The dirty little secrets of Word’s new Rewrite feature


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There are three little ‘gotchas’ with the Rewrite feature in Word 365 for Windows.  One is unprecedented in the history of Microsoft Office.  The ‘public’ feature isn’t available to everyone.

Rewrite is the new cloud service that suggests alternatives to phrases in a document.

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The way it’s been released to the public is unusual and has prompted many emails to Office Watch.

“ Where’s my Rewrite?  I have Word 365 v 12026.20264, fully updated but no sign of Rewrite.  Windows 10 is also fully patched and my Office 365 plan has 6 months to go.  What’s wrong? “    Jimmy J, Kansas.

Still in Preview

Even though Rewrite is on Microsoft publicly released features for Office 365 for Windows, it’s still a preview or beta test feature.

There’s only one clue to the ‘not ready for prime time’ status, and that’s on the right-click menu.  It’s still labelled Rewrite (Preview).

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Normally features are previewed to Insiders who choose to accept the risks of trying new code.  Once Microsoft thinks the feature is ready (or at least safe) the ‘preview’ label is removed and the option is added to public releases of Office.

In this case, the preview software has been released to the public.  Presumably Microsoft thinks it’s good enough but wants to cover itself from any complaints with the ‘preview’ figleaf.

It’s in Microsoft’s interests to make Rewrite public, it gives the company more people using the feature and a lot more phrases and responses to analyze.

The ‘preview’ excuse doesn’t explain why some people can’t get Rewrite.

Only half of customers get Rewrite

Only 50% of Office 365 customers get Rewrite in their copy of Word. It’s entirely random.

We have two neighboring test machines, same version of Word 365 and Windows 10, one has Rewrite, the other does not.

This is the unprecedented part.  Office-Watch.com has been watching Microsoft Office for over twenty years and can’t recall a ‘public’ feature being restricted in such a random way.

The 50/50 split has been going on all through the Insiders testing of Rewrite.  It’s surprising and disappointing the limitation continues in the public release.

Presumably the ‘half on/half off’ is to reduce the demand on Microsoft’s cloud servers which provide the Rewrite suggestions.  If Redmond’s server farms can’t cope yet, why make the feature public?

If you’re not seeing ‘Rewrite’ in your Word 365 for Windows, there’s nothing you can do but wait.

English only

Last and definitely not least, Rewrite is an English only feature, at least for now.

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