Microsoft Sharpens Planner's Time Tools, Floats OneDrive Storage Offer

Microsoft adds new ways of managing time-sensitive tasks in Planner and makes a free OneDrive offer for businesses that switch from rivals.

Office 365 Planner

Planner, Microsoft's answer to Trello and other cloud-based team and project management platforms, now has a handful of new features designed to help users wring a little more productivity out of their schedules.

Using a board-and-card layout, the Office 365 application allows workers to organize their tasks and associated deadlines in a visual manner. They can reorder their activities using a drag-and-drop interface, add comments and attach content from Office 365 document repositories.

Focusing on Planner's time-management functionality, Microsoft has issued new updates intended to help employees better deal with packed calendars and looming deadlines.

A new Schedule view overlays tasks over a traditional calendar, allowing workers to see how tasks stretch across multiple days and overlap with other tasks using a weekly or monthly format. In keeping with Planner's approach to project management, it supports drag-and-drop scheduling of unscheduled tasks. Microsoft is also working on an iCalendar feed that will enable users to publish tasks to their Outlook calendars as part of an upcoming update.

Meanwhile, new filters allow users to delve deeper into the status of group tasks.

"The Group and Filter options in Planner give you deeper insights into your tasks to help you meet key deadlines," wrote Microsoft representatives in a blog post. "For example, filter your tasks by due date to better understand approaching deadlines. Or use the Group feature to view tasks that have not been started, so you can prioritize your work."

Lastly, Planner has now a new email notification feature that drops a summary of tasks that are due during the coming week into a user's inbox. The new features, except for the iCalendar feed, are available now to all Office 365 subscribers.

New Front in Cloud File Storage War

Elsewhere in the Office 365 ecosystem, Microsoft launched a promotional offer the company hopes will get businesses to switch their cloud file storage provider.

"We are making it easier for new customers to make the switch by offering free OneDrive for Business for the remaining term of their existing contract with Box, Dropbox, or Google," stated Ron Markezich, corporate vice president for Microsoft, in a Feb. 6 announcement. "This offer is valid starting February 6, 2018 through June 30, 2018 for organizations that are not currently OneDrive for Business or Office 365 customers and who make a minimum 500 user commitment."

Naturally, OneDrive for Business continues to evolve and is well integrated with Office, enabling functionality that may appeal to businesses with heavy investments in Microsoft's suite of business and productivity applications. Rival cloud storage and productivity platforms have also been making moves of their own to attract corporate customers.

Dropbox, which is reportedly preparing for an IPO, launched new tools designed for enterprise teams last summer. They include Dropbox Paper, a configurable workspace for groups and Smart Sync, an on-demand, cross-platform storage offering. On Sept. 12, 2017, the company announced an integration between Dropbox Paper and Slack, the popular team collaboration app.

In January, Box announced GxP Validation for compliance monitoring and verification. Last November, the company partnered with none other than Microsoft on Box Using Azure, an offering the combines Box's content-management capabilities with Azure storage.


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 network of...