In its continuing effort to make Office 365 the be-all and end-all of enterprise and business productivity software, Microsoft has laid out an aggressive rollout plan for 2017. New features for Office 365 will be released every month during the year, and if your enterprise is in the fast track program, you'll be seeing the new features very soon indeed.
Looking over the list of new Office 365 features currently in development, you are bound to find a few to get excited about. Here are five features due to arrive sometime in 2017 that interest me.
1. Real-time transcription and translation of Skype Meeting Broadcast
Skype Meeting Broadcast is an application within Skype for Business that allows enterprises to host and broadcast meetings to a large audience. With this new feature, enterprises will be able to automatically share the closed-captioning transcript from a meeting with the audience. The audience can choose to have the transcript translated into these languages: English, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, and German.
2. Bitcoin currency support
In 2017, Excel will be able to recognize, format, calculate, and analyze numbers expressed in Bitcoin currency. The new feature will be available for Excel running under Windows 10, Android, Mac OS, and iOS, and will include Excel Mobile versions as well.
3. Conditional access policies for locations and apps
As the collaborative aspects of Office 365 continue to grow and develop, IT pros are rightly becoming more and more concerned about security. Microsoft is therefore adding several new and updated administrative features for Office 365, including the ability to establish broad policies limiting access to the enterprises' Office 365 applications based on location. There will also be more options for limiting access to specific Office applications based on the user and their permission status.
4. New data gathering and shaping capabilities for Excel
Just about every enterprise, big or small, has at least one employee who is considered the Excel power user for the company, the department, or the team. Well, that person is going to be pleased with Microsoft's plan to add capabilities to the Power Query section of the Excel Data Tab. For those who don't know about it, Power Query provides an intuitive and consistent experience for discovering and connecting to a broad range of data sources, such as Azure databases, Hadoop, Salesforce, Facebook, and even third-party websites.
5. OneNote improvements for classroom and collaboration
OneNote will be getting a lot of attention from Microsoft developers in 2017. One of the more interesting uses for OneNote, and one that Microsoft seems to be promoting heavily, is as a classroom tool. To that end, Microsoft will be adding several new features that make transferring access control between staff easier. This could have implications for enterprises too. There are also plans to make it easier and more intuitive for users to share OneNote notebooks.
The year ahead
While I have wondered publicly whether Office 365 is getting too many features for its own good, Microsoft doesn't seem concerned about that at all. In fact, judging from the plethora of features on the horizon in 2017, Microsoft appears determined to provide the only productivity software any enterprise will ever need. Hold on to your hats and enjoy the ride.
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What new Office 365 features are you looking forward to? Is there a feature you wish were on the way? Share your thoughts with your fellow IT pros in the discussion thread below.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.