Office 365 news round-up

Humans have always longed to know the future, to see what lies ahead and just out of sight. In ancient days, we consulted oracles or shamans. Today, we may seek the advice of futurists, who analyze current patterns and trends to predict future events. At Microsoft, however, we agree with legendary management consultant Peter Drucker, who said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

That’s exactly what we’re doing with Office 365 and our other cloud services—creating the future—and we recently offered our customers two new opportunities to lend a hand.

First, we expanded the Office for Android tablet preview that we initially introduced in November. Now anyone can go to Google Play to download the Word, Excel and PowerPoint preview apps and then provide feedback that will help us deliver a world-class Office experience on a range of different Android tablets when we launch the official apps. Second, we broadened our preview program for Sway, the intelligent app that can help you organize, format and share your content in more expressive and interactive ways. Although we initially released Sway for iPhone in New Zealand only, we have since made it available to customers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, India, Australia and many other countries where English is an official language.

We’ve also continued to improve Office in a number of ways. For example, the big news of the week coincides with recent announcements for Windows 10 and how Office has been redesigned for touch on Windows tablets and phones.

You can now save your Outlook.com email attachments to OneDrive with one click and send email directly from your Access 2013 apps. We’re also using IP throttling in Office 365 to reduce spam. In addition, we’ve introduced several new improvements to make Office Online even more accessible to people with disabilities.

And that’s not all. Our recent acquisition of Equivio will enable us to bring the power of machine learning to Office 365, strengthening its eDiscovery capabilities for customers who face the significant legal and compliance challenges that come with managing enormous amounts of data every day. We’re also transforming education technology by integrating Moodle and Office 365 to provide a more productive experience for teachers and students.

At Microsoft, we’re always looking ahead and working toward a brighter future for the millions of businesses and individual users worldwide to rely on Office 365 and our other products.

Below is a round-up of some key news items from the last couple of weeks. Enjoy!

Korvac Holdings migrates to Office 365 for improved employee collaboration—Discover how Singapore-based Korvac migrated to Office 365 to improve employee collaboration.

Maryland and Microsoft partnership provides free Office 365 for students—Learn how Maryland became the first state school system to receive free Office 365 and IT Academy Programs from Microsoft.

Rail solutions provider gets everyone on board quickly—Discover how Wabtec Corporation saved money and increased efficiency with Office 365.

Building a digital workplace with Office 365—Learn how Office 365 is transforming the way people work and businesses operate.

Electrosteel leverages Microsoft Cloud to halve IT costs—Find out how Electrosteel Limited of India cut IT costs in half by adopting Office 365.

Stanford University moves to Office 365 and Exchange—Discover why Stanford University chose Office 365.

Share and collaborate in the Enterprise with Office 365 Delve—Find out more about Office Delve and how organizations are making it work for them.

Introducing Skype document chat in Office Online

The Office Online real-time co-authoring feature makes it easy for you to work together with others on a document from your browser. Whether you are putting the final touches on a contract with your business partner or collaborating on an essay for a school project, Office Online lets you work seamlessly with others no matter where they are.

Today we are happy to announce upcoming improvements to the Office Online co-authoring experience:

  • Document chat is available when collaborating with others in real-time in Word and PowerPoint. Simply click the Chat button to begin chatting with everyone working in the document.
  • Continue to chat with those same people after leaving the document via Skype on your desktop or phone. Know when your team is working on the document and chime in.

Introducing Skype document chat in Office Online 2

 

 

Introducing Skype document chat in Office Online 1 v2

 

We’ll begin rolling this out over the coming weeks at www.office.com!

Garage Series: Bringing Data Loss Prevention to SharePoint and first look at new Office 365 Message Encryption Viewers for iOS and Android

On this week’s show we invite back Asaf Kashi, a lead engineer on the information protection team. We introduce the information protection updates coming to Office 365 and demonstrate the upcoming Data Loss Prevention capabilities in SharePoint and OneDrive for Business, the upcoming Office 365 compliance center, one-time passcodes for viewing encrypted email and the just-released Office 365 Message Encryption Viewers for iOS and Android. 

