Microsoft Office update prepares for remote work

Satya Nadella, Chief Government Officer of Microsoft Corp., speaks on the Microsoft Annual Shareholders Assembly in Bellevue, Washington, on November 30, 2016.

Jason Redmond | AFP | Getty Photographs

Microsoft on Thursday introduced enhancements to Workplace productiveness functions that are supposed to enhance work at firms the place some individuals are on web site and others should not.

The adjustments strengthen a crucial a part of Microsoft’s enterprise as clients change put together to reopen their places of work after closing them and shifting to distant work with the outbreak of Covid-19. Microsoft’s Groups app for chat and video calls grew quick when the pandemic emerged. Now Microsoft is attempting to make sure that the Workplace software program can accommodate what it calls a hybrid state of affairs, the place components of the workforce are on the workplace whereas different components proceed to contribute from residence.

Microsoft mentioned it’ll replace Groups so that folks becoming a member of video calls in convention rooms can have a greater view of their distant colleagues. The corporate pointed to new {hardware} for convention rooms that exhibits video feeds for all Groups name individuals in a convention rooms.

PowerPoint is getting a laser pointer function in order that presenters can spotlight parts throughout conferences, and everybody can see even when they are not within the convention room. And even when folks aren’t round to work collectively on a doc resembling a job record or a gathering agenda, they will later contribute to the doc in a format referred to as a Fluid Part in OneNote, Outlook and Groups.

Microsoft can be rolling out a number of new options to its Whiteboard app, which lets a number of folks doodle, depart sticky notes and paste pictures on a digital canvas, relatively than counting on bodily whiteboards and blackboards in places of work.

After the virus appeared, Microsoft clients “went from being involved in digital whiteboards to needing digital whiteboarding options yesterday,” Microsoft principal product supervisor Ian Mikutel mentioned. In March, the corporate mentioned the variety of Whiteboard’s month-to-month energetic customers was 12 instances what it was within the earlier yr.

Demand for Whiteboard has accelerated because the onset of the pandemic. This led Microsoft so as to add options extra shortly, mentioned Nicole Herskowitz, basic supervisor of the Microsoft Groups communication app. Microsoft launched Whiteboard in 2017 and provided a method for folks to make use of it from inside Groups in 2019.

Listed below are among the large adjustments in Whiteboard:

  • New cursors in Whiteboard extra clearly present what completely different individuals are doing.
  • Circles round avatars match the colours for various individuals’ cursors on the display to assist customers hold observe of who’s doing what.
  • Folks can depart suggestions on particular objects by including thumbs-up, coronary heart and star stickers.
  • New templates for kanban boards and aggressive evaluation can be found to assist folks accomplish extra within the app.
  • Microsoft improved the expertise of writing with only a mouse on PCs.
  • For folks drawing within the app with a stylus, Microsoft has up to date Whiteboard in order that the software program will routinely acknowledge makes an attempt to attract shapes and make them look neater.
  • Help for laser pointer and Fluid Parts.
  • Later, the corporate plans so as to add extra formal voting capabilities to Whiteboard.

Folks can use the up to date model of Microsoft Whiteboard whereas holding Microsoft Groups video calls.


The pandemic made software program whiteboards extra crucial. Okta — which sells software program that firms use to offer entry to many company functions — mentioned in February that between November 2019 and October 2020, start-up Miro’s whiteboard program was the second-fastest-growing app amongst its clients, behind solely Amazon Enterprise. Miro claims to have 20 million customers on its web site, and its software program permits for a number of customers concurrently.

The third fastest-growing app, in response to Okta, was Figma, which individuals use to collaborate on updates to app designs. In April San Francisco-based Figma launched FigJam, a whiteboarding software that is built-in with its major app.

WATCH: Microsoft warns of latest hack by group behind SolarWinds assault