It’s Office … only better?
Microsoft is unveiling big changes to its Office 365 product, the company said Monday, starting with a name change: Office 365 is now Microsoft 365, a change meant to signify to customers that more of Microsoft is coming in the subscription service, such as tech support and the power of A.I. The company is using A.I. to create new tools, add new rich content types, and include new cloud-powered experiences.
Separately, the company announced a new product: Microsoft 365 Personal and Family, which brings the same tools that keep your work life humming to your family. The new services launch today, March 30, and offer chat tools, a way to share photos, and lists, calendars, safety tools, and more – but it’s not about doing more so much as getting the right things done, explained Yusuf Mehdi, vice president of Modern Life, Search, and Devices at Microsoft.
“We see a redefinition of what we think of as personal productivity,” Mehdi told Digital Trends ahead of the launch. “It’s not about how many checklists I can get done in a day, it’s can I get done the one thing I need to get done?”
To that end, the company is unveiling a Family Safety feature for Microsoft 365 that’s meant to help manage children’s screen time, prevent distracted driving, screen for inappropriate content, and more.
“We’re trying to bridge the divide between digital safety and family safety,” Mehdi said. The service includes new tools to filter content so teens and younger children can’t access the entire web, a new end-of-week report with details on browsing time and time spent in apps, and more. It also can be used to monitor physical location, letting a parent set an alert if a child leaves school, for example, or a senior wanders away from a managed care facility. The same app can monitor where someone drives, and will report how often they checked their phone or texted while driving.
A.I. for Word, Powerpoint, and beyond
Meanwhile, the Microsoft 365 suite is being enhanced with a new A.I.-powered Editor, guidance on inclusiveness, suggestions for how to rewrite whole sentences, a right-panel pane for Word (and ultimately Outlook, your web browser, and more) with spelling and grammar suggestions, and more.
It’s available in over 20 languages, and will be free, although a paid version offers substantially more features.
PowerPoint is being upgraded with new premium templates, including the ability to add video backgrounds to your presentations. More meaningful is a new Presenter Coach that uses artificial intelligence to analyze your performance, suggest when you should look at the audience more, note if you use too many “ums,” and more.
It’ll even rate you on your originality, pacing, and more.
Finally, Excel is gaining a powerful new Money template that lets you ingest account information from a bank or retirement savings account and display live data feeds. It leans on WolframAlpha for this integration, as well as for new data types, such as colleges, which will let you build a spreadsheet to help evaluate which school your child should attend, and food, to help keep tabs on a healthy diet.
These new features will start rolling out today, Microsoft says, and will reach the over 38 million Office 365 subscribers over the next few months. They won’t all be free.
While anyone can access the essential features of the new Editor tool, for example, such as spelling and basic grammar across Word, Outlook.com, and the web, Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscribers will have access to advanced tools such as a plagiarism check and a feature that will suggest rewrites.
The Presenter Coach will start out free, but will transition to a feature only for subscribers. And Money will be free to Office Insiders this spring, but only subscribers will be able to access over 100 new data types in the coming months, thanks to the partnership with Wolfram Alpha.
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