Posey's Tips & Tricks

Latest Round of Office 365 Updates Show Some Love to Apple Users

Whether you like Apple or not, this is an important step in Microsoft's effort to solidify Office and Office 365 as industry standards.

This week, Microsoft announced its latest round of updates to Office 365. Not entirely surprisingly, the vast majority of the new features and capabilities were aimed at Apple users.

Before I get into a discussion of the substance of the announcement, I want to point out one thing that I found interesting. Lately, Microsoft has been placing a heavy emphasis on Office 365 use within schools and educational environments. This trend meshes almost perfectly with the improvements that Microsoft is making to Office 365 on Mac and iOS. After all, Apple devices have been a staple in educational environments for decades. This was true long before Apple products began to gain mainstream popularity rivaling that of Windows.

So let's get back to the topic at hand and talk about the latest improvements to Office 365. The most significant update that Microsoft has given Apple users is support for document co-authoring on iOS and Mac for Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The really good news about this feature is that it is platform-independent, meaning that Mac and iOS users can co-author documents, even if the other authors are using PCs.

Another new feature that Microsoft has introduced is auto-save capabilities for Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The PC version of these applications has had auto-save capabilities for quite some time, but now Apple users can enjoy the same benefit. There is, however, one caveat: Auto-save for iOS and Mac only works for documents that are saved to SharePoint or OneDrive.

Another welcome feature that Microsoft has introduced is drag-and-drop content authoring for iOS. Drag-and-drop content authoring refers to the ability to drag files (such as pictures) directly into an Office document and have them rendered as document content. This has been a part of Office for years, but will now be available to iPad and iPhone users.

Microsoft has also brought the Immersive Reader and Read Aloud tools to Word for Mac. In addition, the search interface on Outlook for iOS has been improved so that search results can include things like travel itineraries and package deliveries.

Finally, Microsoft has extended the file preview feature on iOS so that more than 130 types of files can be previewed. It is also worth noting that OneDrive for iOS natively supports the iOS 11 Files app. Hence, iOS users now have full access to OneDrive.

I have written in the past about how I get the feeling that Windows has begun falling out of favor with The Powers That Be at Microsoft, because the company has been placing such a large emphasis on Linux over the last few years. In spite of this trend, I don't see this Apple-heavy update to Office 365 as further evidence of Windows becoming the product that Microsoft wants to forget about.

The Mac and iOS versions of Office 365 have always lagged a bit behind the Windows versions. By making the latest Office 365 update so heavily focused on Apple platforms, Microsoft is merely bringing those platforms more in line with Windows. Whether you like Apple or not, this is an important step because it will ultimately lead to an Office 365 experience that is more consistent across platforms, thereby solidifying Office 365's position as an industry standard. Never mind the fact that offering a more consistent cross platform experience will make life easier for those who might use a PC at work and an Apple device at home.

Incidentally, not all of the recent Office 365 improvements were geared toward Apple users. As expected, Microsoft announced a major improvement to Office 365 Teams. I plan to cover these improvements in detail in a separate blog post, but the short version is that Teams has taken on a look and feel that somewhat resembles Office 365 Planner (or Trello). The interface makes use of cards, and you can drag cards from apps into conversations. The example that Microsoft provides is that you might drag a Trello task into a conversation. Teams also has a new text entry box that accepts both search queries and commands.

Microsoft has also made a few minor improvements to Yammer, such as the ability to add animated GIFs to posts. You can read the full announcement here.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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