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Office 365 Getting 'Document Conversations' Capability This Summer

Microsoft is adding the ability to collaborate using its Yammer social networking solution from within Office 365 document files.

This new "document conversations" capability appears as a panel on the right side of a document. Users can stay within a document and chat with members of an internal Yammer group. The new capability will be rolling out to Office 365 subscribers sometime this summer, according to Microsoft's announcement on Tuesday.

The document conversations capability has a few dependencies at present. It only works with documents saved into Microsoft's cloud via SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business. In addition, Office 365 users need to be using Office Online apps to access this Yammer chatting capability. Office desktop users don't currently have it available. Office Online apps, formerly known as Office Web Apps, are versions of Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint and Word that run in a browser.

Yammer document conversations don't just work with typical Office Online files. They also work with 30 file types, including Adobe Reader files (.PDF), video files (.MP4, .AVI) and graphics formats (.PNG and .GIF).

Microsoft enables the Yammer document conversations capability for internal teams, using either public or private groups. It doesn't currently work for users outside the corporate network. Users within a corporate Yammer group can see the conversations associated with a document, but they will still need permissions to access it.

The documents get tracked using Microsoft's Graph protocol that was described back in March. If a file gets renamed, it gets tracked via a new link. Subsequent conversations then get associated with that new file link. Graph is a new information fabric for Office 365 that works across Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Yammer. It supports a new search capability, code-named "Oslo," and a new "Groups" capability, both of which are planned for release sometime this year for Office 365 subscribers.

In addition to the coming Yammer improvements, Microsoft made lots of improvements to its Office 365 services last month. It updated its client apps, such as OneNote for iPhone and Mac and Lync Mobile for Android. It added forecasting capabilities to Power BI for Office 365. In addition, SAP Business Objects can now be connected to Power BI for Office 365. Microsoft also announced some improvements for IT pros managing Office 365 services, including a DNS checking capability and automatic assignment of licenses to end users. There's also a new Office 365 "technical network" for IT pros and developers (sign-up required).

Microsoft provides a summary of its various May Office 365 improvements in this blog post.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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