What’s new: February 2016

Another busy month! An enhanced Office experience on mobile devices makes it even easier to get things done on the go, and with the ongoing improvements in accessibility, Office is now even easier to use for people with disabilities. Business users can check out the new scenario-based Office 365 trainings to help them get the most out of Office. New deployment opportunities include the new FastTrack offer for small and midsized businesses and the Office 365 Deferred Channel build for Office 365 for Windows. Security and compliance improvements include the ability to export Advanced eDiscovery data to third-party review apps and new auditing and reporting capabilities for SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business. The big news for Education users is a new API that enables you to automate OneNote Class Notebook creation and roster changes.

Leave us a comment to let us know what your favorite new feature is. If you missed last month’s updates, see What’s new: January 2015.

Office 365 Personal, Office 365 Home and Office 365 University updates

Sway updates—With the newly added Recent view, you now have easy access in Sway to your recent Office documents stored in OneDrive. And in response to the top two requests, you can now embed Power BI reports and PollEverywhere.com live polls in your Sways. It’s also easier to embed Sways alongside other content on blogs, professional websites or web pages you create, as well as adjust the text formatting in your Sways to create that perfect look.

Accessibility in Office 365—In 2015, it became easier to add alt text in documents via Word Online, screen reader and keyboard/touch navigation experiences improved and Tell me was introduced in Office 2016 for the PC. Plans for 2016 aim at even more progress, such as helping authors ensure their content is accessible, enhancing Spelling Checker of Word 2016 and Outlook 2016 for PCs, delivering a new add-in called Learning Tools to help people with learning disabilities and making it easier for screen reader users to be productive with Office.

New Excel functions simplify formula editing—Six new functions simplify common calculations and help you avoid the tedious work of building custom functions to accomplish these tasks: TEXTJOIN and CONCAT to combine a list or range of text strings, MAXIFS and MINIFS to find the maximum or minimum in a range given one or more conditions and IFS and SWITCH to help specify a series of conditions and avoid messy nested IF functions.

Office 365 updates—Enhancements to the Office experience on mobile devices make it even easier to get more done on the go. New functions, chart types and sharing options in Excel give you more ways to manipulate, visualize and share data. Outlook improved connections with Office 365 Groups and added one-click archive, and Office for Mac got faster updates and new features like Morph in PowerPoint for Mac and the ability to customize commands in the Quick Access Toolbar in Word, Excel and PowerPoint for Mac.

Office 365 for Business and Education updates*

New offers make it easier for small and midsized businesses to move to Office 365—Now customers with 50 to 149 seats of Office 365 enterprise and small business plans can take advantage of Microsoft FastTrack. Previously available only to customers with 150 seats or more, FastTrack provides resources and dedicated engineers who can assist you, or the Microsoft Partner you work with, to implement Office 365, onboard users and get the most value from your investment.

Office 365 Advanced eDiscovery now enables export to third-party review apps—You can now export eDiscovery data from Office 365 Advanced eDiscovery to a secure Azure Blob storage controlled either by your organization or by a third-party review application. The current review application partners working to build integrated solutions that take advantage of the new export capability are Epiq, iCONECT, Relativity and Recommind.

Yammer rolling out to eligible Office 365 tenants—Get ready to share ideas and work together in the open, using the flexible workspaces of Yammer. Yammer is being activated for every eligible Office 365 tenant without any additional action by IT admins. Office 365 users with a Yammer license can easily access Yammer from the Office 365 app launcher or start a Yammer conversation from SharePoint, Office 365 Video Portal and—coming soon—Delve and Skype Broadcast.

Planner preview expanded—The Office 365 Planner preview, previously available only to First Release customers with enterprise plans, is now available to customers with Education and Nonprofit plans, as well as to Government tenants in the multi-tenant environment. (Planner preview is not currently available to customers on Government Community Cloud.) The preview is also now available to tenants configured with the First Release Select People option (in addition to those configured with the Entire Organization option).

Ways to drive business decisions using the new Excel 2016 charts—Learn three ways you can use the new Excel charts—Waterfall, Histogram, Box & Whisker, Pareto, Treemap and Sunburst—to speed up your analysis and expand the ways you drive business decisions. Find out how to use them to quickly visualize gains and losses, show the relationship between the data and illustrate statistical patterns.

Deferred Channel build now available for Office 365—The Office 365 Deferred Channel build (previously “Current Branch for Business”) is now available for Office 365 for Windows (including Office 365 ProPlus, Office 365 Business, Project Pro for Office 365 and Visio Pro for Office 365). With Deferred Channel, organizations can choose an update schedule that reduces the frequency of feature changes for the Windows desktop apps, giving IT admins and developers more time between releases to validate Office against line-of-business applications, add-ins and macros.

Updated people profile experience coming soon to Office 365—An update to the Office 365 people profile experience under Delve is on its way. The update consolidates the profile and activity pages to make it easier to discover relevant content, connect with your colleagues and find experts inside your organization. And you can start a Skype chat, call or email to a colleague right from their profile page.

Updates to Office 365 Groups—Office 365 Groups are shared workspaces. When you set up a group, it automatically creates a shared inbox, group calendar and place to save and share files and group notes, plus planning tools. Check out the Microsoft Mechanics video tour of recent updates to the user, IT admin and developer experiences of Office 365 Groups and read about the new header and discover page.

Automate OneNote Class Notebook creation and roster changes with new API—The new OneNote Class Notebook API for Office 365 is here! Now, in addition to creating Class Notebooks through the OneNote Class Notebooks Office 365 app, you can create them programmatically. With the API, IT admins, Microsoft Education Partners and others can automate the creation and updates of OneNote Class Notebooks across a school or district—for a huge savings in time and effort. Find out what the API does and how it can help you.

Auditing, reporting and storage improvements for SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business—Now, in the reports section of the Office 365 Compliance Center, admins can audit and report on user and admin activities logged from SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business, and they can view activities in Azure Active Directory and Exchange Online. In addition, all users can now upload larger files—up 10 GB—to team sites, Office 365 Groups, OneDrive for Business and the Office 365 Video portal.

New Office 365 trainings—Be more productive with Office. Check out the new scenario-based trainings. “Get it done from anywhere,” “Content collaboration” and “Run more effective meetings” are available now, and updates to “Email and Calendar on the go” and “Work like a network” are on the way. Each training consists of six tutorials with over 50 videos demonstrating how to use Office 365 in real-life situations, using the devices and platform of your choice.

New security management and transparency capabilities coming to Office 365—Microsoft Cloud App Security, a comprehensive cloud access security broker (CASB) solution, is on its way. It will also power new advanced security management capabilities for Office 365 that will improve IT visibility and control, like advanced security alerts, cloud app discovery and app permissions. Customer Lockbox, now available in Exchange Online, will begin rolling out to SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business in the second quarter of this year.

Office 365 developer updates

Monthly Dev Digest—The place designed to help you keep up to date with what’s new in Office 365 development. Read the highlights for February—the Microsoft Mechanics team’s video showing how Lotus F1 Team built custom Office 365 integrated apps to manage race team logistics, the first iteration of a change log for the Microsoft Graph and preparations for Build 2016. And as always, get the list of new and updated dev documentation, code samples, add-ins, Office Dev podcasts, patterns and practices, releases of updated resources (like the OneDrive JavaScript file picker SDK), blog posts, Office Store news and upcoming events.

Please note that some of the updates may take time to show up in your Office 365 account, because they’re being rolled out to customers worldwide.

—Andy O’Donald @andyodonald


*Not all updates apply to every Office 365 plan; please check the individual post for specifics.