‘Tell me’ help box is now in Microsoft/Office 365 for Mac as a way to find features on the ribbon. However it continues to have the same limitations that are in the Windows version.
Look for the lightbulb and ‘Tell me’ box beside the ribbon tabs.
Type in a phrase and Office will show relevant (hopefully) features. Not just help but the actual buttons or menu items. Click on the Tell me result to do that action. In this case ask ‘add a table’ and the Add Table command appears with the flyout to set the rows & columns.
Tell me is a Microsoft cloud service. Anything you type is sent to their servers.
The new help uses Microsoft’s natural language so you can type human like phrases and it should show a relevant result even if you don’t use Office terminology. Like this example ‘make letters bigger’.
Or the slightly different results for ‘make words bigger’ which adds Thesaurus into the results (in case the person means ‘ bigger ‘ not in size).
Missing help topics
It’s not hard to find strangeness in Tell Me. Things that you’d expect the system to easily handle but doesn’t. There are way too many missing items from the Tell Me database for Mac or Windows version of Office 365.
For all the hype about Tell Me, Microsoft hasn’t bothered to put all the existing features of Office into the system.
We’re not talking about obscure settings either, one of the basic Office features is completely AWOL.
We tried ‘find’ expecting to see results for the Find and Advanced Find commands and maybe also ‘Replace’, instead we got nothing directly relevant.
Even typing the exact name of a setting doesn’t show that feature (‘Keep lines together’ is at Paragraph | Line & Page Breaks).
The same option isn’t ‘seen’ in Office for Windows either, in fact ‘Tell Me’ shows even less results!
Microsoft has focused on the promotable ‘natural language’ part of this new help system and overlooked the basics. Just going through all the existing features and settings to make sure that ‘Tell Me’ covers all the Office bases.
Short term fix
‘Tell me’ is a short-term fix. It’s great to help people get the immediate task done but that doesn’t teach those people where those features are on the ribbon or dialog box.
Look at our first example, ‘Add Table’. ‘Tell Me’ lets the user quickly add a table and get on with their document, but it doesn’t show them that Insert Table is on the Insert tab (along with other insert options).
Rather than learning quicker and better ways to use Office, novices keep returning to ‘Tell Me’.
That’s probably OK by Microsoft because the reliance on ‘Tell Me’ boosts the use of it and increases the amount of data they collect about customers.
‘Tell me’ also doesn’t help users learn keyboard shortcuts. Even really simple ones like Bold are overlooked in Office for Mac.
Search for ‘Page Break’ and the correct option appears but no tip that Ctrl + Enter will do the job much faster.
‘Tell Me’ is a welcome addition to Office 365 for Mac but the whole system needs a lot more detailed work than Microsoft has given it so far. Feel free to use it but be prepared to be let down.