Last time we invited Asaf Kashi on the show was in May this year where we presented updates to information security and protection. At the time Asaf shared that Data Loss Prevention (DLP) was coming to SharePoint and OneDrive for Business and today we actually go deeper to take a first look and show DLP in action – both the user and admin experiences. This capability will allow you to define policies in one place in the forthcoming Compliance Center where you will be able to control Exchange, SharePoint and OneDrive for Business, so you only need to author compliance rules in one place and those will apply across the services. Asaf and his team are in the process of building DLP for SharePoint now, so we give you a sneak peek of what’s coming soon.

Beyond DLP though, we’ve recently added new ways to view encrypted Office 365 email. In October, we announced one-time passcodes for Office 365 Message Encryption (OME) protected emails. That means recipients of your encrypted Office 365 emails do not need to have an Office 365 or Microsoft account to securely view email from their browser. Instead they receive a time-limited passcode to securely view messages. We also recently implemented a 12-hour window for one-time passcodes; so if you receive multiple OME messages daily, you don’t need to keep entering the passcode if you’re within the 12-hour window.

Today, we have new Office 365 Message Encryption Viewer apps for iOS and Android. These apps enable secure, encrypted email communication to these platforms.  At 11:40 into the show, I demonstrate the experience of receiving an email using in my case Yahoo Mail – but it could be any email service – and viewing an encrypted message via the Office 365 Message Encryption Viewer for Android. You can find out more or download the apps today:

OMEVieweriPhone

Experience in Office 365 Message Encryption Viewer for iPhone

Be sure to check out the show to see everything in action. This will be the last Garage Series of 2014 and next year we’ll be back with more inside information for Office 365 tech enthusiasts.

Office 365 now available from datacenters in Japan

In October, we announced the availability of Microsoft Azure from Australia.  Then we showcased new productivity experiences for the iPhone, iPad and Android tablets.  Last month I shared our plans to move forward with delivering locally hosted versions of our cloud productivity suite, Office 365, and our cloud business application, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, from Japan.  Today, I’m excited to announce that Office 365, from Japan, is generally available.

Offering Office 365 services from local datacenters helps customers in sectors such as financial services, healthcare and central and local government better comply with regulations that require data to be kept in Japan.  Of course it also delivers the ubiquitous collaboration, personalized insight and people-centric compliance that customers have come to expect from Office 365.

As a result, customers such as, Kameda Medical Center, Sony Life Insurance Co., Ltd. and local governments including, Toshima-ku and Satsumasendai City, have signed up to use Office 365—getting all the benefits of the world’s leading productivity suite—while storing their data in Japan to address data sovereignty concerns and providing improved reliability.  Our existing Japanese Office 365 customers will have their data moved from Asia-Pacific (APAC) to Japan so they can enjoy these benefits, more information can be found here.

Extended email retention for deleted items in Office 365

If you are an Office 365 administrator, this means we’ll be updating the Default MRM Policy for everyone using Exchange Online over the next month. As an administrator, you also have control over this behavior. If you want to keep the 30-day policy or set a custom retention period, that can be done as well and you don’t even need to wait for the change. Also, if you have already created a custom MRM policy, (as long as it has a name other than “Default MRM Policy”), you don’t need to do anything and the change will not impact you.

Create a custom retention policy

You can either edit the name of the Default MRM Policy or create a new policy to opt out of this change. To change the policy name in Office 365 navigate to Office 365 Admin > Exchange admin center > compliance management > retention policies. Next, select Default MRM Policy, click the edit icon and then change the name of the policy.

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Exchange admin center for compliance management and retention policies.

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Editing experience for retention policies.

