Office 365 Updates Add Machine Learning To Apps

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Microsoft is infusing more of its machine learning into Office 365, adding in greater capabilities into Word, PowerPoint and Outlook.

Microsoft announced its latest Office 365 updates on Tuesday, utilizing its machine learning and natural language processing to bring smarter capabilities to Word, while tweaking features in PowerPoint and Outlook.

With the updates, the Redmond giant introduced Researcher for Word, which aims to make it easier to find material and incorporate it word document, and also Editor for Word, which uses machine learning and natural language processing to improve proofreading documents. Meanwhile, it tweaked PowerPoint for greater flexibility when doing presentations and its Outlook to ease the scrolling and responding to messages.

"We are releasing a new set of cloud-powered intelligent services in Office apps designed to save you time and produce better results. These features help you improve your writing in Word, deliver dynamic presentations in PowerPoint and prioritize the emails that matter most to you in Outlook," Microsoft said in a blog post Tuesday.

In drilling down into the details of these updates, Editor for Word will use machine learning and natural language processing to suggest alternative words and phrases, such as cutting down a wordy phrase such as "the majority of" in favor of using the single word "most." Word will also take on the additional role of your high school English teacher, explaining why words or phrases are incorrect.

And for those who struggle over comma placement and hyphen anxiety in addition to spelling, Word will make some tweaks to its color-coded grammar prompts. The red misspelled word squiggles will remain as is, but the blue squiggle grammar alerts will change to a solid blue underline, while writing style issues will be flagged with a dotted gold line. Editor for Word will be available in the fall.

The new feature helps users research information while also staying within the Word document, which avoids the dreaded toggling back and forth between an Internet browser and Word document. It will also incorporate the information and add its properly formatted citation with one click. Researcher is available to Office 365 subscribers using Word 2016 on Windows desktops.

Microsoft is adding a feature called PowerPoint Zoom to PowerPoint 2016. It allows users to zoom into desired portions of a presentation, as well as have the flexibility to jump from one part of the presentation to another without necessarily having to rely on its previously ordered sequence. This feature is available to Office Insiders using PowerPoint 2016 on Windows desktops.

Microsoft is rolling out two updates to Outlook this month. One is a Focused Inbox in Outlook on iOS and Android that is coming to the desktop on Windows and the Mac and Outlook on the web.

[See Google Apps Vs. Office 365: Which Suite Reigns Supreme?]

Focused Inbox will automatically separate emails in a user's inbox into two tabs, one that is labeled with the "Focused" tab and the other for less important emails goes into the "Other" tab.

Additionally, Microsoft is also adding @mentions, which identifies emails that need the user's attention as well as flag actions for others.

In addition to the Office 365 updates, Microsoft is offering its Windows 10 Anniversary Update for free up until July 29 for Windows 7 and 8.1 users, according to a report in Ars Technica. The Windows 10 Anniversary update is scheduled to be released on Aug. 2.

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