Microsoft’s continued success with Australian businesses is largely attributed to their constant bid to innovate and improve their services. The tech giant releases dozens of software updates every month that add new features and capabilities. There’s Microsoft Teams, which now has built-in task management and whiteboard tools. Meanwhile, recent OneDrive for Business updates introduced larger file size uploads and enhanced file protections.
Microsoft also doesn’t forget its popular bread-and-butter productivity applications like Word. In fact, over the past few months, there have been some notable changes to Word that significantly improve user experience. Here are some of the biggest updates to Word for Microsoft 365 users.
Transcribe records conversations and automatically converts them to text. It does this by leveraging Microsoft’s artificial intelligence (AI) platform, Azure Cognitive Services, to detect speakers and interpret speech. The feature lets you record directly onto Word or upload various audio/video recordings in MP3, WAV, MP4, and M4A file formats.
When a recording is finished, Transcribe time stamps the recording and allows you to correct any mistakes in the transcription. Word’s AI capabilities then learn from these mistakes to provide more accurate transcriptions in the future.
This is especially useful for those conducting interviews or recording meeting minutes. You only need to press the Transcribe button to record the conversation, so you don’t have to fuss around with the keyboard while someone’s talking. Transcripts also appear alongside your document, making it easy to include specific quotes or discussion points from a conversation. So far, this feature can only transcribe audio in English, but Microsoft is already working to support more languages.
2. Dictate voice commands
Dictate is a speech recognition tool that helps you compose long documents, reports, and blog posts with just your voice. It’s a great feature for people with disabilities that make typing difficult or those who simply want a break from the keyboard.
To make life easier for users, Microsoft has even added voice commands to Dictate. For starters, you can say things like ‘start a bullet point list’, ‘paragraph break’, or ‘italicize last word’ to format your documents. You can say ‘delete that’ to remove the last spoken sentence and recite symbols like question mark, ampersand, and dollar sign. If you think reciting punctuation marks is tedious, you can also set Dictate to auto-punctuate the text for a more free-flowing experience.
You can also say ‘add comment’ and dictate your message seamlessly if you’re collaborating on a document. When you’re done, say ‘pause/exit dictation and save your document manually. Here’s a complete list of voice commands you can use in Word.
3. Natural gestures in Ink Editor
If you’re using a touch device, Ink Editor makes it easy to work on Word documents with your finger or digital pen. Besides writing and drawing, Ink Editor now lets you use natural gestures to edit and format your document.
For instance, you can draw a circle around text to select it and apply formatting like different fonts and colours. If you want to remove chunks of text, you can simply cross out the text like you normally would on paper and the document will delete it. Additionally, you can insert edits and corrections in a sentence by drawing a caret (^) in between two words. When you’re done with edits, the test is applied where you drew the caret.
4. Sensitivity labels
When you’re dealing with confidential information, Word allows you to create sensitivity labels to classify and protect your organisation’s documents. You can set files as personal, public, or highly confidential, and even determine who’s authorised to access certain documents. These labels are in the Microsoft 365 compliance centre and can be customised to fit your company’s specific data privacy requirements.
Once you create a sensitivity label, you can automatically assign that label to files that match certain conditions. For example, if files contain classified information like Australia Tax File Numbers, passports, and contact details, Word automatically applies a sensitivity label. What’s more, you can train Word to recognise certain documents — like contracts and resumes — and apply the appropriate sensitivity labels. This not only saves you time from manually classifying documents, but it also does a lot to minimise the risk of data leaks.
5. Screen reader
For people with visual impairments, Word has a built-in screen reader program to help you navigate through menus and documents. It announces which menus you’re on and provides simple shortcuts for selecting the right function. Pressing Alt+W then R while in screen reader mode enables Word to read the document out loud. Plus, when you perform a function like copy or paste, the screen reader confirms the action by announcing them, giving you instant feedback.
6. Royalty-free media
Microsoft 365 now offers thousands of royalty-free images and icons that you can use to add a creative flair to your documents. Simply go to the Insert menu and go to Pictures > Stock images and search for the image that complements your content. According to Microsoft, the image archive will be frequently updated, so you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars licensing stock images.
Microsoft 365 apps get better every year, and these changes will likely be overshadowed by new features in the coming months. To stay on top of the latest tech updates, talk to the experts at Empower IT. We’re a leading Microsoft Certified Partner in Australia that can help you get the most out of Microsoft 365 cloud solutions.