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Posts tagged with "Microsoft"

Microsoft Announces iPad Edition of Minecraft for Education Coming in September

Today, Microsoft announced that it was expanding Minecraft: Education Edition to include the iPad. According to Microsoft:

Now, students can tap into the power of iPad to build historic monuments, swim through coral reefs with the Update Aquatic, bring creative stories to life, experiment with chemistry, and document their learning with the camera and portfolio features.

The latest expansion of Minecraft: Education Edition adds to the existing 35 million teachers and students in 115 countries that were already using the app on other platforms. The program includes training and curriculum resources for teachers too.

Minecraft is being offered as part of Microsoft’s 365 for Education program and will be available on the iPad beginning in September.


Microsoft Office and the Files App Finally Play Nice Together

Today Microsoft updated its Office suite for iOS, with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint all reaching version 2.12. Office updates rarely receive detailed release notes, and today was no exception, but user Teddy Svoronos discovered that the updates brought 'Open In' capabilities to the share sheet, which previously only enabled making a copy of an Office document. The 'Copy to' option has now been removed, replaced by the more convenient 'Open in.'

After seeing Teddy's tweet, I did a little playing around in the Files app and discovered that, while Excel and PowerPoint documents accessed in Files will load Quick Look previews and require tapping 'Open in' from the share sheet, the experience is even better with .docx files. Those Word-associated documents open directly in the Word app with just a single tap from the Files interface – no need to open the share sheet first.

It's possible this disparity in behaviors between file types only exists because I view Word documents far more regularly than Excel or PowerPoint files. Perhaps heavy Excel or PowerPoint users will see a different behavior because the Files app has enough data to know which app you want to open certain file types in. It's also possible, though, that the behavior I've seen is true for everyone, and Microsoft simply made a somewhat perplexing design decision.

In any case though, whether a Files document opens in its correct app with a single tap, or you use the share sheet and 'Open in' first, this is still a huge improvement for Office users. Previously any documents stored in Files would need to be accessed by going to either Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, tapping the 'More' button in the 'Open' menu, then locating the file from there. Now, iOS users can go straight to the Files app, locate the appropriate document, and open it directly with only a tap or two.

Update: One of the developers working on Office has confirmed my suspicions: the reason Word files open for me with a single tap while Excel and PowerPoint files do not is that I haven't opened those files enough for iOS to know that I would prefer to bypass the share sheet.

In theory, a system where iOS knows what you want every time could be great, but in reality, I sure would like having the option to set default apps per document type.



OneDrive for iOS Updated with Drag and Drop on iPad, A New Design, and More

Microsoft has released version 10.1 of its OneDrive app with support for drag and drop on the iPad and a new, cleaner design.

Drag and drop support allows users to move files and folders within the OneDrive app or drag files into and out of other apps. For example, users can drag photos from OneDrive into an email message to add as an attachment or drag attachments from messages into OneDrive. Users can also access their OneDrive files from Apple’s Files app.

OneDrive now supports drag and drop on the iPad.

OneDrive now supports drag and drop on the iPad.

OneDrive also received a significant UI redesign. File names are easier to read on all devices, the organization more closely mirrors what users expect to see on a Mac or PC, and the icons of shared files have been updated to make them easier to identify at a glance.

Before the update, file and folder actions required users to tap and hold on an item, which created discoverability issues. Now, there is a tiny three-dot button next to each file and folder that opens a contextual menu with options like ‘Share,’ ‘Delete,’ ‘Make Available Offline,’ ‘Move,’ and more. Additional file and folder actions, including ‘Copy Link,’ ‘Email in Outlook,’ ‘Send File,’ and ‘Invite People,’ are available via the system share sheet. OneDrive can now preview 130 different file types too.

Additional file and folder actions are available via the share sheet.

Additional file and folder actions are available via the share sheet.

It’s unfortunate that it’s taken so long for OneDrive to adopt iOS 11 features like drag and drop. Still, the update is a significant improvement over previous versions and brings the app’s functionality in line with many of its competitors, which makes it worth another look if you have been thinking about switching online storage providers.


Microsoft Aligns Features of Skype’s Desktop and Mobile Apps

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.


Microsoft Outlook for Mac Undergoing Major Redesign

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.

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Microsoft Edge Is Coming to iPhones Soon

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.

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OneDrive for iOS Adds Offline Folders, Improved Document Scanning, and New Sharing Options

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.


Outlook for iOS Gains Quick Replies, New Conversation View, and More

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.