Office 365 news in February—new and improved intelligent services

Jumpstart presentations with QuickStarter in PowerPoint

QuickStarter is now available in PowerPoint. Announced in September, QuickStarter reinvents how you create presentations by helping you conquer blank slides. Simply type in your topic and QuickStarter gets you going with a curated outline, recommendations on what categories to include, information to research further, and associated images tagged with Creative Commons licenses. Check out QuickStarter in action to see what it can do!

QuickStarter is being shown in PowerPoint, launched from the start page. The topic “Mount Everest” is entered, slide templates are picked, the overall design of the deck is selected, and a QuickStarter presentation is created. The curated outline is then shown. This includes recommended categories to consider including, which appear in the notes for a given slide.

Jumpstart presentations with QuickStarter in PowerPoint.

Availability: QuickStarter is now available in PowerPoint on Windows desktops, for Office 365 subscribers in Office Insider Fast.

Writing assistance all in one place with Editor

Editor, your digital writing assistant in Word, is now even more helpful. The new Editor pane gives you additional information from its advanced spelling, grammar and writing style recommendations. It also makes it easy to scan your whole document. This experience replaces the Spelling & Grammar pane and incorporates inclusive design best practices to be accessible for the visually impaired. Learn more about Editor.

The new Editor pane is being shown alongside a document being written. The Editor pane is showing recommendations for more concise language for a highlighted passage.

The new Editor pane helps you learn to improve your writing by providing even more information and context.

Availability: The new Editor pane is now available in Word on Windows desktops, for Office 365 customers in Office Insider Fast.

Remember commitments with Cortana’s help

Cortana now works with Outlook to remember things you said you’d do in email. For example, Cortana will automatically recognize if you promise to send your boss a report by the end of the week and then proactively remind you so you can follow through at just the right time. Learn more and get started in this Windows blog.

Availability: Cortana’s suggested reminders are now available in the U.S. on Windows 10, for customers using an Outlook.com email address or an Office 365 work or school account. Support for iOS, Android and other email services is coming soon.

Intuitive commands at your fingertips with Touch Bar support in Office for Mac

Touch Bar support is now available in Word, Excel and PowerPoint on Mac. As previously announced, the most common commands are intelligently placed at your fingertips based on what you’re doing in the document, spreadsheet or presentation. For example, one tap can put you into distraction-free Focus Mode in Word or an enhanced slideshow experience with thumbnails in PowerPoint. Touch Bar support in Outlook for Mac is coming soon.

The image shows a Mac with touch bar enabled in Excel. The touch bar shows commonly used functions such as “SUM” that are related to the cell that is being selected within the spreadsheet.

Access the most common Office commands in the Touch Bar, based on what you’re doing in the document.

Availability: Touch Bar support is now available in Word, Excel and PowerPoint on Mac, for all Office 365 subscribers and Office for Mac 2016 customers. Touch Bar support is coming soon in Outlook on Mac.

New Office 365 capabilities help you proactively manage security and compliance risk

Earlier this month, we announced several new capabilities in Office 365 that help you manage risk and stay ahead of threats. We introduced a new security analytics tool—Office 365 Secure Score—which helps you understand your organization’s security configuration and actions you can take to enhance security and reduce risk. In addition, Office 365 Threat Intelligence helps you stay ahead of cyber threats by leveraging billions of data points from the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph. It offers information about malware families inside and outside your organization and integrates seamlessly with other Office 365 security features, so you’ll be able to see analysis, malware frequency and security recommendations related to your business. We also introduced Office 365 Advanced Data Governance, which helps you find and retain important data while eliminating redundant, obsolete and trivial data that could cause risk if compromised. It does this by applying machine learning to intelligently deliver proactive policy recommendations; classify data based on automatic analysis of factors like the type of data, its age and the users who have interacted with it; and take action. Read this month’s security and compliance blog for more.

 

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Introducing the new Office 365 profile experience

In the modern workplace, an organization’s most important assets are its people. The knowledge, skills and expertise found throughout your carefully recruited teams are tantamount to individual and collective success.

All too often, however, this specialized knowledge is obfuscated by physical and organizational barriers. People know what information they need, but are unable to track down the answers they’re looking for. The popular adage “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” reminds us that the best-connected employees get the most done.

