Microsoft Office Online Users Can Chat While They Collaborate

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Microsoft is adding to the browser-based software’s co-authoring capabilities, allowing users to chat as they work together on Office content

Office document co-authoring and embedded comments aren’t enough. Sometimes, successful collaboration requires an off-the-cuff remark or impulsive question to move projects along.

Microsoft announced that Office Online, the browser-based versions of the company’s productivity apps (Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote), now features Skype-powered chat capabilities when attached to an Office 365 commercial account.

Skype and Office Online are hardly strangers. In late 2014, Microsoft enabled Skype group chats in Office Online Word and PowerPoint documents stored on OneDrive for users who linked their Skype and Microsoft accounts. The new functionality, aimed at enterprise customers, builds on the company’s latest efforts to foster collaboration among teams that use the software giant’s Office 365 business and education plans.

“Simply click the blue Chat button to start a conversation with everyone editing in the browser at the same time, for any document stored in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business,” instructed Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of Microsoft Office, in a May 25 announcement. The button, which appears next to the list of a document’s co-editors, creates a side pane that mimics a Skype chat window.


Microsoft Office OnlineOffice Online’s real-time chat capabilities are meant for quick questions, informal brainstorming and spur-of-the-moment reactions, not as a replacement for Comments, which persist after a document is saved.

“Chat history is not saved when you close the document but can be copied and pasted if desired,” cautioned Microsoft in a related blog post. “Use Comments (on the Review tab on the ribbon) when you want to attach a comment to a specific selection within the document, such as when you need to ask if a word or phrase should be changed.”

Outlook on the Web gains similar functionality, in the form of integrated Skype of Business chat. Clicking the Skype icon allows users to start a chat session, access their contacts or conduct a search for colleagues on Microsoft’s enterprise communications platform.

Meanwhile, Android Wear smartwatch owners will soon have a new way of managing their Outlook inboxes and calendars.

Next week, Microsoft plans to add watch face support. The customizable watch face will display the number of emails awaiting a user’s attention along with upcoming events. Tapping on the Outlook watch face displays more details about calendar events and unread emails.

The Outlook mobile apps for iOS and Android will soon feature new OneDrive and Skype for Business integrations, added Koenigsbauer. Users will be able to share OneDrive for Business content as links within the body of an email or join Skype Meetings directly in Outlook’s event details screen.

For the sake of convenience, Skype meetings that involve files attached will now have those files automatically loaded into the Skype Meeting document bin, provided the files are attached to meeting requests in Outlook 2016 or Outlook on the Web. “Cloud attachments automatically assign permissions to meeting attendees,” assuring all participants can collaborate during the meeting, Koenigsbauer said.

Originally published on eWeek.

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