Skip to main content
Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 makes work and play more intuitive and natural with innovations in voice, digital ink, and touch

Today at our Surface event, we announced several new devices to help make modern work more natural and intuitive for everyone, including busy professionals, parents, students, and teachers. Over the past several years, our engineering teams have invested countless hours of user research into understanding how people work in our apps and what they would like to see from Microsoft.

Last week, we announced several new capabilities that bring new inking capabilities to our Office apps, including inking in Slide Show while in PowerPoint on the web and Ink Replay to bring your presentations to life. Today, I’m excited to share our progress with you on a set of innovations to help people be more productive when away from their desk, utilizing voice, digital pen, and touch across Office 365 and our Surface devices.

Transcribe audio files or record your own while staying in the flow in Word

Image of an audio file being transcribed in Microsoft Word.

We spoke with researchers, reporters, lawyers, and teachers, and learned that people spend a ton of time recording audio interviews on their phone, and then spend even more time transcribing those conversations into Word.

Today, we’re announcing a solution that helps busy professionals upload their own audio files or record new ones on the fly, all within Word. Once your audio has been uploaded or recorded, Word—leveraging your OneDrive account to securely store the audio files and Azure Speech Services under the hood—displays a written audio transcription in the side panel and allows you to quickly and easily bring relevant snippets or the entire transcript into your document to edit. The transcript itself is automatically separated by speaker and into relevant chunks of content, and the interactive panel allows you to easily jump around the recording to find and verify the perfect quote.

Audio transcription in Word will be available in early 2020 in Word for the web, with integration into the Word desktop and mobile apps following in the spring. Exact plans and pricing will be announced closer to general availability.

Input data directly into your Excel workbooks with your digital pen

Animated image of a digital pen erasing and writing content in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

Excel is an extremely powerful tool to do complex data analytics, but that doesn’t mean you need to be sitting at a desk to use it. Today, people fill out checklists, research reports, and more using paper and a clipboard and then must type those results into their computer later. Or they fumble to balance a computer to type while walking around. To address these issues, we’re elevating what your digital pen can do in Excel so Firstline Workers, busy professionals, students, and researchers can easily write, edit, or delete values using only their digital pen and tablet. Now it will be easier than ever to be productive and stay connected for workers who aren’t always able to find a desk to work.

Data entry using a digital pen will be available in Excel for the web and desktop in spring 2020 for Office 365 subscribers.

Create and reply to comments from anywhere using pen or voice

Image of a note written in digital ink in a sales analysis file.

With Ink Editor we’ve made it so that editing your documents is easier and more natural than ever, and now we’re extending those intelligent capabilities and the expressiveness of digital ink into the realm of commenting as well.

On devices with a touch interface and/or supported microphone, people will be able to create expressive ink comments directly from within the comment pane, or use dictation to provide feedback. Together, and combined with existing Ink Editor capabilities, anyone reviewing a document can now complete that task end-to-end using just their tablet, digital pen, and voice.

Expressive ink comments and easy entry to dictation in comments will be available starting with Word desktop in Spring 2020 for Office 365 subscribers.

Office + Surface are better together

Today at the Surface event, we showcased several new enhancements to Office that leverage the unique capabilities of Surface’s latest hardware advancements.

The new Studio Mics in the Surface Pro 7 offer best-in-class audio-capture with no additional hardware, which makes Office features such as dictation and transcription work at their best.

Image of Earbuds and the Surface Pro 7 displaying PowerPoint.

When using your Surface Earbuds together with PowerPoint, you get the benefit of incredible microphones to hear you clearly even as you walk around, allowing Live Captions and Subtitles and Presenter Coach in PowerPoint for the web to operate with better accuracy. The intuitive gestures can be used to navigate Slide Show and start/stop video without having to buy a separate clicker. You can even have just one in your ear for the best mic capture while keeping the other invisibly hidden in your hand to navigate slides.

Surface Earbud gesture support will be available alongside general availability of the Earbuds, in PowerPoint desktop for Office 365 subscribers.

Image of a hand removing a pen from the new Surface Pro X.

The ultra-portability of the Surface Pro X allows you to be productive on the go, whether that’s using Excel to enter data or Word to review documents. The Pro X offers a revolutionary new storage mechanism for your pen so you’ll always have it handy when you need it. Office leverages the fact that the Pro X knows when the pen is removed from its storage to automatically bring your inking tools front and center.

In addition, Office will now showcase everything you can do with your Surface accessories within each app, whether that’s the Surface Pen, Earbuds, or the Dial. If there are new capabilities available in an Office app you’re using, they will be displayed, so you always know you’re getting the best out of your Office + Surface combination.

Support for reacting to the Surface Pen being removed from its storage location is available now in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook for Office 365 subscribers. Surface tips in Office will first be available in PowerPoint desktop, alongside the general availability of the Earbuds.

Listening to customers to improve the ink in PowerPoint experience

We recently announced a set of improvements to Office, including several additions to the overall inking experience in PowerPoint based directly on what we’ve heard from customers. This includes support for replaying pre-drawn ink in Slide Show, myriad improvements sourced primarily from educators who ink in Slide Show on Windows and Mac to teach their classes, and the beginning of bringing ink to Office for the Web, starting in PowerPoint Slide Show.

We’re happy to announce that all these capabilities are now rolling out to everyone.

Animated image of animated lettering being added to a slide in Microsoft PowerPoint.

Ink Replay is available in PowerPoint for Windows and Mac for Office 365 subscribers.

Animated image of inking used in a PowerPoint slide. It is a pop quiz about the solar system.

Inking is now available in Slide Show mode in PowerPoint for the web. Inking in PowerPoint Editor on the web will be available by the end of the year.

New templates for Microsoft Whiteboard

Microsoft Whiteboard helps you collaborate more effectively—whether you’re trying to brainstorm your next big idea or get everyone on the same page. New templates for Whiteboard can help you run more effective meetings with KANBAN sprint planning, SWOT analysis, project planning, learning, and more.

Animated image of sticky notes being arranged in Microsoft Whiteboard.

Pre-created layouts provide an immediate structure, so you don’t have to start from scratch. They’re perfect for collaboration scenarios like ad-hoc brainstorms, running meetings, and project planning. The Whiteboard canvas also dynamically expands to fit all your content. Read more about the new Microsoft Whiteboard templates.

Microsoft Whiteboard templates are in public preview for Windows 10 and rolling out to iOS this week. To add templates, click or tap the Insert button in the toolbar.

Microsoft Whiteboard

Meet the freeform digital canvas where ideas, content, and people come together.

Editor’s note 10/25/2019:
Post was updated to reflect current availability of Earbud gesture and Surface tips.