That’s where Office 365 can help. As Microsoft works to reinvent productivity for the modern workplace, our goal is to put people at the center of the connected suite experience. When you’re able to tap into the hidden knowledge throughout your organization and leverage your talent pool, you’re able to achieve more.

Starting today, we’re rolling out an extended profile card experience across Office 365 to enhance the way you collaborate with colleagues and external contacts. We’ve made several big improvements that improve on the existing experience across three pillars to create an intelligent, holistic and integrated profile experience.

Intelligent

Traditionally, employees looking for specific information had to manually connect the dots between people and units of knowledge. By tapping into the Office 365 graph and machine learning, the new Office 365 profile card can identify information relevant to you based on the person you’re looking up. This can help you quickly look up documents that have been shared with you, independent of how they were sent.

Holistic

We’re also working to help employees connect with people across the organization that they don’t traditionally interact with. The new Organization view shows a complete picture of the highlighted user’s position in the company, including their direct reports and co-workers. Office 365 will also surface other people relevant to the person you are looking up based on their working habits and communication.

Integrated

We’re integrating the new profile card everywhere you see a person’s name—but it’s important that the experience doesn’t interrupt your productivity. We’ve made it easy for users to achieve these tasks with as little interruption to their workflow as possible. Hovering over a name provides a quick look at their most important attributes, such as contact details, recent documents and manager. More details are only a click away with the extended flex pane that displays additional information without navigating from the page.

Over the next few weeks, the new profile card experience will begin rolling out in OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online for Office 365 customers enrolled in first release. We’ll continue to roll out this service for all Office 365 users over the next few months. As always, we’d love to hear what you think, so please let us know in the comments below.

Groups

We’re also improving the way Outlook on the web users interact with Office 365 Groups, through a newly refreshed Groups card. This card continues to deliver on the direction set by our new profile experience and gives you easy access to all the components of a group, such as conversations, calendar, notebook, files, planner and more. You’ll be able to easily join, leave, follow and unfollow groups at your convenience. The new Groups card will roll out to Outlook on the web users first, followed by other applications throughout the Office 365 suite.

 

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Office 365 ProPlus updates

Changes to the Office 365 system requirements

Office 365 ProPlus is the very best way to experience the Office 365 services. For IT, ProPlus delivers the most secure and most complete suite of productivity apps available. And because the apps are cloud-connected and always up-to-date, they’re continually getting better—with new security features, new telemetry and new management capabilities. For end users, ProPlus brings the Office 365 services to life. When a modern app is connected to a modern service, magic happens. People can collaborate in new ways. Apps can simplify mundane tasks. And advanced security services can protect users as they work.

When customers connect to Office 365 with a legacy version of Office, they’re not enjoying all that the service has to offer. The IT benefits—particularly security—are cut short. And the end user experience in the apps is limited to the features shipped at a point in time. To ensure that customers are getting the most out of their Office 365 subscription, we are updating our system requirements.

  • Office 365 ProPlus or Office perpetual in mainstream support required to connect to Office 365 services.Starting October 13, 2020, Office 365 ProPlus or Office perpetual in mainstream support will be required to connect to Office 365 services. Office 365 ProPlus will deliver the best experience, but for customers who aren’t ready to move to the cloud by 2020, we will also support connections from Office perpetual in mainstream support.
  • Applies to Office 365 commercial services only. This update does not change our system requirements or support policies for the Office perpetual clients, Office perpetual clients connecting to on-premises servers, or any consumer services.
  • More than three years’ notice. We’re providing more than three years’ notice to give IT time to plan and budget for this change. Until this new requirement goes into effect in 2020, Office 2010, Office 2013 and Office 2016 perpetual clients will still be able to connect to Office 365 services.

Visit our Office 365 Tech Community to learn more and to ask the experts your questions.

Improvements to the Office 365 ProPlus update model, including alignment with Windows 10

Moving to Office 365 ProPlus requires an initial upgrade and ongoing management of regular updates. Customers quickly see the benefits of the move, but they’ve also asked us to simplify the update process—and to improve the coordination between Office and Windows. To respond to this feedback, we’re pleased to announce that we will align the Office 365 ProPlus and Windows 10 update model. This change will make planning and managing updates for both Office and Windows easier for customers using the Secure Productive Enterprise.

