Microsoft, hot on the heels of its Office 365 Home Premium launch, is showcasing free Bing apps that integrate with Office 2013 versions of Word and Excel.
Office 365 Home Premium includes the 2013 editions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access, along with cloud features like roaming profiles, file sync and sharing via SkyDrive, and Office on Demand, a software streaming option for PCs without the software installed. With Bing apps, users can now add integrated online search to the list.
The goal, according to a blog post from the Bing team, is "to make Bing available in convenient and intuitive ways that take advantage of knowledge Bing has assembled for search."
Bing Apps for Office builds on the company's work to integrate Bing into its mobile platforms and Windows 8 OS. "You can see this today with features like: voice search on Bing for Mobile, implicit search such as Local Scout on Windows Phone, the ability to search using your phone's camera with Bing Vision, and touch/contextual search with Bing on Windows 8," the company stated.
That means less alt-tabbing between Office and a Web browser as they prepare documents and spreadsheets. "With Bing Apps for Office, we are introducing ways for you to be more productive without having to leave the applications."
For Microsoft, it's a way to chip away at Google's search supremacy, at least among users of its popular productivity software suite.
In their efforts to catch up to Google, Microsoft officials have made Bing more social and have teamed with Yelp to improve the search engine with the collective wisdom of foodies and bar hoppers. The company has even made overtures to startups in hopes that its search technology can help power their innovations.
Now, the company is targeting Office users.
Apps include Bing Finance, Maps, Image Search, News Search and Dictionary add-ons. Bing Finance and Maps work with Excel while Image Search and News Search hook into Word. Bing Dictionary works with both.
Bing Apps for Office appear right alongside an open document or spreadsheet. The aim is to help eliminate the need to switch to the browser window—there's a good chance that it's Google's Chrome browser, after all—to search the news, research a topic or view images. For instance, "Bing Image Search for Office allows you to search for images on the Web from within your Word document," Microsoft officials stated in the blog post.
Seamless integration is key. Microsoft explained, "You can search for images by selecting text in the document or typing in the search box. Results are displayed in a grid and when you click on a result, a larger preview is displayed at the bottom with additional details and options. "
Upon finding a suitable image, users can pop it into their Word document. "Any result can be inserted into the document at the location of your cursor by clicking on the insert plus icon." Similarly, users can embellish spreadsheets with location data or stock information.