PIN lock and other updates to Outlook for iOS and Android

IT controls

While our first release focused on bringing a great end-user experience to market, we are also well underway building the IT controls that our business customers require.

PIN lock

Outlook now implements password enforcement using Exchange ActiveSync. If your company email policy requires that devices have a password in order to sync mail, Outlook will enforce this at the device level. How this works on iOS and Android devices varies slightly, based on the available controls provided by Apple and Google.

On iOS devices, Outlook will check to make sure a passcode is properly set. In the event a passcode is not set, it will prompt users to set one up in iOS settings. Until the passcode is setup, the user will be unable to access Outlook.

Outlook for iOS only runs on iOS 8.0 or later. These devices are shipped with built-in encryption, which Outlook uses once the passcode is enabled to encrypt all the data Outlook stores locally on the device. Therefore, iOS devices will be encrypted whether the Office 365 or Exchange policy requires this or not.

iOS passcode

Outlook for iOS enforces simple passcode. Encryption is enabled by default.

On Android devices, Outlook will enforce screen lock rules. Further, Google provides controls that allow Outlook to honor additional Office 365 and Exchange policies regarding password length and complexity requirements and the number of allowable screen-unlock attempts before wiping the phone. It will also encourage storage encryption if it is not enabled. Outlook will guide users through this process with a step-by-step walkthrough.

Devices that do not support these security settings will not be able to connect to an account.

Android setup device mangement

Outlook for Android enforces passwords including length and complexity requirements, storage encryption and will monitor screen-unlock attempts to prevent un-authorized access.

Quicker remote wipe execution

We’ve also made improvements to how quickly admin-led remote wipes are executed—they now happen within seconds. As before, this is an app-level wipe, not a device wipe. The Outlook app will reset and Outlook email, calendar, contacts and files data will be removed from the device, as well as from Outlook’s cloud components. The wipe will not affect any of the user’s personal apps and information.

User-focused features

We’ve also delivered on several of the top feature requests we’ve received in the past two weeks.

IMAP support

Outlook now supports the ability to sync mail from email providers that support IMAP, like AOL.com and Comcast.net. We use IDLE whenever possible, which means Outlook can provide push-like behavior even with IMAP accounts. If the IMAP server doesn’t support IDLE, Outlook will sync every few minutes.

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Outlook now connects to email services that support IMAP.

Toggle conversation view for iOS

By default, Outlook organizes your email into conversations, where all messages with the same subject line are grouped together. In iOS, you can now turn this feature off if you’d prefer to see each email individually in your mailbox. Just go to Settings > Organize Mail by Thread and adjust the toggle to match your desired preference.

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Use ‘Organize Mail by Thread’ to toggle conversation view on/off.

We expect to bring this capability to Android soon.

Customize swipe gestures on Android

Outlook’s swipe gestures make rapid email triage literally a one touch experience. You can swipe right or left to take actions like archive, delete, move, flag, mark as read/unread or schedule. Unlike other email apps, Outlook lets you personalize these swipe gestures to match your unique email habits. Customization was previously only available on iOS, and is now available on Android.

Go to Settings > Swipe Options to customize your swipe gestures.

 

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Customize your swipe gestures to match your email habits in Settings.

Change folders for swipe gestures

For the Archive and Schedule swipe gestures, you can now choose and change your default folders at any time. Previously, Outlook prompted you to choose a folder for these actions during first use. Now when your email habits change, you can adjust these by going to Settings > Choose an account > Advanced Settings > System Folders.

Office 365 Partner admin mobile app now available

If you are an Office 365 partner managing your customers Office 365 tenant, hopefully you are already using the Office 365 Partner admin center portal, which gives you several tools to manage customers including, a view of all of your customers, the service health of individual customers, and the ability to manage service requests and perform administrative tasks on behalf of a customer.

