Where are all the new Office 365 features?


Office 365 customers read about new and changed features in ‘Office 365’ but they don’t appear in the software they’ve bought.  Where are these missing features?

Microsoft loves announcing new stuff in ‘Office 365’ and, seemingly, can’t bring themselves to tell customers of any limitations. Even in a footnote.

Just because something is announced for ‘Office 365’ doesn’t mean it’s available to ALL Office 365 customers or all Office software versions or even on the date it’s announced.  Customers and the media need to be careful taking Microsoft’s announcements at face value.

Beware ‘Office 365’ – what does that mean?

Microsoft talks about availability for ‘Office 365’ without saying if the feature is available for Office 365 consumers, Outlook.com, Office 365 Enterprise, hosted at Microsoft Office 365, which Office releases, when it’ll be available or even which languages!

Many ‘Office 365’ features are not available to everyone who buys a package with that name.

There can be good reasons for the limitations. Increasingly, Office features are a cloud based service (Microsoft loves to say ‘AI’) which justifies an ongoing ‘subscription’.  Other times the limitation is a marketing move to encourage customers into Office 365 annual payments.

But many other times a non-specific ‘Office 365’ product announcement is a deliberate obfuscation to fool customers and an uncritical media.

Here’s some of unstated limitations possible when Microsoft says something is available for ‘Office 365’ with some recent examples.

When?

Just because you read about a new Office feature for your software and subscription doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use it? Microsoft can’t help prematurely announcing features for Office

This adds to the amount of Office ‘news’ with a pliant media copying the premature announcement and later another press release when the product is really available.

For example, the announcement of ‘December 2018’ additions to Office 365  (“Here’s a look at what’s new in December.”) is headlined by a new PowerPoint feature, Live Captions and Translations, that won’t be available until January 2019!

At least this announcement is specific about which PowerPoint’s are getting Live Captions and Translations and when.  That’s more detail than other announcements get.

Another ‘December 2018’ announcement for Office 365 is Reuse slides in PowerPoint which is stated as “…  will be available in January for all Office 365 subscribers.” There’s no hint why it’s being announced a month early.

It’s also not stated which Office 365 software will get this feature.  PowerPoint for Windows is used in the accompanying image but what about Mac, Online, Apple and Android users?  It’s quite possible Reuse Slides is only available for presentations shared on SharePoint and OneDrive for Business. So many unanswered questions.

Office 365 Enterprise only

Quite often the feature is limited to Office 365 Enterprise customers who have their back-office (Exchange Server, SharePoint, OneDrive etc.) hosted at Microsoft.  But you’ll be hard pressed to find that mentioned in the public announcement.

Another example from the December 2018 announcement is the ‘Acronyms’ feature supposedly in Word.  It’s supposed to be “… now available for all Office 365 subscribers.” but you’ll be hard pressed to find it in Word Online (which is the accompanying image), let alone Word 365 for Windows or Mac.

We suspect the Acronyms is only for Office 365 Enterprise customers but that’s only because of the reference to ‘Microsoft Graph’.

There’s no explicit statement on who can get Acronyms but it’s certainly not ‘…all Office 365 subscribers’.

Exchange Server required

Outlook features are often promoted without clear mention of the requirement for an Exchange Server connection.  Gmail and other email accounts won’t get those ‘Outlook’ features.

Not just Exchange Server, but specific versions or hosts of Exchange Server, again usually not detailed.

Most of the latest ‘Outlook’ features need Exchange Server hosted by Microsoft as part of an Office 365 Enterprise plan. Microsoft wants to sell hosting direct, so they keep the best features to themselves.

Other features might be supported by a separately hosted Exchange Server but it depends on which version of Exchange Server your Outlook is connected to.

Outlook.com

Similarly, some ‘Outlook’ features can be expanded beyond corporate Exchange Server accounts to include Outlook.com customers.  Or Outlook.com customers with a linked Office 365 Home/Personal plan formerly Outlook.com Premium.

Windows, Mac, Online or devices

When you read about the new Office feature, check exactly which software is getting it and when.

The normal development path for new Office features is Office 365 for Windows desktop first, then Office 365 for Mac then later Office Online and devices for Apple or Android.

There are exceptions to that usual path.  Word for Mac is the first to get a To Do list option even though Microsoft promotional images were from Word for Windows.

Language limitations

Sometimes there are limits on features according to the installed language (for Office menus etc.). Too often those limits are not made clear.

English language users (US, Canada, UK, Aussie, Ennzed etc.) always get Office features first. Microsoft is a US company which uses English as it’s ‘lingua franca’ across the globe so that’s understandable.

Any delay in release for non-English languages is usually short, a matter of months at most.

Most commonly, the delay is wrangling together all the language translations for menus, ribbon, help that apply to the new feature. Occasionally more time is needed to implement and test features in ‘right to left’ or more complex scripts.

At present, Excel 365’s Stock and Geography data type is limited to English language versions of Excel.  That was stated from the outset, but not all Office teams are as transparent.

Eventually, Office features are available in all languages. We just wish Microsoft was more open about this and other limitations.

 


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