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Office 365 gets smarter with cloud-powered features

Engadget Engadget 26/07/2016 Devindra Hardawar
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In case you couldn't already tell, Microsoft is all about the cloud these days. Its cloud services were the highlight of its last earnings report, and now it's bringing even more cloud intelligence to the Office 365 subscription productivity suite. That includes new features for Word, Outlook and PowerPoint that'll make it easier for you to get work done.


If you find yourself hopping between a web browser and your Word documents a lot, you'll appreciate Researcher, a new feature that'll let you dive into reliable sources right from Word. It uses the Bing Knowledge Graph to identify information related to your document (you can also specify what you're looking for), and with a few clicks you can pull in quotes and other data into your files. Researcher will also properly cite where it's getting that information from.

Another new feature, Editor, powers up Word 2016's grammar proofing capabilities with the cloud. Microsoft says it's using machine learning, natural language processing and its own linguistic expertise to polish you're documents. Editor can suggest alternative phrasing when your language gets complicated, and it'll also alert you of possible word confusion (like when you might mean affect instead of effect).

It'll also get better over time, thanks to the cloud (and you can expect that to be true for all of the features mentioned today). Microsoft says an update this fall will add even more visual indicators to Word's proofing alerts -- grammar notifications will be highlighted with a blue double underline, while writing style alerts will get a gold dotted line.


Microsoft is bringing features from the now defunct Accompli mobile email app into Outlook 2016 on the desktop. That includes Focused Inbox, which highlights the most important emails you're getting, and "@mentions," which lets you alert specific people that a message is important when they view it in Outlook. Focused Inbox is something that first showed up in the Outlook mobile app, which now includes elements of Accompli and the mobile calendar app Sunrise. The @mentions feature, which first appeared on Outlook on the web, automatically adds people to the "To:" field when you mention them, and you'll also be able to filter messages that you're mentioned in.


Finally, Microsoft is letting you create more flexible presentations in PowerPoint 2016 with a feature called Zoom. Instead of just stepping through slides in numerical order, Zoom lets you bounce around from a single summary slide, so you can tailor presentations to specific audiences. You can also create Zoom slides to step through sections of your presentation. The feature will be available to Office Insider users on desktops today.

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