Microsoft has given its suite of Office applications a major update, and I’m concerned because they actually seem useful to ordinary people. Raise your hand if you’ve ever kept your monthly budget by copying and pasting your banking transactions into Excel. Raise your hand if you hate typing formulas in Excel. Or increase it if you want Become as good as grammar or mef Outlook looked a bit more like Google Calendar.
Today, Microsoft announced that starting Tuesday, April 21, Office 365 Home and Office 365 Personal plans will be renamed to Microsoft 365 Family and Microsoft 365 Personal for the same monthly subscription price, respectively: $ 7 per month for the personal level and $ 10 per month for the family level. If you are a current subscriber, your account will be automatically transferred on April 21 and you will have access to all new features. There will also be major changes in the Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook applications that should hopefully be make them as friendly to personal and family use as they are to work. Two new applications will also be available later this year: Family safety and consumer teams.
But first, let’s talk about Excel because that’s it not often a person gets excited about spreadsheet software but here i am. It mainly comes down to Money, an Excel function which is supposedly connects to any or all of your online bank and credit card accounts and imports your transaction history into an automatically organized spreadsheet – from any of 10,000 supported banking institutions. Based on that data, you can generate ‘monthly snapshots’ (complete with pie charts) of your spending pattern. Think of it as Mint or another personal finance tracking service, but built into your Microsoft subscription. Money is not currently available in Excel, but it will be in the United States first in the coming months, and hopefully that doesn’t mean you have to hand over all your financial data to Microsoft.
Microsoft has also tried other ways to make Excel more friendly to non-business users. It will now contain over 100 new data types, including “Food, Movies, Places, Chemistry, and even Pokémon.” If you type ‘Pikachu’ in a cell, this new function automatically generates Pikachu’s statistics, such as strengths and weaknesses, in a graph. Essentially, Excel can extrapolate data from the Internet in real time to what Microsoft calls a smart template. These two features will be available to Office Insiders this spring and to Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscribers in the United States in the coming months.
Moving on to Word, Microsoft has (finally) added the ability to give you extensive editing on whatever you write, similar to the way Grammar to work. Called now Microsoft Editorit offers suggestions that go beyond simple spelling and grammar corrections: acronyms, clarity, formality and even inclusivity. For example, if you write “postman” you should suggest something like “mail carrier”. Microsoft even claims it provides suggestions for rewriting entire sentences. I doubt it will be helpful with targeted spelling mistakes, unique syntax and non-standard grammar, but to get rid of redundant verys and justs.
There is also a “match check” that will tell you if your text is too close to your source material and help you cite your sources correctly. Editor will also be available in Outlook and also as a standalone browser extension for Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome. According to Microsoft, the new Editor will be rolled out today, with general availability at the end of April. However, you have to download the browser extension manually.
Other new features in Microsoft software include a “Presenter Coach” in PowerPoint that will tell you if you are talking or using too slow, too fast, too monotonous too many ums. PowerPoint also gets a new template option called “Design Ideas” that allows the information on a current slide to be included in a pre-made layout. Some of those layouts also have animated backgrounds. “We offer Microsoft 365 subscribers exclusive access to over 8,000 beautiful images and 175 looping videos from Getty Images, plus 300 new fonts and 2,800 new icons to create impressive and visually appealing documents. And you can also use all this new content in Word and Excel ”, says Microsoft in the blog announces all new features.
In Outlook, Microsoft is adding the ability to link your personal calendar to your work calendar – something that Google has had for a while – but with Google’s calendar, you need to manually grant access for someone to see your personal calendar. And even then they can see every detail you include in those personal appointments. The new Outlook feature allows you to “display your actual availability in your work account, while still maintaining privacy around the details of face-to-face appointments and business meetings.”
The Edge browser also gets some new functions, including collections, vertical tabs and smart copy.
The new apps from Microsoft, Family Safety and Teams for Consumers, which will be rolled out later this year, will introduce many new features that will help parents manage their children’s screen time and travel and organize other activities with family members. The Family Safety app is something my parents probably wish they had when I was in high school. It allows parents to set time limits for all devices their children use (PC, Xbox, phone, etc.), set alerts when family members arrive / leave their current location, the number of times they pick up their phone while driving, and the average driving speed, as well as setting age limits so that they can only download specific apps, games, etc. that parents consider appropriate for their children. Microsoft also says it doesn’t share data with your auto insurance company.
IIf all this sounds like an invasion of your privacy, don’t worry – Microsoft says you can access your own statistics and opt out of sharing that information with your parents – if your parents say that is good. A limited preview of the app for iOS and Android will be available in the coming months.
Finally getting on the new trend of group video calls, Microsoft is rolling out a consumer version of the Teams app called …Consumer teams. Teams is Microsoft’s attempt to tackle Slack, and it will be the consumer version do the same, so you can chat in groups, make video calls, share things and assign tasks … to your family? A roommate who doesn’t do the dishes? Unsuspecting friends who download Consumer Teams because you beg them too? Who knows, but for whoever it is, Teams for consumers will be previewed on Microsoft Teams mobile app in the coming months.