Today we are extending the Partner admin center experience with a new Office 365 Partner admin mobile app, available now for Android and iOS and coming soon for Windows Phone. The Office 365 Partner admin mobile app gives partners additional flexibility to manage and administer your customers. If you have access to the main Office 365 partner admin center portal, you can sign in to the Office 365 Partner admin app using your same credentials.

Here are some of the key things you can do with the Office 365 Partner admin app:

  • Easily view, search and access customer information for which you have delegated admin privileges.

pac mobile client list_new

  • View each of your customer’s current service health status.

Office 365 Partner admin mobile app 2

  • View a customer’s open service requests.

Office 365 Partner admin mobile app 3

  • View a customer’s Message Center communications for important service information.
  • Take action to manage your customer including accessing user accounts taking action like resetting user passwords.

New user experiences in Office 365 on the web

Today we are introducing a set of new user experiences in Office 365 on the web that provide quick access to notifications, help and what’s new feature introductions, contextual and immersive settings and the integration of Skype for Business conversations – all within the context of your work. These new features will be available across Office 365 web applications via a set of persistent icons in the top right of the navigation bar.

Let’s take a quick look at what’s new:

Quick access to notifications

A new notifications pane displays real-time updates on your system alerts, personal reminders and communications, including new mails and group likes. You can access the notifications pane via the persistent notification bell icon. The notification bell will display the corresponding number of available notifications.

New user experiences in Office 365 on the web 1 1

Updated Help pane and “What’s new” feature introductions

The new Help pane delivers quick access to help content via a search box, as well as What’s new feature introductions  related to the application you are currently working in. Features included in What’s new include links to additional information, quick actions like “create group” and in some cases a call out on the application canvas about the new feature being introduced. The help pane question mark icon will show a snowflake alert to call attention to new features in a non-intrusive way.

The Help pane will also include an organization support card for admins to set the support contact information for their organization including email, phone number and website. The organization support card, once enabled from the company profile tab of the admin portal, appears at the bottom of the Help pane for all users within your organization.

New user experiences in Office 365 on the web 2 1

Integration of Skype for Business conversations

Conversations and real-time access to colleagues across locations, time zones, or even just down the hall have become commonplace for many of us. You will now have the option to start an instant message, voice and/ or video conversation with one or several of your colleagues right from the productivity of your inbox, OneDrive for Business or calendar application. Conversations will provide you with real time, direct access to the information you need directly from your colleagues and persist across applications.


New user experiences in Office 365 on the web 3 1

Contextual and immersive settings

Finally, a new Settings pane provides direct access to contextual settings for the application you are working in, and quick access to the full Office 365 settings experience. In this way, you can personalize and customize your work environment without having to leave what you’re working on. Quick updates to your notifications settings, your password or your automatic replies are only a few clicks away.

New user experiences in Office 365 on the web 4 1

These new features deliver a more consistent, personalized, and productive experience within Office 365 on the web—enabling you and your team to achieve more with the Office 365 web experience.

Announcing first network partners to offer ExpressRoute for Office 365

A key part of delivering ExpressRoute for Office 365 are the network partners that provide connectivity between Office 365 services and your on-premises network. Network Service Providers manage and extend the customer’s WAN, routing it for direct connectivity to Office 365 and Azure services. Exchange Providers offer connectivity at the carrier neutral facilities where ExpressRoute is available. You can have a layer 3 connection directly at the carrier neutral facilities into your network equipment or contract another network company to provide a link to your premises.

Today, we are pleased to announce the launch partners that will first offer this service, starting this summer.

  • AT&T will offer ExpressRoute for Office 365 as a Network Service Provider via AT&T NetBond at Microsoft Office 365 locations including Dallas, Silicon Valley and Washington DC.
  • BT will offer ExpressRoute for Office 365 as a Network Service Provider at all of their available global locations including Amsterdam and London.
  • Equinix will offer ExpressRoute for Office 365 as an Exchange Provider at all of their available ExpressRoute locations including Amsterdam, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York, Sao Paulo, Seattle, Silicon Valley, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and Washington DC.