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Microsoft Outlines April Office 365 Improvements

Microsoft is blurring the lines of its Office 365 and Microsoft 365 messaging with its April product update announcements, which were quite plentiful.

In a Monday announcement, Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, who writes about monthly Office 365 improvements, conceded this point, saying that Microsoft was "consolidating updates from across Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security" in its announcements. That software combination essentially is Microsoft 365, a bundle of software licenses that replaced Microsoft's earlier Secure Productive Enterprise bundle. The Microsoft 365 product offering reached the "general availability" commercial stage in November of last year.

Microsoft described the Office 365-related updates that are getting lit up this month, and a few that will occur in June, although some of the features will be at the preview stage. It also earlier announced this month that "Multi-Geo Capabilities in Office 365" had reached general availability, permitting organizations using Office 365 to better meet data residency requirements.

Office 365 Productivity App Updates
As of this month, the PowerPoint presentation creation software can now convert hand-drawn shapes and writing into elements on a slide. It can convert all such drawn objects at the same time.

Also in April, Microsoft Word's "ink gestures" capability now lets users edit screen text with a digital pen. Users can insert text, split paragraphs and join words using pen gestures. Word for Mac users now have artificial intelligence support for translating text into over 60 languages. In addition, Microsoft added its "Resume Assistant" for Word for Mac users.

Microsoft also gave advance notice that it will be bringing "Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote" applications to Android and iOS devices. It will make these mobile applications available to "Office 365 Business Essentials, Office 365 F1 and Office 365 E1 subscribers" over the next few months.

It should be noted that OneNote 2016 will be the last desktop version of that product. Going forward, Microsoft instead plans to put its development efforts behind the Universal Windows Platform app version of OneNote.

Outlook Improvements This Month
Microsoft added a bunch of Outlook improvements this month. One of the more interesting additions is still at the preview stage. The "Centralized Deployment for Outlook Add-Ins" preview is a new tool for IT pros that lets them "quickly and easily deploy add-ins for Word, Excel, PowerPoint -- and now Outlook -- to individual users, groups, or an organization, right from the Office 365 Admin Center," Microsoft's announcement explained.

Microsoft this month generally expanded the ability to track meetings beyond the previous 500-recipient level for all Outlook clients, according to an announcement by the Microsoft Outlook team. Users can also now specify meetings and appointments across different time zones. Microsoft also added a "Draft Sync for iOS" feature, which lets end users write an e-mail on one device and continue working on it on another device. The Draft Sync feature is available now on "Outlook for Windows, Mac and Android," and it will be coming to Outlook for iOS sometime later this month.

On the iOS side, Outlook now has a "new Organization view" that displays details about a user's position in an organization. It shows their manager and coworkers, for instance. Microsoft also added the ability for the Outlook for iOS calendar to suggest room locations when creating a calendar event, which works via machine learning, the Microsoft Outlook team explained. This room location capability will be "coming soon" to Outlook for Windows as well.

Outlook for iOS users also now have a "quick reply" chat-like feature. This chat feature will be coming Outlook for Android sometime this month, and it'll be coming "later this summer to Outlook for Mac."

Outlook for Android users are getting a link to Office Lens technology this month. It lets them photograph an object, such as a document, photo or whiteboard, and get an automatically cropped and enhanced image, which gets put into an e-mail. Outlook for Android users also this month are getting the ability to block tracking by marketing companies by using images embedded in e-mails.

Outlook for iOS and Android both now have the ability to support the use of SOCKS proxies, which is a way to prevent mobile devices from directly connecting directly to a server.

Outlook for Windows will be getting a calendar improvement that lets meeting organizers prohibit calendar invitations from being forwarded to others via e-mail. It'll also be getting the ability to track meeting invitations responses. Both improvements will be "coming soon" to Outlook for Windows and Outlook on the Web ("Outlook Web App") clients. Outlook for Windows now shows a warning message when there's a "blind copy" (BCC) involved in an e-mail reply.

Outlook.com users now have a bill-tracking capability. It will "identify bills you receive in e-mail, show you a summary at the top, and automatically add a calendar event on the due date," according to the Microsoft Outlook team. It sends reminders via e-mail two days before the bill's due date.

Outlook Improvements in June
Microsoft plans to add the ability to see your "favorite people" in Outlook for iOS and Outlook for Android sometime in "June 2018."

Outlook for iOS users will be getting the ability next month to view group events and access the group's OneNote notebook, as well as track events.

Microsoft also will add the ability to "enforce corporate policies on mobile devices to allow a single account in Outlook," both for iOS and Android devices, sometime next month.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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