Over the summer, Microsoft introduced a new Skype app for iOS with a multitude of new features that seemed designed to maintain its relevance in a social media-dominated world. At the time, Microsoft also introduced a preview version of the Skype desktop app that incorporated some of the same features. Today, Microsoft announced that the desktop app has exited preview mode and is being rolled out across several platforms.
The new Skype desktop app includes a lot of new features, but one of the most fundamental that should be welcome to all users is the unification of messaging across platforms. That means messages you receive through Skype will be available whether you’re using the app on a Mac, iOS, Windows, an Xbox, or another device.
In addition, Skype now includes cloud-based file sharing of up to 300 MB of data, customizable themes, and different ways to organize your chat list. Notifications have also been centralized with reactions to your messages, @mentions in group chats, and instances where you have been quoted available in one place. To jump to the spot in the conversation where the notification appears, just click on it. There’s a chat media gallery where you can access all photos, links, files, and other items sent to you too.
Microsoft has added many other bells and whistles. Chat conversations can take advantage of add-ons like event scheduling, sending money to friends and family, searching for GIFs, and more. Video calls and text-based messages can include reactions to let others know your mood, status updates, Twitter-style @mentions, and bots from third parties too. If there was any doubt that Microsoft wants to expand beyond simple voice and video calling, the latest updates to Skype’s apps should put that to rest.
The new version of Skype has begun rolling out to users. If you don’t want to wait for the update to show up, you can manually download it from Skype.com now.
Tom Warren of The Verge reports on Outlook for Mac details shared at the Microsoft Ignite conference last month:
A lot of the changes look very similar to the Outlook for iOS app, with a single-line ribbon and a smaller set of default commands. Reducing complexity is one of the key aims of the redesign, to make it easier for new and existing Outlook users to navigate the email app.
A new customizable ribbon will let Outlook for Mac and Windows users control which buttons are available, so you can tailor the email interface to your own common tasks. The left navigation panel will include quicker access to folders across multiple accounts, and looks like the switcher in Outlook for iOS.
Outlook for iOS has long been among the top email clients on the mobile platform. It pairs a clean, beautiful interface reminiscent of iOS’ Mail.app with the power user features Apple appears content to ignore. Moving Outlook for Mac away from its traditional desktop roots and further into the modern era looks to be a clear win.
The full Ignite session detailing future Outlook changes is available on YouTube.
In line with Microsoft’s post-Windows Phone mobile strategy, the company announced today that its Windows 10 browser, Microsoft Edge, would be coming soon to iOS and Android smartphones. The focus of the mobile browser, at least at first, doesn’t appear to be offering any revolutionary features, but instead providing a more seamless web experience to Windows users on their phones. From Microsoft’s announcement post:
Microsoft Edge for iOS and Android brings familiar features like your Favorites, Reading List, New Tab Page and Reading View across your PC and phone, so, no matter the device, your browsing goes with you. But what makes Microsoft Edge really stand out is the ability to continue on your PC, which enables you to immediately open the page you’re looking at right on your PC—or save it to work on later.
A release date for the app is unknown, but users can gain early access to a preview build starting today. The one major caveat is that in order to gain access to the preview version, you have to visit this page from a PC running the latest preview build of Windows 10. Also of note: this initial release is limited to phones only, so iPad users will have to wait until Edge makes its way to tablet platforms.
Microsoft has released a big update to OneDrive for iOS, bringing several significant user-facing features as well as a full rewrite of the app under the hood to improve performance. According to the release notes for the update, all the new features are being progressively rolled out over the next couple days, so you may not see them right away. They are also all, at least for now, exclusive to Office 365 subscribers, and it is unclear if that will change in the future or not.
The first new feature of note is offline folders. OneDrive has offered offline files for a while now, but the ability to save entire folders offline has been painfully absent. I expect this feature will make a lot of users very happy.
Earlier this year OneDrive added a scanning tool, but it was very basic and rudimentary, requiring scanned documents to be a single page only; there were also no editing options whatsoever for scanned pages. The latest version of the app remedies these issues by introducing multi-page scanning along with tools to crop, rotate, or delete scanned pages.
The final two changes to OneDrive center around improving file sharing. One of those improvements is that you can now give someone temporary access to a file by creating a shared link with an expiration date of your choosing. The other improvement is found in the app’s ‘Shared’ tab, where users with a work or school account will see a new ‘Discover’ section. This section features an assortment of documents personalized for you based on who you work with and what projects you’re working on together.
Microsoft Outlook for iOS was updated today with several new features, and Microsoft announced that another significant update would be coming soon.
The new feature that appeals to me most is quick reply, which makes the act of replying to an email resemble that of replying to a message in services like Slack or iMessage. At the bottom of each email there’s now a quick reply box you can tap in to begin crafting your response. No need for a separate compose window to appear, taking you out of the conversation; the full conversation is still in view, and you can scroll through it as you wish. I believe compose windows are largely unnecessary friction points that contribute to email’s poor reputation, so while a quick reply box may seem like a small change, for me at least it helps make email easier to deal with. One additional nicety included in the new reply interface is the ability to @mention to call out specific recipients.
