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Microsoft Office is facing an identity crisis. Over the last 20 years, Office hasn’t changed a whole lot. Excel still creates great spreadsheets and Word still makes awesome documents – just like it did in 1996.
But the world around us has changed considerably. Office is facing competition from free open-source competitors like OpenOffice, LibreOffice, and Google Drive. At the same time, mobile users are using fewer Microsoft devices than ever before.
For all of these reasons, Microsoft has started to gradually change Office. Today, I’m going to explain the top 4 most important changes Microsoft plans to make to Office over the next year. Whether you’re a student, office worker, or unemployed mother of twelve, these changes will likely affect you in some way or another:
1) Shared workspaces
Many of the Microsoft Office changes revolve around the idea of a shared workspace. Shared workspaces mean cloud computing, constant connectivity, and collaboration between coworkers (wow that’s a lot of C-words in a row).
What, exactly, does a shared workspace mean? It means you can create documents that are shared real-time with other people – just like Google Drive.
This is a great thing for anybody who works from home but still needs to communicate with other people. Instead of resorting to Google Drive to collaboratively edit documents, you should be able to enjoy the same connectivity on the software you know and love.
2) Direct access to social networks and communication platforms
Microsoft has several communications tools that it plans to integrate with upcoming versions of Office. First and foremost is Skype, Microsoft’s flagship video communications tool. Other platforms include Yammer and Lync, both of which are popular with corporate users.
In early screenshots for new versions of Office, we see an Office PowerPoint screen separated into three different columns:
One column is the PowerPoint thumbnail slideshow. Another is the slide on which you’re currently working, and the last is “Yammer Conversations” where you can talk to your coworkers and ask them why you’re the only one doing any work.
3) Office Graph
Microsoft has been really vague about its new Office Graph feature. It’s currently code named Oslo and will use your network of contacts to deliver better results to you.
That sounds like every Facebook or Google update ever made, right? That’s basically what Microsoft is trying to do here. Oslo will be a standalone app which will integrate with Office to collect relevant documents and organize your work.
If you use all of Microsoft’s connected services, then Office Graph will probably be useful. If you don’t, then it will be less useful. The more data you put in, the more you’ll get out, and the more Microsoft Devices you use, the more Microsoft will get to know you.
4) Cortana will be the new paper clip
Have you heard of Cortana? Cortana is the currently-in-development voice assistant being designed for Microsoft devices like Windows Phone and Windows 8. Cortana is also the name of your female companion in the Halo series, which is where Microsoft got the name.
Microsoft Office will reportedly incorporate Cortana into upcoming versions of Microsoft Office. Cortana will be your very own personal assistant. Just like Google Now, Cortana will try to guess your searches before they happen. It will deliver information it expects you to need before you actually need it.
Google Now manages to do that surprisingly well and it’s being tweaked every day. We have yet to see any version of Cortana in the wild, although screenshots have leaked.
All of the updates listed above are designed to deliver more data to you. However, there are two problems with this approach:
-If you don’t put in very much data, then you won’t get very much data out
-A lot of these features sound like they wouldn’t work without an internet connection
However, if you use a few Microsoft services and regularly work on group projects for school or the office, then these new Office updates will be right in your wheelhouse.