounts through www.outlook.com, starting in December. Outlook will redirect them from that page to their organization's sign in page, which will be pre-populated with their email address for easier sign in.
  • PowerPoint upgrades: PowerPoint Editor will use machine learning and natural language processing to provide a smart proofing and editing service that gives users recommendations for their writing. For example, Editor highlights and offers suggestions to fix awkward word choices or incorrect grammar. Editor in PowerPoint will be available to all users with an Office 365 subscription beginning in December.
  • Forms integrates with PowerPoint: Microsoft Forms is now integrated with PowerPoint for Office 365, allowing users to insert forms and quizzes within PowerPoint presentations to gain audience feedback.

Other Microsoft updates announced this week include redesigned Office app icons and the ability to use Windows Hello or a FIDO2 device to sign into Microsoft accounts on the Edge browser, instead of usernames and passwords, our sister site ZDNet reported.

Office 365 remains dominant in the enterprise, but Google's G Suite is rapidly gaining ground. Updates like this, particularly those that allow for improved collaboration, could help Microsoft keep pole position.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Microsoft Office 365 added several new capabilities to simplify common tasks in workflows to save time and increase productivity.
  • Updates include AI integrations in Microsoft Word and smart editing capabilities in PowerPoint.

Also see

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About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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