Targeting September 2017, we will make the following changes to the Office 365 ProPlus update model:

  • Two updates a year. We will reduce the Office 365 ProPlus update cadence from three to two times a year, with semi-annual feature updates to Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus targeted for March and September.
  • 18 months of support. We will extend the support period for Office 365 ProPlus semi-annual updates from 12 to 18 months (starting from first release) so IT professionals can choose to update once or twice a year.
  • System Center Configuration Manager support. System Center Configuration Manager will support this new aligned update model for Office 365 ProPlus and Windows 10, making it easier to deploy and update the two products together.

See the upcoming changes to the Office 365 ProPlus update management article to learn more.

New tools and programs to manage Office 365 ProPlus application compatibility

One of the biggest concerns customers have about the move to a new version of Office is application compatibility. Office add-ins and VBA solutions often play a significant role in key business processes, and application compatibility is an important consideration in both upgrades and updates. To help customers manage ProPlus application compatibility, we’re pleased to announce four new investments.

  • Upgrade assessment tools. Starting today, we’re offering a limited preview of new tools that will catalogue the add-ins and VBA solutions in use in your organization, identify potential issues with the upgrade to Office 365 ProPlus, and recommend steps for remediation.
  • Application compatibility testing. For each new Office 365 ProPlus release, we will perform compatibility testing of the most common third-party add-ins, identify potential issues, and take steps to remediate.
  • Office 365 ProPlus monitoring services. We will provide new services to monitor your ProPlus deployment and provide visibility into the usage and stability of apps and add-ins.
  • Reporting, tracking and resolving issues. We will improve our existing service for reporting, tracking and resolving application compatibility issues—and partner with customers and ISVs to find the best approach to remediation.

You can learn more about the upgrade assessment tools today, and we’ll have more to share on our application compatibility testing program, the new Office 365 ProPlus monitoring services and the new service for reporting, tracking and resolving issues in the coming months.

We are here to help

If you’re connecting to Office 365 with a legacy version of Office, you’re not enjoying all that the service has to offer—and we’re here to help. For more information on Office 365 ProPlus deployment, refer to the Office 365 ProPlus Deployment Guide and the ProPlus Ignite On-Demand sessions. And when you’re ready to make the move to ProPlus, the Microsoft FastTrack customer success service will help you with the details. Visit the FastTrack website to learn more and submit a request for help with planning, assessment and deployment. ProPlus is the very best way to experience the Office 365 services, and we’re committed to helping you upgrade with confidence.

Introducing OneDrive Files On-Demand and other features making it easy to access files

OneDrive Files On-Demand—access all your files without using up your device storage

At Microsoft Build 2017, Joe Belfiore announced that the new OneDrive Files On-Demand feature will be delivered with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. With Files On-Demand, you can access all your files in the cloud without having to download them and use storage space on your device. You don’t have to change the way you work, because all your files—even online files—can be seen in File Explorer and work just like every other file on your device.

Files On-Demand also allows you to open online files from within desktop or Windows store apps using the Windows file picker. Simply select the file you want to open in the file picker, and the file will automatically download and open in your app. Furthermore, you’re covered in both your home and professional life since it works with your personal and work OneDrive, as well as your SharePoint Online team sites.

This has been the #1 requested feature for OneDrive on UserVoice, and we’re excited to deliver it in a simple and powerful new way.

You can see that the folder selected in the SharePoint Online team site contains 1.37 TB of content but takes 0 bytes of storage on the disk.

New status icons in File Explorer make it easy to know whether your files are locally available or online files. For files that you need to access when you don’t have an internet connection, you can easily make files or folders always available by right-clicking and selecting Always keep on this device.

Right-click and select Always keep on this device to make files and folders accessible when you do not have an internet connection.

Online files will automatically download and become locally available when you need them. Simply double-click a file in File Explorer or open it from within an app. Your online files will always be visible even if you are offline. Now you won’t have to make tough decisions about which files to sync to your PC.

Double-click an online file and it will automatically download and open.

In addition to users, Files On-Demand benefits organizations and IT admins. Today, when someone syncs a SharePoint Online team site, files are re-downloaded on all synced devices when anyone makes a change. Files On-Demand will reduce network bandwidth by eliminating the need to continuously sync shared files on every synced device as teams collaborate.