Threaded messages in Outlook are now all uncollapsed by default, saving the extra taps previously needed to expand collapsed messages. Now when you open a threaded email you’ll be automatically navigated to the most recent message, so there’s no more need to scroll the full thread before finding what you’re looking for.
Outlook’s sidebar menu now includes a persistent column listing all of your different accounts, making it easier than ever to switch between different accounts. The updated menu also brings more convenient access to folders than was previously available.
These changes are rolling out progressively to all users, so you may not see them immediately.
One other upcoming change Microsoft announced today is that search will soon receive a major upgrade. Outlook’s main navigation tabs will be updated to include only Mail, Search, and Calendar; search’s more prominent placement in the app will be justified due to it including more than just email results – you’ll also find results for people, files, and intelligent information about things like upcoming flights or package deliveries. An exact release date for the new search features wasn’t announced, but Microsoft says it is coming soon.
Microsoft To-Do is the official successor to Wunderlist, the popular task management app acquired by Microsoft in mid-2015. Microsoft unveiled To-Do today in Preview, which is essentially a public beta. The service is built on Office 365 technologies, but according to ZDNet it is available to anyone with a Microsoft account; Office 365 is not required.
To-Do launches today on several major platforms, including iPhone, Android, Windows, and the web. Unfortunately iPad and Mac versions are not available at this time, but Microsoft says those apps will be available in the coming months.
After spending some time with To-Do on iPhone, my initial impressions are that it's a beautiful, simple task management tool that very much feels like a worthy successor to Wunderlist.
Touch Bar support for Microsoft Office was announced last fall at Apple’s MacBook Pro event and on Microsoft’s blog. Those features are beginning to appear in some of the apps in Microsoft’s Office suite through Office Insider, a public beta program that anyone can join. Touch Bar support is currently available in Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, and is expected to be added to Outlook and Skype later. Although the features are currently only available through the Office Insider program, they should be available to other users later this year. I updated to the latest Office beta and tried its new Touch Bar features.
In Word, Touch Bar support includes formatting, style application, and table editing buttons. A 'Focus Mode' has also been added to Word that eliminates all menus, controls and status bars from the app, leaving nothing but the document you are drafting on a black background. Focus Mode highlights one of the best use cases for the Touch Bar. By moving commonly-used controls onto the Touch Bar you get the best of both worlds: an uncluttered minimal writing environment in an app historically known for just the opposite, but with commonly used formatting tools close at hand.
Excel includes formatting buttons similar to Word but adds styling options specific to spreadsheets and quick access to common chart types. The style buttons are particularly nice because the Touch Bar's OLED display allows the buttons to provide a full-color preview of the formatting that they apply. Excel also shows equation search results in on the Touch Bar as you begin typing one into a cell.
PowerPoint users get a series of mini slide images in the Touch Bar in presentation mode that make it easy to jump to a specific part of a presentation. PowerPoint also includes buttons for adding slides, tables, and shapes. Word, Excel, and Powerpoint have a button that lets you access recent documents from the Touch Bar too.
The Touch Bar is a natural fit for the feature-rich apps in Microsoft’s Office Suite. It feels like there is even more that Microsoft can do with it in each app, but it’s still early in the testing phase, so I wouldn’t be surprised if more Touch Bar functions are added in the coming weeks. If you are interested in testing Office's Touch Bar support, you can sign up for the Office Insider program here.
Microsoft has added a new group scheduling tool for Office 365 subscribers and users of the latest version of Exchange. Microsoft's Outlook blog explains how it works:
Once you’ve created an event from your calendar and added your coworkers to the People field, tap the date picker. Times that work for everyone show in white, yellow indicates availability for one or more people in the group, and red indicates times with no availability. Next, tap the time picker and just drag and drop until it turns green—indicating everyone is available at that time.
After you have found a time that works for everyone and fill out any additional information about your event tapping the checkmark sends an invitation to each invitee and saves the event to your calendar.
Tom Warren, writing for The Verge:
Microsoft was quick to optimize its Office suite of apps for the iPad Pro and Apple's Pencil stylus, but the company held off on any inking support in Office for iPhone. Starting today, Microsoft is updating Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for iPhone to include a new drawing tab option. Just like the Windows and iPad variants, Office on iPhone will now let you use your finger to write, draw, and highlight documents.
Another great update for Word, Excel and PowerPoint on iOS.
Because space is limited on an iPhone screen, these drawing features are a little hidden. So in order to access these drawing features on the iPhone you'll need to tap the icon on the top navigational bar that looks like an A with a pencil cutting through it. That will trigger a pop-up on the bottom half of the screen. From there, on the top-left of the pop-up should be a drop-down menu, tap that and choose "Draw".