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What to Expect From the New Office 365

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Aamir ShahBy Aamir Shah

With the release of the new version of Office 365, Microsoft has listened to its partners and customers and made some powerful changes. To everyone’s delight, public folders are back! When BPOS (Office 365’s predecessor) was first introduced, customers were up in arms over the concept that Microsoft wanted users to use SharePoint instead of their beloved public folders.

Keeping up with the new age trend in technology, the latest version of Office 365 brings in a social media twist. Have you ever emailed a person who isn’t at your company and wondered what they looked like? Well now, if their corporate email address is listed on their LinkedIn account, you’ll see their LinkedIn profile picture in Outlook. In addition, Facebook can also be linked to your Exchange account, showing you the last post that was on that individual’s page. Keep in mind you may want to update those privacy settings.

In the new version, Lync users will now be federated with Skype users, allowing for a more streamlined approach to collaboration. You’ll also see a “Brady Bunch" style video chat option through Lync in addition to the 1-to-1 HD Video Chat option. SharePoint online now has team mailboxes, a marketplace, in-line editing, microblogging, community sites and guest links for external users.

Microsoft has also made improvements in data loss prevention (DLP) and eDiscovery. There are now safeguards to prevent users from accidentally sending sensitive information, such as credit card number blocking. Admins can manage these settings from the Office 365 admin portal on a per user or group basis. There’s role-based access for eDiscovery and a unified portal for data across Exchange, SharePoint and Lync. This new eDiscovery center allows you to identify, hold and analyze all your Office 365 data.

Office 2013 has seen the most dramatic upgrade. At first glance, you’ll notice that Office 2013 is optimized for a Windows 8 tablet. We all know that the Office Pro Plus version of Office 365 includes download rights for up to five instances on a PC. Now, you can include Office for Mac in that five download limit. The new version also introduces “Click to Run" which downloads the Office software in minutes, rather than the 30-45 minutes it normally takes. If you’re on the go and don’t want to wait to download any software, you can use “Office on Demand" feature, which streams the specific Office program you want to use and leaves no trace of the application once you close it out.

You may have also noticed that Microsoft is creating cloud-based versions of their most popular server-based tools. For example, the next version of Windows Intune is basically SCCM in the cloud. Now, Project and Visio are going to have cloud-based versions in Office 365.

Office 2013 Tools

Let’s dive in a little deeper to some of the most used Office 2013 tools. The Microsoft Word interface is far less cluttered than previous versions, and now has a ribbon that can be hidden with the swift click of the mouse or swipe of a finger. Word now allows you to edit PDF documents and has a sleek document reader mode. In Excel, users are now able to add Web elements such as Bing maps into spreadsheets. You’ll see time lapsable graphs known as the “timeline slicer," and a flash fill feature that will surely make users more efficient. With flash fill, Excel will notice patterns within the spreadsheet and auto fill the cells. It’s much easier to present a PowerPoint deck in the latest release. Just connect a secondary monitor, and you’ll know what I mean. PowerPoint also has chart engine access which allows you to use charts from Excel spreadsheets without the pesky formatting issues. Inline media also makes it much easier to add multimedia into your presentations.

Microsoft has added a number of different pricing plans, such as a midsize business offering, giving credence to the notion that Office 365 is for customers of all sizes.

Aamir Shah is senior Microsoft business manager at En Pointe Technologies , a national solution provider of IT products and services.

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