Files On-Demand is coming to Windows Insider Preview early this summer and will be publicly available with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. Tune in to the SharePoint Virtual Summit on May 16, 2017 to learn more about Files On-Demand and how to create a connected workplace in Office 365 with OneDrive and SharePoint.

OneDrive Offline Folders—save entire folders for offline access on Android and iOS

In addition to Files On-Demand, we want to share a new feature with you to help you stay productive on your mobile device when you don’t have an internet connection, like on those long flights or weekends up at the cabin. OneDrive Offline Folders lets you save folders to your mobile device and open them when you don’t have an internet connection. Changes made by other users to the files while you’re offline will automatically be updated when you have an internet connection again. This new feature is now available on Android devices to Office 365 Personal and Home subscribers and OneDrive business accounts. We expect to roll it out to iOS in the next few months.

Select a folder and click the Parachute icon to make a folder and its contents available offline. 

OneDrive for iMessage—quickly share OneDrive files on iOS devices

With OneDrive for iMessage, we made it even easier to share files on your iOS devices by allowing you to quickly share documents and photos with friends and family without leaving your iMessage conversation. Choose to share an entire folder or only a file and instantly preview documents and photos shared with you in iMessage. Update to the latest version of OneDrive and enable OneDrive for iMessage on your device to try today.

Open OneDrive in iMessage and click a file to share it in your conversation.

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Finding a solution to pet anxiety with the help of Office 365

More than 32 million dogs in the U.S. suffer from anxiety, including Charger, ZenCrate co-founder Jon Azevedo’s dog. Initially hoping to create something that would help Charger, Azevedo and co-founder Chris Lightcap developed a product that could help millions of dogs. Office 365 played an important role in scaling their business as it grew.

ZenCrate co-founder, Jon Azevedo, with his dog Charger pausing to look at the scenery.

From pet project to production product

On a road trip during a typical Florida storm, Azevedo noticed that Charger was calm in the back seat of his car, and wanted to mimic that environment in a crate for home. “My focus in the beginning of this was Charger,” said Azevedo. “A year later, after a local veterinarian educated me on how large of a problem anxiety in animals is, I decided to focus on a product for other pet owners.”

Office 365 keeps ZenCrate current, connected and successful

Once Azevedo and Lightcap became aware of a bigger need, they began putting more focus on product development for consumers, and Office 365 became essential to ZenCrate’s growth. Knowing that the Office tools they use every day are always up to date allowed them to focus on the many moving parts associated with driving a product launch. “It allows usto grow as Office 365 grows,” Azevedo says.

And whether it’s creating a marketing presentation in PowerPoint, tracking tasks in OneNote, filling out purchase orders in Word or communicating between two offices and external vendors using Outlook, Office 365 helps them communicate both inside and outside the office.

Excel has made a huge impact on their ability to adapt and evolve. Being able to easily access expenses and track inventory allows Azevedo and Lightcap to make decisions based on information to meet increasing customer demand. Excel’s flexibility means they can leverage it in a variety of different ways. “We use Excel every day to track our income statements, accounts receivable and accounts payable,” says Lightcap. They also use Excel to manage production efficiencies, cutting production costs to create a product for customers at the lowest price possible. “Creating an efficient manufacturing process greatly impacts our ability to be successful,” says Lightcap.

Utilizing collaboration features through the cloud in the future

As ZenCrate scales up to fulfill customer orders, Azevedo and Lightcap are looking to the Microsoft Cloud to keep them connected. Lightcap says, “We have two separate offices and multiple team members working on the same project. Co-authoring will allow all team members to have up-to-date files, so they can make real-time changes to documents.”

Improving People in Outlook for iOS and Android

Add or edit your important contacts while on the go

With our latest update, you can now add and edit contacts for Outlook.com and Office 365 accounts (support for Google contacts coming soon).

To create a new contact in Outlook, simply go to the People tab and tap the + sign. You can also add a new contact directly from a message or event by tapping the name of a person and then tapping Add Contact. Lastly, you can also use the search bar in the People tab to find and add contacts from your company directory.

Once you’ve added a contact, you can edit their information by opening the contact and tapping the Edit button. Any changes made in Outlook for iOS will be synced and available across all versions of Outlook.

Left: new contact information displayed on a device screen. Right: contact details displayed on a device screen.

