Microsoft 365 is a new service that aims to make Office apps, like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, a whole lot smarter. Released on April 21, this is a new version of Office 365, and looks to make the Microsoft applications you already use more relevant for your life.
Microsoft presented this update remotely to journalists on Monday, March 30 in a video that frequently reminded the press that it doesn't sell user data — a clearly intentional jab at other companies, such as Facebook and Google.
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Microsoft 365: Price and availability
Staying at the same price as Office 365, Microsoft 365 will start at $6.99 per month, with a $9.99 family subscription available, which will allow for up to six users. While many of the Microsoft 365 features will be available at launch, a new app called Family Safety — as well as the consumer release of Teams — won't be coming until later this year.
Microsoft 365: Teams for the rest of us
Microsoft is such a big fan of its business-team chat software Teams (it's like Slack, but made for Office and more) that it's rolling out availability to non-business folks, for use with families and friends. It'll be available starting this summer, and launching in the fall. For existing Teams users, know that you won't need a new app, you'll just jump between your different teams, inside of Teams.
Think of Teams as a more powerful group chat for the family. For example, Microsoft showed a family text message thread that was filled with the perks of Teams. You can share sensitive financial information, thanks to end-to-end encryption and 2-factor authentication, with The Safe, which collects financial information, passwords and more.
Microsoft's pitch for consumers to use Teams is because it's a more productive chat app than what they're used to, with a dashboard for every group chat that collects all the shared files, so you can stop scrolling up and up and up. There's also a group calendar in the Dashboard, so you can get a sense of everyone's upcoming availability.
Teams will also make it easier to delegate, with shared lists of tasks that you can assign.
It will also have a group video call function, that works across iOS and Android. Finally, a gallery view lets you get a better look at all the photos you've shared.
Microsoft 365: Word gets Editor
Those still growing as writers will be getting a lot of assistance from Editor, a new mega-tool in Word that assists in a few different ways. It feels a lot like the Grammarly app (whose makers explicitly say they don't sell your data), starting with suggestions for ways to rewrite full sentences. It's also moving forward by offering inclusive language suggestions, giving writers gender-neutral phrases to use. In the presentation, Editor offered "unwritten agreement" as an alternative to writing "gentleman's agreement."
The new Editor menu (a pane on the right side of the screen) streamlines all of the suggestions that you've been given, giving an at-a-glance way to consider these changes. Editor can also provide tips to remind students to provide citations if their text looks a bit too close to something already publicly available.
Editor will also work in Outlook when you're drafting emails, and there will even be a Chrome extension, for when you're writing elsewhere.
Microsoft 365: PowerPoint presentations should look and sound better
While many prefer Apple's Keynotes alternative, a new set of 150 animated backgrounds coming to PowerPoint in Microsoft 365 should liven your next talks up. One sample image was an overhead shot of calm waters, which looked like an indoors pool. Another looked like polygonal bitmaps, likely for a more techy talk.
Presenting to a group is so tough, I took a class on public speaking in college. Now, PowerPoint's Presenter Coach is going to have more tools at your disposal. One alerts you - mid-rehearsal - if you're speaking in a monotone voice (which is a fast way to lull your audience to sleep), and suggests you "Try varying your pitch and adding emphasis to key words" — and it will even commend you once you've adapted that suggestion.
Also, PowerPoint will now offer a summary of how well you presented, and will let you know about the pace at which you delivered the talk, and how much you stuck to your script — as well as any info you need to if you used too many "ums" and "uhhs."
Microsoft 365: Track your spending and lots of other data
Microsoft's made big tools for those of us who already use Excel to properly keep their books. Money in Excel, is a new feature-set that allows users to import banking transactions and balances (from more than 10,000 financial institutions), by linking accounts to Excel.
This way you can see line-by-line breakdowns of your expenses across multiple banks, all within a single spreadsheet. Sample charts included breakdowns of your monthly spending vs the previous month, and a pie chart that shows how and where you're spending your money. All of this feels like feature sets that some, but not all banks, offer.
Oh, and Excel will work with data outside of your bank as well. Microsoft has added 100 topics of data sets, and a set of new templates, so you can track things like your nutritional activity, and add columns for different aspects you want to track. Calorie counters take note: Excel can automatically recognize items such as pancakes, and intelligently count how much calories and other vitamins, you get from each item.
The presentation showed off a "college decision helper" template, that allowed college-hunting parents and kids to compare the maps and other details of universities and colleges, side by side.
Microsoft 365: Outlook brings in outside calendars
Much like major calendar apps pre-installed in phones, Microsoft 365 is providing greater integration with outside calendars — because we've got personal calendars in addition to the ones we have for work.
And while this doesn't sound that important, this will help your Outlook calendar better reflect your actual availability, to those you're trying to make plans with.
Microsoft 365: Family Safety helps keep tabs
Coming later this year, the Microsoft 365 Family Safety apps on iOS and Android will help parents keep track of where everyone is, across all platforms — and help parents track how kids are spending their time. Yes, while iPhones have the Find My tool for tracking devices, Family Safety will present all your devices on the family account on a map, so you can see where they are, and even get notifications about when they arrive at and depart locations. Family members worried about their privacy should be relived to know you can opt out.
Family Safety giving help on Driving, so parents can get detailed statistics on how a car moves (and how often a phone is used) while someone is driving. Top speed and hard breaking will also be counted.
In the presentation, we also saw how Family Safety will give parents an overview of what games kids are playing on Xbox, and giving them the ability to set restrictions on the time played and allowed maturity-levels of said games.
Microsoft Edge is also getting new tricks
I often have too many tabs open, and I don't really know a way of handling it without closing them. Thankfully, Edge is offering a solution. If you activate Vertical Tabs, you'll see a list view (on the left side of your screen) of all the open tabs in that window that shows much more of the page title for each tab — you know, the stuff you can't read when all of your tabs are just the icons of each website.
There's also Smart Copy, which acknowledges how hard it is to share heavily-formatted web objects, such as tables. The presentation provided an example with a user using cross-hairs to highlight a table and then paste that table into an email where it appeared properly formatted.
Edge is also getting privacy and security-focused improvements. Edge Tracker Protection will keep your information safe from sites you haven't visited, while its Password Monitor tells you if you use login credentials are on the dark web — and then provides a fast and easy way to jump to that site's password management page, so you can change it. Chrome and Firefox recently introduced similar features.
Plus, Collection-view bookmarks are coming to iOS and Android Edge apps.
Microsoft 365 outlook
The jump from Office 365 to Microsoft 365 looks like it might be big enough to keep remaining Office 365 subscribers from jumping to the Google G Suite. That being said, Google's apps are still free, which is what we in the tech press call "a killer feature," for many.
Families, students in particular, have the most reason to keep with Microsoft 365. Its Editor feature looks like an invaluable tool, and the new money managing tricks in Excel could be a strong way for families to teach kids how to manage their money. Plus, the upcoming Family Safety and Teams apps look like capable tools for parents trying to reign in a chaotic household.