Microsoft Office Online Gains Some Bing-Powered Insight

A new update to the browser-based version of Office leverages Microsoft's Bing search technology to aid users in their research without opening a new tab.


Microsoft is making it easier for Office Online users to craft content without switching browser tabs.

Insights for Office in Word Online is "a brand new feature that brings information you want into your document, in a seamlessly integrated experience that lets you explore as you are working," said Rukmani Gopalan, a Microsoft Office program manager, in a statement. The feature is an upgraded, Web-based version of the Search with Bing right-click option in the Word client for Windows.

"In Word Online, when you right-click on a word and select Insights or use the Tell Me box, Insights for Office uses the power of Bing to neatly present relevant information—from a variety of sources like Bing Snapshot, Wikipedia, Bing Image Search and the web—right in your document," explained Gopalan. Users looking for dictionary definitions will learn the meaning of words "from one of the very best sources," she added, namely the Oxford English Dictionary.

Screenshots published by Microsoft show how results appear in the Insights panel situated on the right side of the main document editing area. The productivity-enhancing feature is aimed at helping users remain focused on their documents, regardless of how deep they drill down into a topic.

"You can use the Insights experience to do a quick look up or a detailed exploration," said Gopalan. In addition to at-a-glance snippets, users can "explore interesting articles that are related to the information you are looking for in the Wikipedia section, learn the definition of a word, get interesting facts in the Quick Insights section, drill into the Images section to look at pictures from Bing Image Search or see what the web has to say in the Web results section—all from right within the document," she asserted.

Powering the new Insights capability, in part, is Microsoft's machine learning technology, revealed Ryan Gavin, general manager of Bing Product Management.

"Insights for Office utilizes Bing's ability to index the world's knowledge and our machine learned relevance models to semantically understand the most important content in a user's document and then return the most relevant results," he stated in a Dec. 10 blog post. The company's research arm also lent a hand. "This capability is derived largely from patterns of text analysis developed in collaboration with Microsoft Research."

Insights for Office and Bing Image Search in Sway "are the most recent examples of our Bing as a Platform vision," said Gavin.

In recent months, Microsoft has been de-emphasizing its search rivalry with market leader Google and has focused on positioning Bing as a cloud-enabled foundation for smart services. The new Office Online capabilities join "a growing list that includes voice-powered web search on XBOX One, more personal search with Cortana on Windows Phone, SmartSearch in Windows 8.1, and Bing Search Suggestions in Internet Explorer," as part of Microsoft's vision.

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...