May 06, 2015

Lesser-Known Features of Office 365

Laurent Slutzky


If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you know that I am a strong proponent of the direction Microsoft is moving with its cloud-based products and services. In particular, I feel quite strongly that Office 365 is a huge step in the right direction for Microsoft, and is all but certain to strengthen Microsoft’s position among not only large corporations, but many small to medium-sized businesses as well.

In the past, I have covered some of the more well-known and commonly used Office 365 features. However, with literally dozens of features you’ve probably never used (and might find quite useful), I thought it would be worthwhile to discuss some of the lesser-known but still quite clever and innovative features available to Office 365 users.

Managing an ever-increasing amount of content and projects is something that most business owners (and their teams) are quite familiar with. One of the more interesting, and recent, additions to Office 365 is the introduction of an attempted solution to this problem. “Boards” is a content management system built on a previous iteration known as “Office Delve.” The purpose of these features is to automate and streamline the curation of project information, including the ability to manually sort the content by subject.

Another cool feature that Microsoft has introduced is the ability to get images from Bing automatically using their new presentation program, Sway. Sway is set to eventually replace PowerPoint, but for now I’m most intrigued by its ability to intelligently find images based on the content of your presentation. I expect this technology (i.e. media suggestions based on context) to become increasingly commonplace within the Microsoft ecosystem.

If you’ve even given an important presentation, then realized that you could really use a laser pointer (or you happened to bring one with dead batteries), you can appreciate this Microsoft feature. Office 365 allows you to turn the mouse into what looks like a bright red laser pointer, which can then be used to highlight aspects of your presentation. Just remember that you’ll need to be standing near your computer, or have a wireless mouse that you don’t mind holding in your hand.

If you aren’t already making extensive use of Microsoft OneNote, I highly recommend you do so. I use it all the time, and it has helped me keep my notes organized. And now it’s about to get a lot more useful, thanks to the addition of a feature into Office 365 that allows users to take notes and add them to their Outlook calendar. While this might not seem like a huge deal, for those (like me) who write down lots of quick reminders in OneNote, it makes it a lot more likely that the reminders actually get added to the calendar.

Sending an email with a document attached is often an inefficient, not to mention outdated, way to share documents with others. This is particularly true for collaborative projects, where two or more users make frequent changes to a document.

Instead, you can share a link, which can be either public (meaning the only thing needed is the unique link) or private (password protected). You can also select whether users can simply view the document, or can view and edit the document.

This features goes with the previous one. In addition to being able to easily share, view and edit documents, Office 365 has a built-in Skype tool for each individual document. Users logged into their respective Skype accounts can communicate within the document via text or voice chat. When working with others remotely, this can have a dramatically positive impact on your efficiency and workflow.

These are just a few examples of the many lesser-known features in Office 365. Best of all, Microsoft is consistently adding new features in each update, often in response to the (sometimes peculiar) needs of Office 365 users.

If you haven’t already migrated your office over to the increasingly robust suite of Microsoft cloud services, I strongly encourage you to do so. As always, my company and I are here to help you with the migration process.

See you on the cloud!