Microsoft Tackles Office Mobile Accessibility, Adds Excel Toolset

Microsoft announces upcoming accessibility enhancements for Office 365 Android and iOS apps and adds several new data transformation options to Excel.

Microsoft Office 365 accessibility

Building on Office's existing accessibility options for visually impaired users, Microsoft revealed that it plans to add new capabilities.

"I am excited to announce that Office 365 teams are not only working on enhancing the usability of VoiceOver with Office 365 iOS apps and Narrator with Windows 10 Mobile apps, but also the usability of TalkBack with Office 365 Android apps," stated John Jendrezak, accessibility lead and partner director of program management for the Microsoft Office Engineering group, in a recent blog post. VoiceOver and TalkBack are text-to-speech technologies that help users navigate their software audibly.

"And to make it easier for you to discover the difficult-to-find capabilities in Office with a just few clicks, the Tell me what you want to do … control (already available in Office Online and Office for PCs) is coming soon to Office for Android devices and by end of the year to iOS devices," continued Jendrezak.

The "Tell me …" feature, found in Office client applications like Word, enables users to find tasks, advanced options or capabilities that are often buried deep in the software's menus with simple natural language queries. For example, typing "print a document" takes users directly to application's print dialog.

Going forward, Microsoft plans to bake accessibility into its upcoming Office 365 offerings, including the upcoming SharePoint mobile apps, added Jendrezak.

On the PC, the software giant has tweaked Office 365's high-contrast modes to make it easier for users suffering from cataracts and other eye ailments to interact with Office apps. Ribbon menus feature larger icons with more distinct outlines that enable users to find a desired command at a glance.

'Transformative' Excel Update

This month's update for Excel 2016 includes several new data transformation features aimed at helping users quickly format their spreadsheets and tidy up their worksheets.

A new Column Filter option enables users to remove all rows where a selected column's value is null or empty. The new Keep Duplicates command works like Remove Duplicates, but in reverse. Instead of deleting repeated items, it keeps only the rows with duplicate values in a selected column and deletes the rest.

Under the Transform main menu, the Duration tool gains a new Total Years option that calculates the number of years by dividing the total number of days by 365. Power Query now offers sample values of expected input data that takes into account a workbook's Locale setting.

Query Editor preview now provides support for whitespaces and line feeds in data cells. To speed up performance when users are accessing a data source, Navigator previews can now be switched off. The Navigator window also supports technical names, labels that are more descriptive than the sometimes esoteric physical names given to an object.

Rounding out the new updates are configurable command timeouts when connecting to a data source, the ability to rename queries in Query Editor from the Queries pane and a new Power Query option that can be used to disable Privacy Level prompts.

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...