Office for Windows is now getting an extra on the Home pane – Recommended Documents which tries to suggest documents you’re involved with.
Recent Documents has been in Office for a long time. That’s a longer list of recently opened documents. It’s quite different from the new ‘Recommended Documents’.
Who gets Recommended Documents?
Microsoft hides away essential details about Recommended Documents and some other Office features. We’ll put them first so everyone is clear.
It’s mostly cloud related service. Documents, spreadsheets and presentations must be saved on OneDrive for Business or SharePoint.
In other words, it mostly applies to organizations using Office 365 hosting.
There’s also a software requirement. The latest releases of Office 365 for Mac, Office 365 for Apple iOS and Office Online all have support for Recommended Documents.
Office 365 for Windows was last to get the feature. Monthly Channel users need v 1908 or later. Monthly Channel (Targeted) v 1907. Semi-Annual Channel users have to wait until 2020.
What makes a document ‘Recommended’?
There’s machine learning system scanning documents in the organizations store for documents that are relevant to you.
The aim is to make a short list of files that are “… just what you need, saving you time and reducing distraction.”
In a simple scenario. Work on a document, then let someone else add a comment, share or @mention you.
Microsoft gives examples of documents that might appear in the Recommended Documents list.
- has had 3 different edits in the last day,
- you’ve been @mentioned with questions
- have 5 unread comments in an important presentation your team is working on
That’s pretty vague so it’s really a question of ‘suck it and see’ (try it out).
Each Recommended Document is shown in a little box with four elements.
Source: enlarged from a Microsoft image
- An icon according to the most significant activity and the person involved
- A timestamp to show how old the activity was.
- A document thumbnail
- File name and location
None that we can see. Microsoft has dumped Recommended Documents into Office on the arrogant assumption that it’s good, useful or even suitable.
There is no option to ‘Hide’ or ‘Remove from List’ a document from the list. You’re stuck with whatever Microsoft thinks must see, right or wrong.
Recommended Documents is dropped on the Home pane in Word, Excel and PowerPoint with no option to turn it off. Some users might prefer more space for the familiar recent documents instead of supposedly recommended ones.
Maybe there are administrator options, but we could not find any.
Worse, there’s no way for users to tell Microsoft much-hyped machine learning that a document is NOT applicable to them. Or that a ‘not listed’ document should be on the Recommended list.
How is machine learning supposed to learn if there’s no way for users to give feedback?