the One of the criticisms we levied in our Office 2016 review was how Microsoft could do a better job explaining what improvements it’s continually making to the Office platform. Microsoft did just that on Thursday, explaining several improvements its making to its Office apps on Windows, Android, the Chrome browser, and more.
Microsoft shouted out to all its Office users Thursday, when the company issued a blog post detailing various updates it had made to most of the versions of its productivity suite.
Blog author Kirk Koenigsbauer, a corporate vice president on the Office team, also implied it would be the first of many future communications to Office users. “Welcome to our first new Office update post in which we share the features we are delivering to our Office customers across Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Office Online,” he wrote.
The updates aren’t necessarily all new, but they may have flown under the radar. On Sept. 30, for example, Microsoft quietly issued updates for its Office suite for Android, trimming the app’s size by 50 percent, to about 65MB. Microsoft also made improvements to Office Online, and even Chrome.
All told, Microsoft wants to “bring Office to you wherever you are,” Koenigsbauer said.
Why this matters: We all like free stuff, right? But one of the ways a developer can demonstrate an active commitment to a product is via tweaks and updates. We may rest assured that Microsoft will support Office on Windows, but delivering updates to, say, Office on Android, portrays Microsoft as a platform-agnostic developer—one that leaves no room for smaller developers to muscle in.
New for October: Skype in Office Online
What is new is Microsoft’s integration of Skype into its Online apps—Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote Online, as well as Outlook.com. The new feature will roll out in November, Microsoft said.
“The integration creates a natural, collaborative experience in which you can co-author and have a conversation using instant messaging or video calling right from within a document,” Koenigsbauer wrote. “Best of all, your instant messaging history stays connected to the document, so that the next time you open it, you can pick right up where you left off.”
Interestingly, Microsoft integrated Skype into its Office 2016 desktop apps first, then Office Online. Usually, it’s the other way around. Additional Office Online improvements include a navigation pane for large documents, Microsoft said.
Microsoft’s online team also developed a plugin for Google’s Chrome browser that lets users create and open Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Sway documents using Office Online right from the Chrome browser. This is a feature that Microsoft Edge will presumably add as well, once it supports plugins.
Microsoft also said that it had turned on presenter mode for Android users using PowerPoint in conjunction with an Office 365 account.