Microsoft has dumped a lot of news in a single day. As a result there’s a lot of misunderstanding and, sorry to say, misreporting. Journos not accustomed to Microsoft’s PR tricks have fallen for them. We’ll try to ‘unpack’ what’s been announced into what’s happening now, in the known future or just sometime in the vague future.
Talk of today’s announcements as a ‘radical makeover’ is grossly overstating what’s happened. Most of the ‘new’ features are either extensions of existing Office abilities or somewhat vague promises of future additions.
Office-Watch.com will have more on these changes in detail because, as usual with Microsoft, the devil is in the detail. Like any large company, they would not be doing this expensive changeover unless there was more money to be made.
Office 365 becomes Microsoft 365
This is no surprise to those of us who watch Microsoft and Office closely. Office-Watch.com told our readers about this six months ago Four signs that Office 365 will become Microsoft 365 with the main clue being Microsoft’s denial!
We said back then”
“renaming and rebranding will NOT change the way we use Microsoft Office on a daily basis. Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc will continue to work as usual.”
That’s true and worth keeping in mind. In a very strange world, Microsoft Office continues to work as usual even though the branding is changing.
The rebranding happens on 21 April 2020.
Teams for Home / Families
This is the other big announcement today which has been misunderstood.
Yes, there will be a version of Microsoft Teams for families. The name isn’t known yet (Teams for Home, Teams for Families?) and neither is the cost.
It’s a good move because Microsoft knows there are many families which already keep in touch with tools intended for small businesses. Shared calendars in Outlook, Group Messaging in WhatsApp/Signal, shared documents and worksheets via cloud storage. More advanced families are using Slack to manage their clan. Microsoft wasn’t going to lose market share to rivals.
People can ask to join a preview of Teams for families now. There’s no date for public release.
Microsoft Editor is an enhanced spelling, thesaurus and grammar tool for Word and PowerPoint for Windows and Online (not Mac, grrrr). This is already in Office 365 for Windows.
What’s new are the add-ins for Edge and Chrome browsers which bring Editor features to any online text editing like emails.
Now. Microsoft is available in Office 365 and Online plus via the browser add-ins.
PowerPoint Presenter Coach
Presenter Coach is another machine learning/ AI tool which ‘listens’ to your presentation (as a rehearsal) and gives suggestions on how to improve it. It’s been in PowerPoint Online for a little while as a form of public preview.
Coach checks for things like talking too fast/slow, reading the slides, saying ‘umm’ a lot.
New in the Coach are checks for monotone pitch and making grammar suggestions (‘speech refinements’).
It’s now available in PowerPoint Online under Slide Show | Rehearse with Coach.
Microsoft hasn’t said which PowerPoint have or will get Coach. There’s no sign of it in PowerPoint for Windows or Mac, yet.
All they’ve said is:
“These new Presenter Coach features will be available to everyone through a free preview, and then eventually only to Microsoft 365 subscribers.”
“PowerPoint Presenter Coach is only available in English and is currently in preview”
Designer got off to a rocky start with a limited set of suggestions. Quietly, over time, the suggestions have broadened. Rather than being the ‘one click’ solution that Microsoft’s hypes, we see Designer as a quick way to reformat a slide before adding your own changes.
What’s new is the announcement of more resources for Designer to choose from:
“… over 8,000 beautiful images and 175 looping videos from Getty Images, plus 300 new fonts and 2,800 new icons.”
The term ‘icons’ isn’t the Icons available in Office 365/2019 from the Insert menu.
Now in any Powerpoint which has Designer, Windows, Mac and Online.
Word and Excel Templates
There are over 200 new ‘premium’ templates available in Word 365 and Excel 365.
Notably there are templates for coloring books and reward charts (search for those terms in Word and Excel, File | New ) to help keep kids entertained.
According to Microsoft there are templates for “resume, wedding invitation, newsletter, birth announcement, and so much more”
Now, for Office 365 customers but for how long?
Looking at one of the new ‘Premium’ templates it says “Complimentary access through April”. Does that mean there’s some new plan coming for ‘premium’ template access? There’s no mention of any such limitation even in the fine print of the announcement.
Smart Templates and New Data Types in Excel
This could be interesting but part of the announcement is mysterious.
Data Types sounds great. Excel 365 already has two special data types ‘Stock’ and ‘Geography’ that we’ve covered at length both online and in our ebook Real Time Excel. It was obvious there was room for more data types and now we have a little better idea what’s coming.
The example is a Food data type. Enter a food name, lookup with the Food data type and you’ll get access to nutritional information like calories, fat, carbohydrates.
There’s ‘over 100’ new data types supplied by Wolfram Alpha, other data types include Animals, Movies, Places, Chemistry, and (heaven help us) Pokémon.
Our concern about the data types is the reliability and consistency of the data. The Stock data type is good, coming from established financial sources. But Geography data type is a mess because it’s just screen scraping info from Wikipedia etc. As we said back in 2018 “you’d need to check any of the Geo results before using in any serious calculations.”
There’s passing mention of Smart Templates but that’s all. No word from Microsoft on what they are, what’s different let alone ‘Smart’. They seem to be linked to the new data types, probably demonstrations of how to use the data types.
“Office Insiders this spring and to Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscribers in English in the coming months.”
We assume Microsoft means ‘northern Spring’ so sometime in the coming months of 2020 for Insiders and maybe the second half of the year for Microsoft 365 customers.
These are iOS and Android apps to help parents track their family members movements and online use.
Location Sharing will tell you where your clan are (or at least where their phone is) with alerts when they leave chosen locations (school, home, work etc). Even Driving Reports to see how well/badly they are handling the car.
Family Safety app will also track all use of the smartphone or Xbox. Monitor how much time they spend online or playing games. Also tracking access to inappropriate content for their age.
How many kids will react to this kind of monitoring is another matter.
A limited preview of the Android and iOS apps ‘in the coming months’.
Office/Microsoft 365 has expanded the number of companies who are offering trial versions of their subscription offerings.
Most notably Adobe’s Premier Rush, Acrobat Pro DC and Creative Cloud plans. Also Bark, Blinkist, Creative Live, Experian, Headspace, and TeamSnap.
Read the FINE PRINT all these offers come with limtations. Go to Partner Benefits to see what’s available in your country and check the tiny, tiny footnotes.