View details about your contacts at a glance

The contact card has also been redesigned to put your contacts’ key details front and center. Tap on any name in your messages or events to access phone numbers, email addresses and other details, like Skype IDs, along with your contact’s picture. Tapping a phone number will allow you to choose between calling, messaging or FaceTiming your contact.

The new contact card now also displays your recent conversations, shared attachments and any upcoming meetings you have with that person.

Save contacts to your device

While you can fully manage your contacts in Outlook, you can also save your contacts to the default Contacts app on iOS and Android. This allows you to easily see the name of a contact when you receive a call or text message from them, and view all of their contact information directly in the built-in Contacts app.

Due to the underlying capabilities of iOS and Android, Outlook provides a one-way push of contact information from Outlook to your phone. Newly added contacts and changes made in Outlook will sync to your built-in Contacts app. However, edits made in the contacts app will not sync back to Outlook or your email service.

Sharing Diagrams with Visio Services

The new Visio offers a number of new capabilities – the modern look of the app, new themes and shapes for making professional-looking diagrams, new ways to collaborate with multiple authors and reviewers. We’ve also made it much easier to share those diagrams with your coworkers and friends – even if they don’t have Visio. That’s where Visio Services comes in. Visio Services lets you share great-looking diagrams using SharePoint or Office 365 with up to the minute data.

Full fidelity viewing, no publishing

Visio Services is a part of Microsoft SharePoint and O365 that offers a fast and simple way to consume Visio diagrams. You just need to have a Visio document stored in SharePoint and a browser – no Visio client is required. We present the diagram with the same visual fidelity as the Visio client, including your themes and cool effects. Visio 2010 users will recall that diagrams had to be published to a special web format (.VDW) for viewing. No longer! Visio Services works with the new native Visio file format (.VSDX) so that any document saved in SharePoint is viewable – no publishing required. (Visio Services will still support your existing .VDW files.)

Visio Full Page web access

Collaborate on diagrams with commenting

One great reason to share your diagrams with others is to get feedback on them. With Visio Services your reviewers can add comments to the diagram – as well as see the comments from others. In fact, you may have people commenting on the diagram using the Visio client and people commenting in the browser at the same time. See the collaboration blog article for more details about the new commenting and collaboration features in Visio and Visio Services.

Comments in Visio Services

See the latest information

The information in Visio diagrams is not always static. You can connect a diagram to a variety of data sources to show dynamic information in a visual context. Visio Services can refresh the data and update the shapes in the diagram that are linked to data.

Embedded Visio Services web part

You can even incorporate diagrams into rich dashboards or larger SharePoint solutions. Below is an example of a SharePoint website for a University dorm. Visio diagrams are embedded in this site to give information about upcoming residence hall events and up to date information about dorm facilities. Diagrams are also available in document libraries for easy access to view in the browser or edit in Visio.

 

SharePoint site with Visio Services web parts

Access wherever you need it

Since Visio Services works through your browser, you can use it with a wide variety of devices – desktops, laptops, mobile phones, or tablets. It works with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari to give you access using your platform of choice. We’ve also added enhancements for touch and for mobile devices with smaller screens.

The new Office 365 subscriptions for consumers and small businesses

Office 365 Home Premium

A single subscription to Office 365 Home Premium covers the entire household.  While you use a laptop, your daughter can use the PC in the den, and your son can use a tablet.  You can each sign-in with your individual Microsoft accounts using your settings and accessing your documents, but you still need just one subscription to get:

  • All the Office applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher.*
  • Ability to use Office on up to 5 PCs or Macs shared among all users in the home. Subscribers also have flexibility to change their 5 devices at any time, and full featured Office applications are available for temporary use on any PC.
  • Nearly 3 times the amount of SkyDrive storage with an additional 20GB over the 7GB you get for free.
  • 60 minutes of SkypeTM world calling per month to keep in touch with family anywhere.**
  • Premium licenses that are always up-to-date with latest new features and services released regularly. With the new Office, new capabilities will be added multiple times per year.

Office 365 Home Premium, a single subscription for up to 5 users, will be available in both physical and online stores across 227 markets worldwide for $8.33 per month ($99.99 billed annually).  A free 30 day trial will also be available online.

