By now you’ve likely heard that Microsoft has a cloud version of Office, called Office 365, that you pay for on subscription either monthly or annually.
Office 365 is a little unusual in that it is cloud software and you install it on your PC, to give you the best of all worlds. As you keep you paying for it, Microsoft automatically adds cool new features. Altneratively, an online-only version is available for free, called Office Online.
We asked Microsoft to send us a list of the best new things you could do with the software that most people didn’t know it could do.
Multiple people can edit the same document at once
Everyone can edit a document at the same time in Word, PowerPoint or Excel. You can see the changes as they make them and who is doing the editing.
No more emailing attachments. Everyone can just pile on and work at once.
By the way, while this feature is new for Office 365, it’s not unique to Microsoft. Google Apps offers the same. But the first time you see it in action, it’s wild.
Skype with co-workers while working on a document
In the coming weeks, Microsoft will be rolling out a feature that lets you simply click a “Chat” button to begin chatting with everyone working in the document over Skype.
Even if you leave the Office document, you’ll be able to continue the conversation via Skype on your desktop or phone, so can keep talking to the team as they make edits.
Link to files, don’t attach them
If your company uses a business edition of Office 365, here’s a nifty trick for sharing a file. Upload your file to Office 365’s cloud storage. Fire up the cloud version of Outlook (known as Outlook Web App) and, instead of attaching a file, link to the file on your cloud.
This isn’t unique to Office 365 — all cloud storage services allow you share documents via links. But Outlook will automatically grant edit permission to the people you are emailing. (You can change their permissions, too.)
Use two Microsoft cloud storage accounts on your Android phone
Microsoft has created an app called the OneDrive app for Android.
It lets you use both your corporate Microsoft cloud storage (OneDrive for Business) and your personal Microsoft cloud storage (OneDrive) from a single app.
Just toggle between them.
Turn notes into calendar items
You can use Microsoft’s note-taking tool, OneNote, inside of Microsoft Outlook.
So, if you write a to-do list in OneNote, you can easily convert it to a bunch of tasks with deadlines and reminders on your calendar.
You can add automatically add calendar meeting details like date, location, topic, agenda and attendees, to your notes. Then you can email the meetings notes to you team using the “Email Page” button.
Let Bing automatically find images for your presentations
While you can still do old-fashioned PowerPoints with Office 365, Microsoft is testing a cloud presentation software that’s more like Prezi than PowerPoint.
Right now Sway is in invitation only preview mode, though it’s easy to request an invite. One thing it has done is to stitch together Sway with Bing image search. Bing will read your presentation and suggest images based on the words you are using.
As you add more words, the Bing image search automatically updates.
Convert scribbles to text and drawings
When you scribble handwritten notes into OneNote on a device that supports electronic ink (OneNote, Samsung Galaxy Note, etc.) OneNote has to sort of guess which lines belong together.
If it guesses wrong, you can easily fix it with the Lasso tool.
Select Lasso Select, circle an area of your note and then you can edit it or use the “Ink to Text” or “Math” option to change the scribbles into regular text and numbers.
Teach your inbox to de-clutter itself
Both Microsoft and Google are tying to offer machine learning technology to surface important emails from a world full of spam.
Google has the “Priority Inbox.” Microsoft is starting to roll out its version called “Clutter.” Clutter takes any and all rules you have set up for you inbox and uses them. You then train it by marketing messages as clutter.
It will then start to automatically move less important messages into the “Clutter” folder for you to read or delete later. This feature will be set live in the next few weeks, Microsoft says.
Ignore annoying reply-all conversations
With both Google and Microsoft Office 365, you can stop seeing annoying “reply all” email conversations. With Google you click something called the “mute” button.
In Office 365, this is called the “Ignore” button.
By the way, this isn’t a new feature. Folks using Outlook 2010 also have the Ignore button. But it’s a great trick all the same.
Add a signature to an email
A free electronic signature app from the king of such apps, DocuSign, is available for Outlook.
So if you are stilling printing documents, signing them, then scanning or (heaven forbid) faxing them, this app will let you join 2014.
The app walks you through electronically signing and emailing a document and can help gather signatures from others, if needed.
Turn your mouse icon into a laser pointer
If you are giving a presentation the old fashioned way, using PowerPoint, and you don’t have a laser pointer, you can use your PC’s mouse as a fake one.
You simply tell PowerPoint to change the mouse icon into a little red dot.
This isn’t a new feature for Office 365. Older versions do this, too. But Microsoft did include this feature in the version of Office that runs on the iPad released earlier this year.
Even though the iPad doesn’t use a mouse, if you hold your finger or stylus down on the iPad, the red button fake laser pointer will appear.
Turn rows of data into a map
The latest version of Excel includes a cool new feature called the Power Map.
It helps convert rows of data into images. And if that data is geographic in nature, such as county-by-county lists for a state, Power Map will put it on a 3D map.
Excel charts, graphs, pivot tables made easy
The power of Excel is how easily it turns data into charts. With the latest version, this function has been beefed up.
Microsoft has collected all the ways you can format your data into a feature called “Quick Analysis.“
Select the cells, fire up the Quick Analysis tool and click through your options for visually presenting the material: charts, totals, tables and sparklines (tiny line charts), etc.
Let Excel reformat your data
You know how powerful Excel’s Fill Down “Control -D” command is? The new version of Office has something that practically reads your mind: Flash Fill.
With Flash Fill Excel sees what you are doing and does the rest of it for you.
For example, say you are changing the formatting of a list of people’s names from spread across two columns (first name, last name) into a single column. When you type the second reformatted name, Excel displays the whole list, reformatted. Just click to accept it.
Edit a PDF file
If someone sends you a PDF that you’d like to convert into a Word document to edit, you can. Just open it and respond “OK” when it asks you if you to convert the PDF. This will prevent the formatting problems associated with editing or copying and pasting from the PDF.
You can also save a Word file as a PDF (click File > Export > Create PDF/XPS), or save just a portion of a file as a PDF (select a page range). And you can password-protect the PDF, too.