Office 365 gets new Word, PowerPoint and Outlook features

Microsoft Office 365 users will soon get anew tools that aim to improve their writing skills, help prioritize important email and better research topics of interest.

Microsoft today announced a new set of features designed to help Office 365 users save time and increase productivity. The cloud services bring new capabilities and insights to three of Microsoft's most popular business applications: Word, PowerPoint and Outlook.

"Editor," a new feature in Word, for example, is designed to help you improve your writing by suggesting changes beyond simple misspellings and grammatical errors.

The digital writing assistant will provide more advanced proofing and editing suggestions over time, and it will eventually explain why specific words or phrases may not be accurate, according to Microsoft.

The feature will also zero-in on changes in tone, inconsistent language, slang, clichés, passive voice and other common writing errors. Office 365's new Word Editor will become available next month, according to Microsoft.

"Researcher," another tool coming to Word, offers a new window meant to help you research and explore material related to topics of interest. Researcher pulls information from outside sources and the Bing Knowledge Graph.

(Last summer, the company released a Bing Knowledge Graph application programming interface (API) to let developers incorporate Bing data into their apps.) Microsoft says it will add more reference materials to Researcher, including well-known encyclopedias, history databases, and national science and health centers. The tool will be available to only Office 365 subscribers who use Word 2016 on Windows desktops.

The PowerPoint presentation tool will get a feature called "Zoom" that lets you create interactive, nonlinear presentations. Presenters will be able to use Zoom to show slides in any order they want, without exiting slide show mode.

You also won't have to hit the back or forward buttons dozens of times to return to previous slides during question-and-answer sessions, for example. Zoom will be available only to members of Microsoft's Office Insiders software-testing program who using PowerPoint 2016 on Windows desktops.

Finally, "Focused Inbox," a messaging feature that launched in the Outlook for Android and iOS apps in January, is coming soon to Outlook for Mac, Windows and the web.

The tool automatically separates your inbox into two tabs, with corresponding folders: "Focused," for important email, and "Other," for everything else. Focused Inbox also improves as you move email in or out of their folders of choice. The feature should give you a single and consistent view of the most important items in their inboxes, across all devices and platforms.

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Matt Kapko

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