Before Microsoft changed its software update model, new version releases were a grand to-do—every half-decade or so, the company would roll out a tidal wave of new features and functionality (which would often leave users scrambling to stay afloat).
The pace is vastly different today—it’s more like a quarterly drenching. While smaller, more frequent updates are a welcome change for many organizations and employees, the pace can sometimes result in missed opportunities. If people don’t know about a new or improved feature, they can hardly use it to boost their productivity.
The Microsoft 365 Roadmap is an essential resource for keeping up with changes, as are Microsoft’s many Office blogs. But workers today have very little time to keep up. With that in mind, here are a few new Office features and capabilities you need to know in today’s modern workplace:
AI & productivity— @Mentions and To-Dos in Word
According to an often-cited University of California Irvine study, it takes, on average, 23 minutes and 15 seconds to resume work after an interruption. The source of the intrusion is mostly irrelevant—whether you are interrupting yourself or being interrupted by others, it still takes about 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to your original task.
Two new AI features in Word aim to minimize the need for context-switching—and, therefore, minimize the damage it does to worker productivity. With @Mentions and To-Dos, you can grab a collaborator’s attention quickly without leaving the application and effortlessly create tasks from within your document. Note that the features may not be available to all Office 365 users.
File this under: “Things you should not live without.”
New design options in PowerPoint
PowerPoint visual options have improved remarkably in the last 10 years, and even more so in 2018. Among the improvements—scalable vector graphics; the ability to convert SVG images into shapes; the ability to insert 3D models into presentations; the Morph feature, which enables you to create smooth, professional slide transitions; expanded Inking options and easy background removal.
File this under: “You don’t have to be a designer to create beautiful presentations.”
Excel: Still the backbone of business, now even more powerful
No matter your profession, chances are you rely on Excel—or, at the very least, use it daily. Still, the average worker uses only a fraction of Excel’s expansive set of features—because they don’t need them for their specific job role, they haven’t learned how to use them, or they simply don’t know they exist.
Over the years, Microsoft has consistently made Excel more powerful and easier to use, so even the spreadsheet-averse can take advantage of the application’s powerful options. More recently, Microsoft has added a stack of new features, functions and capabilities.
- Six new functions that make data crunching simpler and easier—CONCAT, IFS, MAXIFS, MINIFS, SWITCH, and TEXTJOIN. Less nesting, more productivity.
- Map charts, funnel charts, plus AI-enabled data types.
- PivotTable enhancements, including the ability to personalize the default PivotTable layout, automatic relationship detection and time grouping, searching within a PivotTable and more.
File this under: “Meet Excel, your new best friend.”
According to the Microsoft 365 Roadmap, Microsoft launched hundreds of updates in 2018. That’s a truckload of productivity potential. It’s up to you now, with the right support and training from your company, to turn that potential into reality.