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Microsoft 365 comes with a full list of tools that will make you and your colleagues more productive. Our trust in these applications after decades of use means it’s easy to stick to the same old habits. For example, you’ve probably memorized all kinds of keyboard shortcuts, know exactly how to make an Excel spreadsheet do all the work for you and so much more. But change is good as is learning new things! Microsoft 365 is always adding new features to help optimize your work and personal life.

Staying loyal to your tried-and-true day to day application habits means you may be missing new features that can revolutionize the way you work! Microsoft wants businesses to increase productivity with its products and they keep pushing collaboration to another level.

Are you a big fan of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Publisher or Outlook? Do you often use Teams and OneDrive or SharePoint? Check out these cool new Microsoft 365 features

1. Chat with yourself in Teams

Like most of us, Teams is a part of our daily business activities. From meetings to group chats Microsoft 365 continues to update Teams to further push collaboration there’s even an option to play games in meetings (more on that later). Recently, Microsoft announced a new and improved Teams making it 2x faster while using half the memory it previously was, boosting not only the application’s performance but workflows across users. But we’re here to discuss the cooler features of Microsoft 365 and not so much the tech aspects.

You probably noticed a chat with your name appeared in your pinned section and I you were tempted to start singing R.E.M’s “Losing My Religion” (That’s me in the corner …) you wouldn’t be alone! The real point of this latest feature is it’s an ideal space to leave yourself reminders, great for drafting, storing files, photos and screenshots, and even taking notes for or during meetings. It’s a great catch-all easy access space where you can also create loop components that can then be sent to coworkers.

2. New formatting options in PowerPoint

Look out Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop! PowerPoint is proving they’re a bigger player in the creative game than anyone could have anticipated. New design tools for shapes and graphics means tons of customization options to create almost anything. New Ungrouping capabilities allow an icon to be converted into a shape. Go even further by customizing color, texture and transparency.

3. Sync only what you need to with SharePoint

Reduce storing unnecessary files to your hard drive with this latest feature update. Syncing Sharepoint (as well as Teams files) with your computer allows you to work directly in File Explorer and access files offline.

4. Video filters in Teams

This isn’t a particularly new feature and we can certainly all recall the pitfalls of filters in meetings from the numerous viral videos that came out during the pandemic. But for Microsoft 365 applications this is newer territory. The most you could do up until recently was add a background and soften focus. Now, you can augment your video streams with new visual effects such as frames and styles to enhance your meeting experience.

Illustration of remote worker

5. Using your mouse as a laser pointer for better PowerPoint presentations

To turn your mouse into a laser pointer during your PowerPoint presentations there are points you may want to emphasize further. To use, once in Presenter Mode you’ll see the laser pointer and drawing tools under the slide that is currently being shared (Note: Only the presenter can point and draw on slides). This feature has been part of PowerPoint for years but has continued to see further updates for touch screen devices and Teams meetings.

6. Place images within cells in Excel

While Excel has had image functionality for some time now, using images in a spreadsheet usually meant it would live at the top of the page, which is unlikely where you really wanted it to be. With this latest update, images with a source location can now be put within cells with their alt text. Additional image update capabilities include moving and resizing within cells, sorting and filtering.

7. Transcribe important meetings in Teams

In a world where there are a variety of transcription tools to choose from, taking a recorded meeting and plugging it into a whole other program (that likely requires a subscription of some kind) can be a hassle. Luckily, Teams has a remedy for that! You can now transcribe your meetings in real-time. The text appears alongside the meeting video and includes the speaker’s name and timestamps. This goes along with other recent captioning and translation features within Teams.

8. Meeting recaps with Outlook

Microsoft 365 is constantly listening to user feedback. And with many businesses working with employees across the globe, meetings are the lifeblood of collaboration. And with so many competing priorities it’s easy to get lost in the slog. In an effort to reduce meeting fatigue and to streamline further collaboration Outlook has been outfitted with an update that brings meeting recaps right to your calendar. With the meeting recap option users can access key meeting components such as files, transcript and the recording directly from the calendar event.

To access this feature, go to your calendar in Outlook and clicking on a past meeting. If a recap is available for that meeting, you will find links to the meeting content in the meeting details. All meeting participants will have access to the meeting recap.

9. Improve project management with Microsoft Planner

If you have never used Microsoft Planner then you’re really missing out on one of Microsoft 365’s best applications. A visual task manager software, Microsoft Planner gives users a board-style work organization and team collaboration application to manage simple projects, organize workflow, and centralize all related information from files, emails, calendars, and conversations.