 

 

 

Office 365 Small Business Premium

In addition to Office 365 Small Business, the new Office 365 Small Business Premium is designed for organizations with 1-10 employees, and each user gets the following benefits:

  • All the Office applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher plus Lync.*
  • Ability to use Office on up to 5 PCs or Macs for a single user. Users also have flexibility to change their 5 devices at any time, and full featured Office applications are available for temporary use on any PC.
  • 25 GB Outlook mailbox, shared calendar, contact manager, scheduling and task-list tools, and 10 GBprofessional-grade cloud storage for the organization plus 500 MB per user.
  • Ability to host online meetings with audio and video using one-click screen sharing and HD video conferencing (HD video camera required)
  • Set up, build, and maintain a public-facing website with no additional hosting fees.
  • Premium licenses that are always up-to-date with latest new features and services released regularly. With the new Office, new capabilities will be added multiple times per year.
  • No IT expertise needed. Simple setup to get started quickly and customize the service with ease.

Office 365 Small Business Premium will be available in both physical and online stores, including small business resellers, across 86 markets worldwide for $12.50 per user per month ($149.99 billed annually).  A free 30 day trial will also be available online.

Other offerings

People who need Office on only one device can buy traditional Office suites.  These offerings do allow you to save to SkyDrive by default and make it easy to connect to the cloud, but they are not available for multiple devices and do not include the latest updates or additional SkyDrive and Skype services. Prices start at $139.99 for Office Home and Student 2013 which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Office Home and Business 2013 includes all the applications in Home and Student plus Outlook.  Office Professional 2013 includes the applications in Home and Business plus Access and Publisher.   In addition, Office Home & Student 2013 RT comes on all Windows RT devices and includes fully featured editions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote optimized for ARM devices.

Building Office for Windows RT

The Birth of Office for Windows RT

Shortly before the January 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), we were asked if we could create a version of Office that would run on reference hardware with an ARM processor. This led to Steve Ballmer’s CES demo of Word and PowerPoint running on ARM. Office for Windows RT was born.

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Why Create Office for Windows RT?

In doing research for Office for Windows RT, we spoke to people to understand how they use current, in-market tablets. We wanted to understand what was missing that would make for a more compelling experience. One answer was nearly unanimous – people wanted a complete Office experience; not just a viewer. However, they also wanted a version of Office that was optimized for the tablet form factor – most importantly supporting touch and providing long battery life.

Office Home & Student 2013 RT is Office running on the ARM-processor based Windows RT OS. It is full Office built from the same code base as the other versions of Office, with small changes that were required as a result of differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT. Our goal when starting the Office for Windows RT project was to deliver:

  • ARM as a “first class” platform, including the Same look and feel as x86/x64, same level of polish and reliability, full Office feature-set and fidelity and Service parity (e.g., save to SkyDrive, roaming settings, other Windows Live integration, Office.com experience, etc.)
  • Stunning battery life (both active and idle), great performance and responsiveness

While we knew we wanted to deliver the same great Office experience across Windows and Windows RT, we also knew that Windows RT gave us an opportunity to optimize the product for the type of devices that would run on this new platform.

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Optimizing Office for the Windows RT Platform

The Office Home & Student 2013 RT applications – Word, Excel, OneNote, and PowerPoint run on the desktop on Windows RT. Our highest priority was making sure that customers can successfully do the things that are most important to them when using Office on these Windows RT devices.

When you use the Office applications on Windows RT, you’ll find yourself in a familiar environment that feels just like what you are used to using on other platforms. You may also notice some of the enhancements we made to optimize Office for the Windows RT environment – like automatically enabling touch mode (but if you don’t notice and find that everything just works as you’d expect, that’s okay too).

When you look at the specifications for Windows RT devices, you’ll find that most share some common characteristics:

  • Touch-enabled;
  • Portable with the ability to run on battery for long periods of time;
  • Memory capabilities start at about 2GB;
  • SSD drives of 16 to 32 GB capacity; and
  • Wireless connectivity with some having 3G

We’ve optimized Office for these capabilities. We’ve already described our touch investments in the post “Using the new Office with touch.” In addition to these broad investments in touch, Office applications are enabled for “touch mode” by default, so the touch experience is better out of the box.

Let’s take a look at some of the other improvements we’ve made while developing Office for Windows RT.

