Microsoft Office 365 Diary: SharePoint Online Updates And New Accessibility Features

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Office 2016 across devices
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UPDATED: Office for Mac gets updated, Microsoft adds accessibility features and new SharePoint integrations. All the latest Microsoft Office 365 news

Microsoft Office needs no introduction but here’s one anyway. It became an industry standard tool following its launch in 1990, helping businesses become more productive and employees more frustrated by endless Excel spreadsheets.

Early challengers fell away and Microsoft was criticised for its use of proprietary standards. However in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the emergence of the smartphone and competitors like Google Docs saw Microsoft change strategy, becoming more open and mobile, and shifting to the cloud, subscription-based Office 365.

There are now more than one billion users of Microsoft Office and it remains an important tool for the enterprise, so here’s the latest news:

Microsoft Office 2016

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Microsoft Office 2016
Microsoft Word - Across Devices

September 2016: Microsoft adds new capabilities to SharePoint Online

Microsoft Office SharePointSharepoint Online is now more deeply integrated with Office 365 Groups, allowing each group to have a team site that can be populated with SharePoint Pages comprising various web parts such as text, images, video and Yammer feeds.

The home page will show the team’s most relevant content, show recent activity and offer quick links to documents and applications

August 2016: Office 365 Targets Inclusion With Accessibility Update

Microsoft is to make it easier for people with disabilities to create content with an Office 365 accessibility update.

“As we make Office 365 accessible by design and make it easy for everyone to create accessible content, we hope that people of all abilities will feel empowered to achieve more with our productivity technologies, have equal access to digital information and have fulfilling interactions with each other,” said John Jendrezak, accessibility lead for the Office engineering team.

So what can we expect going forward? One of the key improvements will be to help visually impaired people with the screen reader tool for Word, Outlook and SharePoint.

The built-in screen reader tool is called Narrator, and was updated as part of the recent Windows 10 anniversary update earlier this month.

The update includes new voices that can speak up to 800 words per minute, and Redmond says it has “six levels of verbosity, so you can get varying indications of text properties and control over how much punctuation you hear, and verbal hints when automatic suggestions are available.”

August 2016: Office for Mac gets 64-bit support for better performance

Macbook_Outlook_office 2016Microsoft has upgraded Office 2016 for Mac to 64-bit. New versions of Word Excel, PowerPoint , Outlook and OneNote will be available as part of the August product release and affects customers of all licence types – including Retail, Office 365 Consumer, Office 365 Commercial, and Volume License installations.

Unlike Windows, there is no choice between running 32-bit or 64-bit versions of Mac OS, so Microsoft won’t offer a similar choice for the Mac edition of its office suite.

The transition was first announced in April 2016, but Microsoft admits some third-party add-ons may suffer from compatibility issues. However Microsoft will make a one-tie 32-bit update for Office Mac 15.25 if a developer needs to change some code, although this must be installed manually.

Microsoft Office for Mac 2016 was first made available to Office 365 subscribers.

August 2016: Microsoft Buys Up AI Calendar Service Genee For Office 365

Microsoft has acquired artificial intelligence-powered scheduling service Genee, and plans to integrate the software with Office 365 to give users more calendar power.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and Microsoft will shut down Genee’s standalone service on September 1, before plugging it into Office 365 to act as a personal assistant when booking meetings.

Genee only got off the ground in 2014, and claims the acquisition is a result of the company being at the forefront of natural-language processing, AI, and chatbot technologies.

August 2016: Microsoft Office Apps will come preloaded on Lenovo smartphones

Microsoft productivity apps will come preloaded on some of Lenovo’s Android-powered devices, expanding the reach of Microsoft Office, Skype and OneDrive.

Lenovo also owns Motorola Mobility and is one of the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturers, and enjoys considerable popularity in China – even if its market share has been eroded by local rivals such as Xiaomi and Oppo in recent times.

It is expected that Lenovo will sell “millions” of Android units in the coming years, giving Microsoft more people to target with subscriptions to its cloud services.

July 2016: Office 365 outage causes email backup

clippy Microsoft assistant WordA cloud outage caused email chaos for many Office 365 subscribers who noticed incoming emails has slowed to a trickle and outgoing emails had begun piling up. The outage was poorly timed as it took place just as millions of Americans prepared to enjoy a long weekend to celebrate US Independence Day on 4 July.

June 2016: Security concerns as Office 365 turns five

Microsoft Office is now the most popular cloud service in the enterprise, surpassing Salesforce, but this is creating its own security problems as admins such for ‘needles in haystacks’ in terms of malicious events. In the same month, Office 365 was subject to a ransomware assault by a nasty piece of malware dubbed Cerber. However Microsoft said it blocked the attack ‘within hours’

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