Users can now connect with colleagues directly from select Office Web applications, which also help users stay current with new capabilities.
Microsoft has released an update to its Office Web Apps, allowing users to carry on Skype for Business
(formerly Lync) conversations without switching software.
"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," stated Nick Robinson, a Microsoft Office 365 senior product marketing manager, in a June 8 announcement. "Conversations will provide you with real time, direct access to the information you need directly from your colleagues and persist across applications."
The move follows a similar trajectory the company is taking on the consumer side.
Last year, Microsoft completed the global rollout of Skype on Outlook.com
, an in-browser implementation of the company's voice and video communications feature. Bringing together two massive user bases, the capability allows people using the Webmail software to access Skype from their inboxes. The company also recently opened up its stand-alone Skype for Web beta
to all users in the U.S. and U.K.
Office Web Apps gain an updated Help pane in the latest revamp, with a What's New section aimed at helping users get acquainted with the software's capabilities as Microsoft parses out new functionality.
"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," Robinson said. "The help pane question mark icon will show a snowflake alert to call attention to new features in a non-intrusive way."
In addition, administrators can now include an organization support card, complete with a phone number, email address and Website directing users to support services and resources. The support card shows up at the bottom of the Help pane for all users once it is enabled in the admin portal.
Real-time alerts and updates are now delivered through a new notification pane. "You can access the notifications pane via the persistent notification bell icon," informed Robinson. "The notification bell will display the corresponding number of available notifications."
A new Settings pane offers contextual access to application settings as well as the main Office 365 configuration 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," he added.
Microsoft is continually fine-tuning its online productivity offerings. The latest round of updates represents an effort by the company to offer users "a more consistent, personalized, and productive experience within Office 365 on the web," said Robinson.
The new features will appear for customers enrolled in the early-access First Release program over the next few weeks, he predicted. Microsoft expects that a broader rollout for all Office 365 business customers will take place "over the next several months."