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Microsoft updates make Office 365 smarter and more secure

Why it matters to you

Office 365 will now help you create a PowerPoint presentation and edit your Word documents, but only if you're an Office Insider.

There was a time when Microsoft’s business was primarily based on Windows with some Office productivity suite activity on the side. Now, the company is into cloud services, hardware, gaming, and a number of other business, and yet Office remains vital to its productivity strategy.

That’s likely why the company continues to improve Office, while simultaneously pushing the apps to other platforms. For February 2017, Microsoft is injecting some of its machine intelligence work into Office and making a number of tasks easier and more efficient.

First up is a feature that Microsoft originally introduced at its Ignite 2016 event in September 2016. Specifically, QuickStarter for PowerPoint helps users create new presentations by creating a set of default slides.

Type in a topic, and QuickStarter creates a curated outlined, some recommendations on categories, associated Creative Commons images, and research suggestions. QuickStarter is available in PowerPoint 2016 for Office Insiders in the Fast ring.

Next up are some enhancements to the Word 2016 Editor feature, which provides real-time writing assistance to users. The new Editor pane provides more information in terms of advanced spelling, grammar, and style recommendations, and enables users to scan entire documents in one place. The Editor pane replaces the old Spelling & Grammar pane, and is available to the Office Insider Fast ring.

Microsoft also provided a review of some new functionality that’s been released in the past few months. Office 2016 for Mac now supports the Touch Bar on 2016 MacBook Pro machines, providing task-specific virtual function keys. And Cortana can now scan Outlook.com and Office 365 email messages for promised tasks and automatically generate reminders that show up in Windows 10.

Finally, Microsoft has improved security in Office 365 with a few new features. First up is Office 365 Secure Score, a security analytics tool that helps organizations understand their security configurations and what actions to take to improve security and reduce risk. Office 365 Intelligence keeps organizations aware of potential cyber threats and provides information from the Microsoft Intelligence Security Graph.

Overall, Microsoft’s February 2017 set of updates to its Office productivity suite is all about leveraging the company’s machine intelligence capabilities to make working in Office easier and more secure. Note that a few of the newest features are only available to Office Insiders, and you can sign up here to participate in that preview program.