Build 2017 attendees
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5 Ways Office 365 Got Better at Build

5 minute read
David Roe avatar

Satya Nadella laid out a clear path for Microsoft’s future in his keynote at the Build developers conference on Wednesday, leaving it to the other company representatives to connect the dots with some concrete examples of what is on the way.

Redmond,Wash.-based Microsoft spent day two of the conference doubling down on its efforts to dig deeper into the consumer market, with demos of its mixed reality headset, examples of cross-device Windows 10 experiences and debuting a watch designed to help people with Parkinson’s disease.

The enterprise announcements over the rest of the two days dovetailed with Nadella’s new Intelligent Cloud and Intelligent Edge mantra. In practical terms this boiled down to three things:

  1. Updates to the Microsoft Teams developer platform
  2. New capabilities in the Microsoft Graph
  3. Better ways to connect Office users with partner integrations.

All these changes and upgrades are driven by the fact that Microsoft now claims 100 million monthly Office 365 commercial users, providing developers and integrators a great opportunity to cash in. 

Here are the productivity and Office 365 announcements that caught our eye.

1. OneDrive Files On-Demand Mixes Personal and Professional Files

OneDrive Files On-Demand gives users easy access to their files through File Explorer, regardless of device, without the need to download them. This saves memory and adds to the compute ability of any device.

It also allows those who want to combine their personal and professional files by offering them a way to work with both in OneDrive and SharePoint Online team sites.

Jeff Teper, corporate vice president for the Office and OneDrive and SharePoint teams pointed out that this capability has been top of enterprise workers’ wish lists:

“This has been the #1 requested feature for OneDrive on UserVoice, and we’re excited to deliver it in a simple and powerful new way," he wrote in a blog post.

2. Developers Can Publish Apps for Microsoft Teams

Teams was introduced in beta last November and went to general release in March. By that stage the company reported 50,000 organizations were using it, up from 30,000 in late January. In fact, Microsoft claims Teams is growing 30 percent a month and messaging usage is doubling every two months.

The general release introduced several new features, with the pace of development for new features expected to increase over the coming months.

According to Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for Office 365 Client Apps and Services Team, Microsoft is opening Teams to all developers and allowing them to publish apps through the Office Store. The goal is to build more capabilities within Teams to cut down on the distraction and bother that context switching causes.

A new 'discover apps' feature will surface the apps in Teams, making it easier for users to find and add them.

Learning Opportunities

The beta release last November introduced bots, connectors and tabs designed to provide a better experience for users. Build added to these with two new capabilities for developers:

  • Compose extensions: Enables users to issue commands to bring information from apps, or services into Team Chat
  • Third-party notifications: By pushing notification into the activity feed, developers can notify users about updates and new services. It is also adding new APIs to Graph, allowing users in Teams to access information Graph uncovers

3. Word and Excel Get Structured

For these classic Office apps, Microsoft is extending JavaScript APIs into Word and Excel, which gives users access to structured data.

Microsoft also showed off its new Presentation Translator add-in for PowerPoint. The translator employs Microsoft's artificial intelligence technologies to add subtitles in multiple languages to presentations in real time.

4. Refining Queries in Microsoft Graph

Microsoft Graph underlies many of these capabilities, sitting at the heart of Office 365 and connecting all of the data found in the platform and putting it in context. According to Microsoft there are 10,000 applications built on top of Graph every month.

Microsoft announced an upgrade to Graph to improve the quality and specificity of query results. A new version of Graph Explorer offers developers preconfigured sample queries, new body templates and the option to define request headers. 

Koenigsbauer announced two other additions aimed at refining search results:

  • Delta queries: Access to lists of changes for types of data,
  • Custom data: Enables developers to extend base types of Microsoft Graph (e.g., users, contacts) to store critical data in context.

Graph also extended the number of APIs developers have access to, including SharePoint sites API, Planner API, One Note API, Microsoft Teams API and more.

5. Joining Office Store and AppSource

Finally, Microsoft is adding several new paths for developers to push apps into the store and for users to get them out. The principal upgrade made here is the connection between Office Store and Microsoft AppSource.

Microsoft introduced AppSource at its 2016 Worldwide Partner Conference as a new destination for business users to find, try and use line-of-business Software as a Service (SaaS) apps from Microsoft and its partners.

By joining AppSource with the Office Store, Microsoft is making it easier to find the most relevant work apps and add-ins.

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