During the Microsoft SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas the big emphasis was on — to no one's surprise — Office 365 rather than on-premises versions of SharePoint. While it was great to see the new features Microsoft unveiled, the conference also gave us time to look at existing features that you may or may not be aware of. Let's take a look.
New Office 365 Feature Highlights
Microsoft unveiled a number of new features during the keynote including:
- Office Graph
- Office Video Portal
- OneDrive for Business
- Power BI for Office 365
We've already covered Office Graph and Oslo, so let's take a look at some of the other highlights:
Office Video Portal
The ability to create video libraries is starting to become a requirement for most organizations, not a luxury. Built on Office 365 and Azure, the Office video portal is an enterprise video solution that provides a YouTube type video experience to users. Secure and easy to use, it even figures out which format to stream the video in based on device and connection speed.
OneDrive for Business
Formerly called SkyDrive Pro, OneDrive for Business provides personal online file sync and storage for a company’s employees. It allows people to share their work files from their desktop to multiple devices, including Windows phone, Window 8, iOS, and Android devices. OneDrive for Business is already available as a part of Office 365 or SharePoint Online, and will be available as a standalone service starting next month.
Power BI for Office 365
Power BI for Office 365, also referred to as self-service business intelligence, is a collection of online services and features that help users create reports and visualize data in new ways without having to understand how to write database queries or necessarily know how the data is structured on the back end. Users will use Excel to create the content and visualizations and publish the workbooks to Power BI sites or mobile apps for consumption and sharing. Excel has BI capabilities built into it (some previously available and some new) including Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View, and Power Map.
The Here and Now - Forgotten Office Features
While much of the focus at the conference was on these upcoming features, the breakout executive keynote focused more on what Microsoft is doing right now, rather than on what’s coming in the future.
One of Microsoft’s ongoing areas of focus is on personalized insights. It wants to give enterprises the ability to know how their business is performing so that they can make better decisions faster, while remaining ahead of market shifts.
A portion of the executive keynote highlighted a few features that are currently available in the standalone Office products, many of them available since the 2010 version. Some you may have heard of and might actually be using, while others likely aren’t being used because many people are just not aware of them.
- Mail tips. These can help you avoid potentially embarrassing mistakes before sending an email, such as accidentally replying to all or sending a message to someone who is out of the office.
- Policy tips. These are more urgent mail tips that are configurable by an admin. A common policy tip would be popping up a message when a user tries to send a sensitive document to someone outside the organization.
- Suggested meetings. Outlook recognizes when you may want to set up a meeting with all users on an email thread based on the verbiage in the email. Furthermore, it’s very easy to schedule a meeting directly from an email message with just two clicks.
- Bing maps. If an address is found in an email message, a user can click a button to immediately see an interactive map of that address.
- Radial menu. The radial menu is ideal for tablets and other touch screen devices that don’t have a keyboard. A wheel menu pops up when you click on a special icon that appears when you tap objects in your notes.
- Camera integration. You can embed photos into a note instantly by taking a picture while still inside of the OneNote application.
- Digital ink. In simple terms digital ink is markup that OneNote recognizes as handwriting. Digital ink can be captured by mouse movement or stylus, and is getting more use as tablet usage is increasing.
- Document co-authoring. Multiple people can edit a document at once and immediately see the others’ changes. This is also a feature included in Excel.
- Remembers where you were. When you reopen a document that you were previously editing, Word asks you if you want to jump directly to that location in the document.
- Smart actions. Excel can copy an action taken on one row and automatically apply the same action to other rows. For example, if you have a comma-separated dump of data that gets exported to a single cell for each row, you can manually type in the email address (or any other piece of data) into a subsequent cell in that row, and then Excel will perform the same action for every other row. Could you imagine manually entering an email address into every row of a document that has hundreds or thousands of rows? This demo got huge applause from the audience.
- Bing maps. You can multi-select several address rows and Bing maps will plot all the addresses on an interactive map. This capability would be useful for quickly creating a map with plot points for all of a company’s customer locations, for instance.
- Shared whiteboard. Everyone in your meeting can draw on the whiteboard and the data can be saved when the meeting is over.
- PowerPoint integration. PowerPoint Online is integrated directly into Lync which allows you to present a slide show from inside of Lync.
- Shared notebook. OneNote is also integrated into Lync and it can even insert relevant notes for you automatically, such as attendees and agenda. In addition, you can dock OneNote to the sidebar during a Lync meeting for increased productivity.
While it was definitely nice to see all the new features for Office 365 unveiled at the conference, I think it’s also important to highlight some of the already existing functionality that is available in the native Office applications today. Let’s face it: many companies are still reluctant to put their data into the cloud. It’s great for them to see what’s already available in the desktop Office products.
Editor's Note: Read more from Wendy in 7 Ways SharePoint 2013's Mobile Features Fall Short
About the Author
Wendy Neal is a Senior SharePoint Consultant for McGladrey and a founding partner and community representative for SharePoint-Community.net. A regular speaker at industry and user group events, she also maintains a popular SharePoint blog at sharepointwendy.com and discusses all things SharePoint (and sometimes bacon) on Twitter at @SharePointWendy.
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