Maximizing Battery Life

Battery life is a difficult problem that requires good citizenship from all parts of the system to get the best possible results. A single poorly-performing component, whether hardware, driver, or software can significantly reduce the delivered battery life. In Office Home & Student 2013 RT, we carefully evaluated the impact Office has on the system and then made deep investments to ensure that we met the overall citizenship goals for the platform. For example, ideally Office would have no perceptible user impact at idle. In reality, Office apps need to maintain such things as data freshness which necessarily uses some power. Where we couldn’t remove a feature’s impact on battery, we invested in reducing the extent of that impact. Here are some of the common challenges we addressed.

Software Needs to Let the CPU Sleep

The most actionable thing that drives battery utilization is how often we wake up the CPU to do work, especially when the user is not actively typing, scrolling, etc. CPU power state transitions are expensive. To reduce these transitions, we want to avoid breaking up work across multiple CPU wake ups. Instead, whenever possible, we try to do all the required work at once. We focused on two things to reduce net wake ups: 1) coalesce timers and 2) remove the need for some timers entirely.

The primary mechanism that software uses to ask the system to wake it up is timers. Prior to Windows 8, Windows was not “tickless” meaning you were guaranteed to wake up every ~16 milliseconds. Timers were also often set to wake the process after a specific amount of time or repetitively on a given interval. Windows 8 added new coalescable timers which allow programs to be more battery-life friendly by specifying a range of time to wake up rather than an absolute interval. This allows the system to cluster wake ups with the end result being more CPU sleep time. This extends battery life dramatically.

In Office 2010, there were some situations where applications would wake up the CPU more than 1000 times per minute during idle. With the new Office, we have reduced that by 95% when the user isn’t interacting with the program. Most of the changes are in how Office interacts with the system at a deep level, so you shouldn’t notice any difference. However, there are a few changes that an observant user might notice. One example is the blinking cursor. There is no hardware or operating system support for a blinking cursor so software implements this feature using timers. To minimize the power impact, Office on Windows RT stops blinking the cursor after a few seconds if the user stops interacting with the application. When the user is away, we just show a fixed, non-blinking cursor. This requires no timer and is the best power citizenship option. This is just one example you might notice, and there are several others you won’t notice at all until your battery lasts longer than expected.

Take Advantage of the Hardware

Windows RT is designed to run on ARM System on a Chip (SoC) processors. Unlike a traditional PC where the CPU, graphics card, network adapter, and other systems components are generally all separate pieces, SOC processors combine these components onto a single integrated chip. This improves performance and reduces power consumption. It also guarantees that we can rely on the hardware for expensive operations like playing back videos.

Windows 8 detects this support and takes advantage of it. This is a real benefit to software vendors. For example, in the past, we would write code to detect the level of graphics support delivered by the video card and would write software-based “fallback” code to use when the graphics card in the system did not provide the required capabilities. When using the fallback software-based algorithms, execution cannot be optimized to the extent that can be done when implementing the same algorithm as a dedicated feature of the processor. This impacts both performance and battery life – often dramatically. We’ve taken advantage of these hardware offloads in situations like showing video in PowerPoint. By doing so, we improve the overall battery life of the system.

While the impetus for doing all the work I just described was the desire to deliver great battery life for Office for Windows RT, the fact that it is the same code base as the other Office products means that all users benefit from these changes regardless of what edition of Office they are using.

Using Less Resources When They are Scarce

While running, most programs load or create a great deal of temporary information that is necessary for the program to display information on the screen or to perform other operations. To improve the program’s performance and responsiveness, this information is saved in memory, called caching, so that it can be reused without the overhead of reloading or recalculating. When multiple programs are running the amount of memory available can become limited requiring the operating system to swap out some or all of the program to make that memory available to other programs. This “memory paging” is expensive and can reduce the responsiveness of the system.

Office detects when the user is not actively using the system. When this occurs, Office releases these temporary caches. By having Office determine what memory can most optimally be released rather than relying on operating system memory paging, both Office and the rest of the programs on the system benefit by more effectively utilizing limited memory.

Make Room for the User’s Information

Windows RT systems generally have Solid State Disk (SSD) drives. These drives are fast and battery efficient. However, while the cost per gigabyte continues to decline, these drives are still more expensive that traditional rotational drives. As a result, these drives tend to have smaller capacities. When programs are loaded on today’s large rotational drives that can be over a terabyte in size, most users don’t notice the space used by the program. However, when loaded on a 16GB SSD the operating system and programs can fill a significant portion of the total drive.

