The September 2021 release preview has a lot more than usual new and updated features in Office 365 for Windows. Almost as if Microsoft has been saving them up for a bumper surprise!
It’s all in the ‘Current Channel (Preview)’ release v2109 build 14430.20088 that’s out now. This is the last stage before the updates are pushed out to all customers.
Here’s Microsoft’s summary of the changes with links to details from Office Watch. We’ve trimmed some of Microsoft’s excessive prose and added some of our own quick notes.
Add WebP images to Office creations
WebP is a modern image format that offers better compression for publishing images to the web. We’ve now added support in Office apps for WebP images! To add a WebP image to your creation in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or Outlook, just go to the Insert tab, select Pictures > This Device, choose your image, and click Insert.
Word, Excel, PowerPoint
Support added for OpenDocument format 1.3
Support for the newest version of OpenDocument format (ODF) 1.3 is now available in Office! The ODF 1.3 specification adds support for many features already supported by the Office Open XML (OOXML) format; these features can now be saved by Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (file extensions .odt, .ods, and .odp). To use the new format, just click File > Save As and in the Save as type field, select the OpenDocument format.
Apply default sensitivity labels when modifying existing files
Up until now, default sensitivity labels, configured by your administrator, were automatically applied when a file was created. Now, labels are applied whenever a document, worksheet, or presentation is either created or modified. Note that you can select a different label if one better matches the sensitivity of a given file.
Word and Outlook
Natural-sounding voices with Read Aloud
Read Aloud now features more natural-sounding voices for an improved listening experience. To access the feature, click the Read Aloud button (found on the Message tab in Outlook and on the Review tab in Word). To switch between different voice options, select the Settings icon at the upper-right corner of your message or document and click the Voice Selection drop-down menu. (Note: You must be connected to the internet to access this feature.)
Office Watch notes: A typically and unnecessarily vague explanation from Microsoft, possibly to obscure the reduction of voice selection from three to two. The Voice Select drop-down now has only Male and Female options (right) instead of the previous three (David, Zira and Mark, shown left). The new voices are definitely better; clearer and less robotic than their predecessors.
Hide the flyout for query information
If you use queries in Excel, you know that hovering over the query name in the task pane opens a preview flyout, with information about that query. You might prefer to hide this preview; now you can easily do it. To hide the query preview flyouts, go to the Data tab, then select Get Data > Query Options. In Global > General, uncheck the option Show the query peek when hovering on a query in the Queries task pane.
Turn off Suggested Replies
Outlook makes it easy to reply faster to emails by offering short suggested replies for messages that can be answered with just a few words. Some users may not want to see this option, so it’s now possible to turn the feature off. To do so, select File > Options > Mail, go to the Replies and Forwards section, and clear the Show suggested replies check box.
Learn about your organization with Org Explorer
Outlook now features Org Explorer, a new app that enables you to contextualize, visualize, and explore the people and teams around you. To give it a try, select the Org Explorer icon from the left app bar. You’ll see a pleasing visual display showing the people from your team or organization; select a person’s card or icon to view more details about them.
View vital details in the Profile card
Are you sending a coworker an urgent email at 3 a.m. (where they’re located)? Now you can view your colleague’s time zone and working hours at a quick glance, simply by looking at their Profile card in Outlook, and make more informed communication decisions.