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Microsoft beefs up Office Online with new features, streamlined interface

Microsoft beefs up Office Online with new features, streamlined interface | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Microsoft is rolling out improvements to Office Online that add more features to the web-based productivity suite and make some already-existing features more readily available. Most of the changes span the entire suite, but there are a few improvements that are specific to Word.

Here's what's new.

More Reading View

The reading view in Office Online has always been very basic—little more than an annoying extra step to pass through before editing your document, really. With the new updates, Microsoft is making reading view a little more useful, first by switching the options interface to the right side of the screen instead of the left.

The option to print a document is now front and center instead of buried under the File menu. There is also a new generic menu hiding a few more features, such as a translate option, the ability to view past versions, and embed the document in a web page.

More file management

Previously, when you clicked File > Save As in Word Online you were met with two options: download a copy of the document to your desktop, or download the document as a PDF. With the upcoming improvements, Microsoft will also add the ability to save another copy of the file to OneDrive and introduce an option to rename a file. 

Add to OneDrive

Making it easier to edit files that aren't your own, Microsoft will now let you add a copy of a file to your OneDrive if it's owned by somebody else. Say, for example, a colleague shares a memo with you over OneDrive but with "view only" permissions. Clicking the new Add to OneDrive button will let you save your own copy of the document that you are free to edit.

Other improvements

Those are the big changes, but Microsoft is also rolling out a few other tweaks, such as an improved start screen that more closely mimics what you see on the desktop with Word 2013. Microsoft has also improved the "Tell Me" natural language help feature, and added word counts when you highlight a section of text. Office 365 subscribers with Android tablets will now see an Open in Word button just like desktop users do, allowing them to open documents from Office Online in the native apps on their device.

The new improvements are rolling out now. You may see some of them in your account already with others to follow soon.

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Microsoft’s touch-friendly Office shows great potential for Windows 10 apps

After nearly two years of teasing, Microsoft finally released a preview version of its touch-optimized Office apps for Windows 10 yesterday. The software maker has been focusing on iOS and Android recently, having released better versions of Office for rival platforms than its own Windows Phone equivalent. That’s changing with Windows 10, and Microsoft’s loyal customers will no longer be left out in the cold. Was the long wait worth it? It looks like it. Microsoft’s new Office touch apps show great potential for Windows 10 apps as a whole.

I installed Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, after testing the new touch-optimized version of OneNote for Windows 10, and I’m impressed with the early results. After covering Microsoft for nearly 15 years, I’ve seen Office move steadily into a beast that tries to do a million things that could be greatly simplified. Some call it bloated, others call it powerful, but nobody in the industry has successfully challenged its dominance yet, so Microsoft is clearly doing something right.

These apps are blisteringly fast

Whether you think Office is bloated or not, there’s no argument to be had about these latest Office touch apps: they’re blistering fast. They feel lightweight, speedy, and really easy to use, and they’re mostly identical to Office for iPad and Android. I used to work at various investment banks, so my Office experience is extensive, but these days I only have basic document needs for keeping an eye on my finances, authoring some reports, and maybe the occasional presentation. The desktop version of Office has far too many options for someone like me, but these new apps aren’t as daunting and are simple enough and still functional to get stuff done.

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