Microsoft Planner is included with Microsoft 365 Enterprise (E1, E3, E4 and E5), Microsoft 365 Business Essentials, and Microsoft 365 Business Premium and is designed to work with several different browsers. You can find Microsoft Planner in your Microsoft apps portal.

Illustration of person surrounded by multiple Microsoft 365 apps

10. Games for work in Teams Meetings

Build better connections with your colleagues with this new Teams feature! All work and no play makes everyone feel dull. And what better way to connect with colleagues than through play? Finding virtual opportunities to bond with coworkers isn’t easy these days and Microsoft 365 recognizes both the need for some midday downtime that can still be work related without feeling like work at all.

There’s a lot of merit for increased productivity by forging better ways to connect in remote and hybrid work settings. The Games for Work app (developed by Microsoft Casual Games, an Xbox Games Studio) allows you to easily add a game right where work happens: in Microsoft Teams meetings! The current choices of play available encourage communication and get to know each other better with Microsoft icebreakers, a work friendly version of “Would you rather”, problem solve as a group with Microsoft Minesweeper and so much more.

This is sure to be a fan favorite feature that will continue to improve. In addition to the Games for Work app, there are more apps in Teams to help strengthen your team’s relationships, boost productivity and of course, have fun! Polly in Teams allows for running live polls, surveys, quizzes, trivia, and Q&A for an instant, live engagement and Kahoot! in Teams launches a live game to bring people together and facilitate team learning.

11. Create an automatic summary in Word

Instantly summarize a document using Microsoft Word Editor. This feature is currently only available online and is part of some new Artificial Intelligence (AI) integrations within Microsoft 365 (more on this below). To access the auto-generated summary simply click on the Editor tool in the home tab and scroll down to Text Generation. Place your cursor in the document where you want to add a summary and click on the button that appears in the Editor pane. The summary is based on the first one thousand words of the document and the tool is definitely still extremely new. But there’s many reasons a feature like this can be useful.

For example, if you want to capture the essence of a long form report or look for a more succinct way to pare down information for multiple people, this feature does most of the work for you with minimal effort.

12. Vertical tabs in OneNote

Of all the new features from Microsoft 365 this one might seem like the simplest, but it is also a change that has been the most requested. OneNote is already a extremely functional application. With pages, sections and notebooks aligned on the left-hand side, and the cute little color-coded horizontal tabs disappear. To help simplify navigation, while making OneNote look consistent across on multiple platforms like OneNote web, Mac and iPad, using the new vertical tabs layout option navigating through your notebooks, sections, and pages is easier than ever.

Why we love Teams Essentials hero image

13. Set and meet goals with Microsoft Viva

Microsoft Viva Goals is straightforward approach to goal setting, this is a great tool to help create a persistent, purpose-driven workflow where employees align to achieve results. With the latest feature updates, Microsoft Viva Goals is now integrated within Teams, empowering everyone in your organization to understand their impact and keep priorities top of mind.

The Viva Goals web app and Teams app allows leaders and employees to receive notifications around objectives and key results. In turn, the conversation around goal-setting becomes an integral part of everyday conversations. Additionally, users can create, edit and make check-ins to OKRs directly in the Teams chat.

14. Better storage and security within OneDrive

While not necessarily the coolest of features, storage and security updates are forever worth mentioning. This is because their impact benefits all the features mentioned above and is a reason that Microsoft 365 continues to set high standards for similar applications.

Specifically, Outlook email storage is now included in your OneDrive, which means emails, calendar attachment and images are more secure than ever before and easier to locate.

15. New AI Capabilities in Microsoft 365

AI is a very hot topic these days and Microsoft 365 is on the cutting-edge of some of these new integration tools. It was recently announced that Copilot, would begin being tested within Microsoft 365’s suite of productivity and enterprise apps. This new tool combines the power of AI models (like ChatGPT) with business data and Microsoft 365 apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Teams.

Microsoft 365 is all about unleashing creativity and unlocking productivity to make your work and personal life easier while fostering some creativity in the process. They’re clearly listening to the needs of the people who rely so heavily on their applications. And these latest updates are just a taste of how these products can help improve the way work and live. The whole goal here is a smarter not harder approach. Similarly, Sherweb is committed to helping other IT providers and resellers navigate these changes and continue to make the most out of their relationships with Microsoft.

Looking for an expert partner to help you make sense of it all? Join Sherweb’s partner program.

Written by The Sherweb Team Collaborators @ Sherweb