While developing Office for Windows RT, we carefully evaluated each feature’s impact on the overall footprint of Office on the drive. For example, rather than including large number of templates and clipart on the drive, we opted to put frequently used templates on the drive while making the more extensive collection available via the start center in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and also online .

One area that was identified for space savings was language packs. Many OEMs load multiple languages onto the systems they ship. If a user only uses one or two languages, the language resources such as spellers, grammar checkers, and UI strings for the other languages historically have continued to take space on the drive. Office is designed to clean up unused languages packs that are not configured for use by the user. If a user decides later that they want one of the languages that were removed the system will automatically download the required files from Windows Update.

Helping Users Avoid Bill Shock

One of the features we expect to see in many Windows RT systems is cellular network support. A characteristic of these networks is that their use is often metered. That is, users pay for the data they utilize – either some amount of money per megabyte of usage or with a monthly cap and then additional fees if they exceed that cap. As a good citizen on these devices we felt we needed to help users know when they are using a metered cellular network and give them the choice whether or not they want to pay for the usage or not take a particular action. Internally we referred to this as helping users avoid bill shock.

Windows RT provides APIs that allow applications including Office to understand the user’s current network state. We can identify if the cellular network is unrestricted or if usage is metered (the user is paying for their usage), if the user is approaching or over their limit, and whether or not they are roaming. When we detect that the cellular network is metered we throttle network traffic to reduce our impact. When users are roaming or over their cap we inform them and give them the options to turn off network traffic. Ultimately, the user knows best what they are trying to do and whether or not they are willing to pay to do it, so we try to give the user more feedback and control.

Benefits for All

While the work I’ve just described was done to optimize Office for Windows RT, most users will benefit no matter what edition of Office they choose to use. Office automatically determines whether or not the necessary operating system and device support is present to enable these enhancements. The majority of the changes are enabled when Office is running on any edition of Windows 8. Only features such as support for touch or cellular networks require additional hardware support.

Differences between Office for Windows and Office for Windows RT

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Word 2013 Word 2013 RT

Screen shots of the two applications look very similar because the products are very similar by design. Differences between the versions are subtle. Office Home & Student 2013 RT includes the vast majority of Office Home & Student 2013 features available on PCs, and the features customers use most. Windows RT tablets have special requirements for security, reliability, and battery life, and we’ve worked to ensure that the RT version is well-suited for the platform. Beyond the differences listed below, Office for Windows RT is fully-featured Office with complete document compatibility.

  • Macros, add-ins, and features that rely on ActiveX controls or 3rd party code such as the PowerPoint Slide Library ActiveX control and Flash Video Playback
  • Certain legacy features such as playing older media formats in PowerPoint (upgrade to modern formats and they will play) and editing equations written in Equation Editor 3.0, which was used in older versions of Office (viewing works fine)
  • Certain email sending features, since Windows RT does not support Outlook or other desktop mail applications (opening a mail app, such as the mail app that comes with Windows RT devices, and inserting your Office content works fine)
  • Creating a Data Model in Excel 2013 RT (PivotTables, QueryTables, Pivot Charts work fine)
  • Recording narrations in PowerPoint 2013 RT
  • Searching embedded audio/video files, recording audio/video notes, and importing from an attached scanner with OneNote 2013 RT (inserting audio/video notes or scanned images from another program works fine)

Babel optimizes open communication on Office 365

Babel Editorial, a small editorial company dedicated to the production of books and multimedia content, located in Lisbon, Portugal, recently streamlined their operations and reduced costs by getting on Microsoft Office 365.

The publisher’s business expansion from Portugal to Brazil surfaced the need to implement a flexible, simple, and economical IT solution that would reduce management and maintenance demands. As part of this globalization strategy, Babel also wanted to increase profits and security, while keeping productivity high.

To meet these requirements, Babel uses the full suite of Office 365: SharePoint Online to support their intranet, Microsoft Exchange Online for email, and Lync Online for videoconferencing. With Lync Online Babel is reducing the amount of time employees spend traveling while still keeping the line of communication open with customers and partners in Portugal and Brazil.