Office 365: The three latest new features you should know

Microsoft's 'most strategic API' gets more enhancements, and the service gets better pricing for small businesses

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Office 365 is Microsoft's crown jewel. “The most strategic API in the company is Office 365 and its extensions. That Office API even trumps Azure’s," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella this week at the Gartner ITXpo Symposium.

You can see how much Microsoft values Office 365 in the effort it's making to grow Office 365's capabilities and offer extensions to it. Here are newest ones to look forward to.

One-time passcode for Office 365 message encryption. Announced in February, this message-encryption feature has gained a feature: allowing a one-time passcode. In the original implementation, if you received a message that was encrypted by Office 365, you could open the message only if you had a Microsoft account. Now, you can open it without signing in with a Microsoft account by choosing a one-time passcode that is sent via email to your inbox for opening the message.

Office Sway. This new app (in beta) helps you create what Microsoft calls “interactive, Web-based expression of your ideas from your phone or browser." Sway is a very simple tool that helps you pull information together and share it in a polished format, without the complexity of PowerPoint.

Propose new time in OWA (Outlook Web App). OWA adds the ability to propose a new meeting time as an attendee. Often, you are pulled in many different directions for meetings; they get proposed, and you either accept or decline (with an explanation). OWA's scheduling assistant previously let you see where conflicts existed so that organizers could try to find a better time and invitees could quickly tell if they could attend. But now OWA lets invitees see when others are free and propose an alternative time to the meeting organizer, who can decide whether to adopt the proposed time instead.

Microsoft also followed through this week on the promise to provide better plans for small businesses (as many as 300 users, up from 25 before):

  • Office 365 Business Essentials: This plan costs $5 per user per month and provides all the online services (email, SharePoint, Lync, and OneDrive) but none of the Office apps.
  • Office 365 Business: This plan costs $8.25 per user per month and provides the Office applications as a subscription along with OneDrive, but none of the other online services such as email.
  • Office 365 Business Premium: This plan costs $12.50 per user per month and provides both Office applications as a subscription and all the online services.

I don’t see Microsoft slowing down any time soon when it comes to Office 365, so stay tuned for more features.