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Learn about Microsoft's changes to the Office mobile app

In 2019, Microsoft announced the Office mobile app as an entry point for its productivity suite and developed Office Intelligent Services features that can improve productivity.

Over the past year, Microsoft made several changes to the mobile version of the Microsoft Office productivity suite that mobile admins should be familiar with.

The introduction of Office Intelligent Services to the productivity suite and the new Office mobile app significantly change how mobile users interact with the Microsoft Office suite.

Organizations should learn how the Office mobile app and Office Intelligent Services can increase user productivity and simplify mobility management.

Microsoft Office Intelligent Services on mobile

The introduction of Office Intelligent Services to Microsoft's productivity suite provides several improvements for mobile users that can help them work more efficiently. One major example is the Excel mobile application's "Insert Data from Picture" feature, which can speed up data entry significantly.

The feature allows users to take a photo of a table and let Excel convert the image into an editable table file. Users have the option to review the table before Excel finalizes the transition from image to document, so they can catch any errors that the Intelligent Services AI may have made.

Mobile users can also take photos of paper documents and allow Microsoft Word to change the image into an editable Word document. These two features can save workers a significant amount of time compared to typing a document's text into Microsoft Word or entering a table into Excel row by row.

In addition to converting photos into documents, Intelligent Services provides users with a roadmap for creating visually appealing PowerPoint presentations and slides without requiring them to select color schemes, transition effects, slide designs or other visual elements.

Office mobile app
The Office mobile app UI on Android

Adding these visual elements is a necessary but sometimes tedious task that can take up the time of the presentation's creator, but organizations can essentially outsource this task to Microsoft's Intelligent Services AI. This is especially helpful on a mobile app for users who are on the go and need to put together a presentation quickly.

Microsoft Intelligent Services requires access to the Microsoft cloud services, however, so users without cellular service or a Wi-Fi connection won't be able to take advantage of these features.

The cloud-reliant nature of these services isn't an issue for on-site users performing data entry and document transcription, but it may be a barrier to entry for remote and field workers who can't stay connected to Microsoft's cloud services. These users could include knowledge workers and executives working on a presentation while they're traveling, and remote and field workers filling out paper documents and tables at locations that lack Wi-Fi or cellular service.

Organizations should also note that some features are only available for Office 365 customers with the latest versions of the mobile apps.

Office mobile app consolidates the productivity suite

Another major change Microsoft made to the mobile version of its productivity suite is the new Office mobile app. Software vendors across numerous markets have emphasized converging different software into larger offerings that encompass more apps and services, and Microsoft is following that trend. The Office mobile app consolidates the Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps in a single mobile application.

Organizations should consider migrating managed mobile users to the Office app for the management benefits alone.

While Microsoft will continue support for the separate versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, organizations should consider migrating managed mobile users to the Office mobile app for the management benefits alone.

Microsoft wanted to minimize the amount of management agents IT professionals need to deploy to users' devices, and consolidating these Office apps into a single application reduces the management burden for IT, according to Microsoft Corporate Vice President Brad Anderson. Fewer managed mobile applications on a device results in fewer configurations and policies that IT has to deploy.

One of the most significant ways the Office app reduces IT's mobile application management burden is with the Microsoft Office 365 suite's identity management. The applications acts as a portal to access all Microsoft documents and files, and IT can deploy a single set of access requirements such as two-factor authentication, PIN length, biometric factors or linking the Office login with corporate credentials.

There are also UI benefits that could compel organizations to migrate to the Office mobile app. The Office app includes numerous cloud-based features including Office Research, which provides translation, dictionary, thesaurus and web-based research of words and phrases that a user highlights.

Users can also convert different files to PDFs, share files with nearby mobile devices, open documents with QR codes, create sticky notes for annotations or reminders and add digital signatures to PDFs.

The Office application is currently in public preview for Android and iOS, but the iOS public preview was capped at 10,000 users and has reached the limit. The applications are set to become generally available in early 2020.

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