Word online gets Insight and PDF reading

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Slow, but surely, the online version of Microsoft Office gets better.

Word online will never have everything that Word for Windows or Mac does, but it’s becoming more viable for occasional users and as a backup in case your usual software fails.

It also adds some interesting features that’s aren’t available in the traditional software.

‘Tell me what you want to do’ is an improvement over the current help.  Type in a question and there’s a better chance that you’ll get a useful answer.  This has been in Office online for some time now but, as we’ll see, it gets a new twist in the Dec 2014 update.


New in the December 2014 update is ‘Insights’.

Right-click on a word, choose ‘Insights’ and it will open a pane with results from Bing based on the word.  Microsoft says the results also take into account the context of the word in the sentence.  The Explore pane has results, images and web links.

There are links to more information including ‘More Quick Insights’ and ‘More from Wikipedia’

While the Define tab has, surprise, surprise, a definition of the selected word:

Insights will work for multiple word selections.  It’s also available from the Review tab and the ‘Tell me what you want to do’ field.

It’s true!  Microsoft can now answer the great questions of mankind; The Meaning of Life, World Peace, the number 42 etc.  Some harmless nerd fun can be had asking meaningful, deep questions of Insight … to see if it has any.

Text Recognition in PDF’s

As we’ve mentioned before, many PDF’s have a hidden text layer which makes them easy to search and convert but others have just an image of the page.

Word Online can now do OCR (Optical Character Recognition) on PDF’s, though Microsoft doesn’t call it that.  You can open a PDF, convert it to a Word document with a better chance that the result will be readable text in roughly the right formatting.

Use this to make an editable document from PDF’s made from photos taken with a smartphone (e.g. the Office Lens for Windows Phone).

Naturally the example given by Microsoft works perfectly.  In the real world, the conversions won’t be so complete … but it’s easier and faster to check a converted PDF then have to retype the whole damn thing.

This feature would be even better when/if extended to work with images, so any photo of a document taken by any smartphone/camera could be made into a Word document.

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