Posey's Tips & Tricks

What Would an Office 365 'Life' Edition Look Like?

Microsoft is widely expected to launch a new version of Office 365 next week aimed squarely at consumer users.

At the beginning of this year, I wrote a column in which I said that Microsoft is reportedly working on an Office 365 "Life Edition" geared toward consumers. While there's been no official confirmation of that rumor, Microsoft does plan to hold a virtual press event on March 30, where it is expected to officially announce the new edition (though it likely won't bear the "Life" moniker).

Very little is officially known about the new Office 365 edition, but leaks and rumors abound. According to my sources, the password manager that I wrote about in my aforementioned column is still a go. However, there are a few other noteworthy features that may also be introduced.

A Brand-New Grammar Tool
One of the new features alleged to be coming to the new edition of Office 365 is a completely redesigned grammar checker. As someone who writes an insane number of blog posts each month, I am really curious about this one. Let me explain why.

Back in college, I ended up getting stuck with an English professor who was a real stickler for grammar. I quickly realized that I needed to take drastic action if I wanted to maintain my GPA. After doing a bit of research, I found a third-party grammar checker. It was a bit on the pricey side and wasn't the easiest thing to use, but the grammar checker worked so well that I had no trouble getting an A in the class.

The reason I am telling you that story is because I took that class in 1992. The grammar checker that is built into Word is nowhere near as good as the third-party grammar checker that I was using 28 years ago.

Of course there are still third-party options available today. Grammarly is probably the best-known, but a number of tech publications have raised serious privacy concerns concerning Grammarly. I honestly don't know whether Grammarly is trustworthy, but I personally feel better sticking to Microsoft's native grammar checker. It will be interesting to see how the new Office 365 grammar checker compares to the one that Microsoft has been using for years (if indeed there is a new grammar checker).

Personal Finance Features
Another rumor that I have been hearing is that Microsoft is working on baking some new financing tools into Excel. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no information on what those tools will consist of (if they even exist), but I have a few ideas of my own.

Back in the '90s, Microsoft launched a personal finance product called Microsoft Money. It was part of the Microsoft Home series just like the infamous Microsoft Bob. I never actually used Microsoft Money, but from what I understand, it was a tool for keeping track of things like bill payment, a family budget, investing, retirement planning and taxes.

Because Microsoft already owns all of Microsoft Money's underlying code, there is no reason why it couldn't incorporate it into Excel. Of course, I'm sure that Microsoft would end up updating things a bit by modernizing the graphics and perhaps creating some sort of financial health dashboard. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Microsoft bake in a few tools, such as a loan payment calculator.

Family Safety
A third feature that is rumored to be making its way into the new Office 365 release is a family safety app. Supposedly, this application will support usage tracking and policy enforcement across all devices that are tied to a particular user's account. Again, I don't have access to any specific information, but I am envisioning tools for limiting screen time or for keeping kids from accessing specific types of online content.

There are also rumors that the family safety app will include real-time location tracking. Given that Microsoft owns Bing Maps and at one time offered location tracking services for lost Windows Phones, this rumor seems completely plausible.

We won't know for sure which rumors are true until Microsoft's official announcement. Assuming that the rumors do turn out to be true, though, I think that it is probably only a matter of time until some of these new capabilities begin to show up in Office 365 enterprise plans.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 16-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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