Software spotlight: Office 365

Office 365 LogoSharp eyes and smart minds will remember that fairly recently we posted a blog article about Office 365, and here comes another one already. Why? Firstly, because we have a whole new lot of Freshers to talk to and secondly, because Office 365 just got a whole load of new features.

We’ve paid for it so you don’t have to; all students and staff can download Office apps like Word, Excel and Powerpoint through Office 365, which is a relatively new online, cloud-based home for Office, that which many of us have become to think of as fairly synonymous with “software for doing everything for uni/work (delete as applicable)”. However, probably fairly obviously, this new web-based version of the Office package is slightly different from what we’re used to, AND it has some new features.

The first thing to know is that Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote are all available to download them to your own computer, Mac, PC or mobile device. You can pretty much download them to anything. As well as downloading them, you can access them all online and use them through your web browser. The majority of us regular users aren’t going to notice anything at all missing from the functionality. In fact, if anything, you might even notice new features that don’t exist on the regular version of Office. The great thing about using the online versions of the software is that they are continuously saved for you, and they’re there on your handy bit of cloud storage that they give you. And there’s a lot of that. A really, really lot of that.

OneDrive

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 13.10.55Everyone gets 1TB of online storage in OneDrive to use as long as you have a Sussex IT username. You can use this for Office files, sure, but you can also just upload anything else to it to have to hand when you’re on the move. You can share documents through OneDrive as easily as … well, as easy as clicking on the uploaded document, grabbing the link and sticking that link into an email to the person(s) you want to share it with. It’s so eeeeeeasy … and it doesn’t stop there. You can collaborate on documents with friends/colleagues/classmates as well; if one or more of you have the document open at one time, you can see what they’re doing as they’re doing it. Moreover, you can tell them what you think; a ‘chat’ button on the shared document will enable a Skype conversation between all document sharers – perfect for group projects and presentations if you can’t all get to the same place at the same time.

Now we have to put our learning hats back on people, because we now have to wrap our minds around some completely new Microsoft apps that form part of the Office 365 package. They go by the of-the-moment names Sway and Delve and they are definitely of-the-moment apps; we’ll look at them in turn.

Delve

delveIt seems appropriate to think of Delve as a collaborative filing system, one that everyone can get into and see whatever anyone’s chosen to put in. If you have shared any documents with colleagues/classmates, they’ll all appear in your Delve homepage. You can also search for a particular topic and it’ll return relevant documents.

DOWNSIDE WHICH IS GLARINGLY OBVIOUS AS SOON AS YOU START TO PLAY WITH DELVE: It’s an eerily lonely place if your friends aren’t at the party too.

Don’t expect anything from Delve if you’re not part of a large network which is also using it (unless of course, you’re using it for one particular project and everyone’s playing). An important thing to be aware of is that only shared content appears here. OneDrive keeps the rest to itself and won’t share unless you’ve set the permissions to do so.

Sway

swaySway… Now, Sway looks interesting. You might read that it’s described as a presentation program, and then you’d be forgiven for thinking oooh, that sounds good, and then for thinking now I can ditch PowerPoint, and then for thinking hang on, PowerPoint is here too. Why are there now two presentation programs? And for that I have no answer, except that they are really quite different. The final presentation result is very different – a bit like PowerPoint x Prezi, but not as flexible. It seems to have quite a lot of potential though, if you look at what Microsoft themselves have put together with it.

I decided to have a play, and my honest review is that I didn’t find it as user-friendly as I’d like (but that might be because I’m aging and maybe my brain is tired from ALL OF THE NEW. THERE IS NEW EVERYWHERE.) Anyway, I gave myself half an hour to see if I could put something impressive together; I couldn’t. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to, and I reckon there’s plenty of potential here for beautiful and unique presentations. Be mindful of the fact that you need to be online to access it, unless you’re using a Windows 10 device which is capable of downloading them.

Microsoft are touting Sway as a new way to share photographs, reports and stories. This is true. It could make creating beautiful scrapbook-style blogs very very easy, but it seems as though there might be some issues getting your Sways to embed properly in WordPress. As they’re a really gorgeous-looking way of presenting information, you might adopt them as a way of updating the society’s tired newsletter, or you could quickly and easily assemble some lovely photos of a trip to show off by email or on Twitter (it really does make for a very nice slideshow…).

Whilst it’s not certain whether these tools are going to catch on en masse (it seems a bit unlikely that they will), Delve and Sway are probably handy little applications that are going to sit around unused for a long time until you have EXACTLY the right need for them and then they’re going to seem indispensable. If you make good use of OneDrive and the Office apps through the cloud, Sway and Delve will no doubt start to come into their own.

Let us know what you think, and if you’ve used them already.

Posted in Articles, Make the most of IT, Software

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