By Kurt Mackie06/11/2021
Microsoft this week announced a bunch of new Office 365 and Microsoft 365 enhancements.
The enhancements range from a free Visio Web app to Outlook Mobile voice-scheduling capabilities on iOS devices. Also in the bunch were OneDrive storage perks for macOS device users.
Free Visio Web App
Microsoft announced this week that a “lightweight version” of the Visio Web app will be available at no extra cost to Office 365 and Microsoft 365 business subscribers, starting next month.
This Web app version will have core Visio functionalities, allowing “business users to create, edit, and share professional diagrams,” the announcement indicated. The free Visio Web app will address “essential” diagramming needs, but Microsoft also offers commercial Visio Plan 1 and Plan 2 offerings to meet “more specialized diagramming needs.”
The Visio Web app can be used by people with simple needs or people with complex needs, according to a description by Nishant Kumar, product manager for Visio, in a Microsoft “Interzone” interview. Microsoft sees Visio users as being in three categories. There are power users who want to use industry-standard icons and want to be able to customize things. There are also process diagrammers. Lastly, there are the basic diagrammers.
Kumar said that after Microsoft made its Visio Web app available, it became clear that more and more business users were using Visio. Microsoft then decided to make Visio available to everyone. With the Visio Web app, it’ll be possible to share a Visio diagram without the recipient needing to have the Visio desktop app installed.
When the Visio Web app becomes available to Office 365 and Microsoft 365 tenancies, starting as early as next month, it’ll show up in various places. It’ll be in the Microsoft Teams collaboration solution. A Visio icon will show up in the Office Online portal. In Excel, it’ll be possible to create a Visio diagram using an add-in.
The main way of accessing the Visio Web app is via the Office Online portal, where users can select templates or a blank canvas to create diagrams. The templates include patterns for flowcharts, basic shapes, process diagrams, block diagrams and more. These diagrams can be saved and added to Word documents or PowerPoint presentations as .JPEG or .PNG files.
The Visio Web app is yet to come for Office 365 and Microsoft 365 subscribers, but Microsoft does have an early access program on request, which entails filling out a form. However, this early access option isn’t available in European Union countries.
Outlook Mobile Voice on iOS
In other Microsoft 365 news, Microsoft this week described new voice capabilities for Outlook Mobile users on the iOS platform, which apparently are available now in some form.
Outlook Mobile iOS users can schedule meetings via voice commands. The idea is to make it easier to schedule meetings on mobile devices with small keyboards. Meeting scheduling is facilitated via the Cortana personal digital assistant and information surfaced via the Microsoft Graph. The voice capability also lets users search for files via voice commands. Microsoft 365 users also now have access to Microsoft Dictation for iOS, which transcribes your speech.
These capabilities — voice scheduling and dictation — also will be coming to Android mobile devices, Microsoft indicated, although the timing wasn’t described.
There is one catch for organizations wanting the voice scheduling capability. It requires using a new service called Scheduler, which costs $10 per user per month for Microsoft 365 E3/E5-type licensees.
Microsoft considers Cortana and Scheduler to be separate solutions, even though they work together:
Scheduler is a backend service that provides the scheduling intelligence, workflow, and can be enabled by the Microsoft 365 administrator. Cortana, the productivity assistant in Microsoft 365, acts through a custom mailbox* that is configured by the administrator.
IT pros will have to set up this custom mailbox using a PowerShell cmdlet.
Microsoft’s Scheduler announcement also noted that human assistance by Microsoft is sometimes used to correctly steer Cortana’s meeting scheduling. Here’s what those humans can see:
If a request needs human assistance, they will have access to the email conversation from the point in which Cortana was added to the conversation, Microsoft Graph data, names, and emails of the people involved in the conversation but they will not have access to links nor attachments. Additionally, Scheduler will not process encrypted messages sent to the Cortana mailbox.
Public reactions found in the comments section of Microsoft’s Scheduler announcement mostly had people decrying its $10 per user per month cost, which is half the cost of an Office 365 E3 subscription.
OneDrive on Apple OS Improvements
Microsoft 365 news this week also touched on OneDrive improvements for Apple machines.
Microsoft plans to add OneDrive support on M1-powered Macs sometime “later this year.” This OneDrive enhancement promises to bring better application performance on “the latest iMac, MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini” devices, although OneDrive is currently supported via Rosetta 2 emulation on M1-powered Macs.
IT pros will be getting the ability to track OneDrive synchronization errors on macOS devices at some point. Microsoft is planning to deliver its OneDrive Sync Admin Reports, available on Windows, to the macOS platform. The timing wasn’t described, though.
IT pros can already prevent macOS machines from uploading certain file types to OneDrive or SharePoint. That capability was enabled “last month.”
Microsoft is also planning to give macOS users the ability to use the Known Folder Move OneDrive capability that’s already available on Windows machines. This feature redirects data stored in standard folders, such as Pictures, Documents and Desktop, to OneDrive cloud-based storage.
Also, OneDrive will be visible under Locations using the Finder solution on macOS devices, a change that will be coming “later this year.” Microsoft also plans to redo the icons used with its Files on Demand feature in OneDrive, which provides access to certain files without having to download them from Microsoft’s servers. Files on Demand is conceived as a device space-saving measure.
Later this month, Microsoft is planning to add the ability of iOS device users to “edit Office documents that they have marked for offline use in the OneDrive mobile app.”
Lastly, Microsoft claimed that OneDrive CPU usage on macOS machines already has been improved “by 40 percent.” That change took place via an update last month.
About the Author
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media’s Converge360 group.