Latest Microsoft Office 365 Updates Emphasize Teamwork

New updates include Excel co-authoring, enhanced IT controls for Teams in the classroom and richer contact profiles in Outlook.

Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft is focused on collaboration and teamwork in its latest bundle of updates for Office 365, starting with the general availability of the new co-authoring feature in Excel.

"Now anyone can work together at the same time in spreadsheets stored in SharePoint Online, OneDrive, or OneDrive for Business," wrote Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of Microsoft Office team in a blog post. "With Excel co-authoring, you'll find it easy to know who else is working with you in a spreadsheet and view their changes as you work."

In classroom settings, Microsoft Teams now allows teachers to view their OneNote Class Notebooks in the application. Teams, the company's answer to Slack and other chat-based group collaboration tools, is now available to schools, allowing educators to distribute assignments, conduct class discussions and welcome guest lecturers into the classroom without having to book travel. Teachers can also now include web links to assignments and export the scores from those assignments to their school's learning management system software.

To help schools create safer and less distracting learning environments, Microsoft has rolled out new IT controls that administrators can use to place restrictions on Teams-compatible apps from third-party providers. Administrators can elect to disable class assignments and private chat functionality to further tailor the product to their needs.

In Windows, the Outlook client now gives users a fuller picture of their contacts. The application now displays richer profiles on colleagues including relevant conversations, Office groups, shared files and other information that pertains to their professional relationships.

The newly redesigned Yammer app for the iPad includes a time-saving automatic sign-in feature and a universal search function. Office administrators can now access the new Yammer activity report, which shows the number of communities within their organizations that are using the collaboration tool and other metrics that provide insights into adoption rates.

Finally, forgetting to obsessively click the Save button to save one's progress while authoring an important document or crafting a picture-perfect presentation is no longer necessary for some users, Koenigsbauer said.

AutoSave is now generally available in Word, and PowerPoint Excel, provided a user has an Office 365 subscription and stores documents in OneDrive and SharePoint. Borrowing from cloud productivity software applications, changes are automatically saved to the cloud while they are being made.

Microsoft isn't the only cloud business software provider to tout its new collaboration capabilities of late.

On Aug. 16, Google released new versions of Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, allowing teams to better track changes made to their documents using the Version History option (formerly Revision History). Helping users better organize their changes, they can now assign custom names to different versions of Docs, Sheets and Slides.

Users can also now accept or reject suggested edits wholesale and preview so-called "clean versions" of Docs files that dispense with suggested edits and comments. On the mobile front, iPhone, iPad and Android device users can now recommend changes by entering the new suggestion mode while viewing a Docs document.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...