Surprise! Microsoft is becoming a much more A.I. driven company. They have announced plans to improve their products and help you become more productive with automations and machine intelligence that's actually helpful. And, this is not a long-term dream. In Microsoft Office 2016, the biggest company in tech has added several interesting new A.I. tricks to boost productivity. Here they are.
1. Play "spot the founder" with photos
PowerPoint 2016 is getting smarter and smarter. The latest version already has a designer built-in that uses a template to create the entire slideshow with only a few clicks. Now, when you drop in a photo, a new facial recognition system can identify that there's a person in the photo and adjust the cropping and position automatically, making the person the focus point of every shot.
2. Build a Sway brochure by typing a phrase
The most impressive A.I. from Microsoft is not related to some conversational robot like Cortana. It's technology that makes you more productive. Sway is a tool for creating brochures, and it's already easy to use and fast. You drop in a few phrases, photos, and pick a design and in a few minutes you can hit Print or publish the brochure online. Now, it's even faster. You can type a phrase like "electric car technology" and Sway builds the brochure for you. In most cases, you have to add more details, but the basic design flow is a great starting point.
3. Have the Editor in Word call you out for passive voice
It's not quite available yet, but an upcoming version of Word this fall will act like a passive voice nanny. It will look for phrases like "was instructed" that slow down your prose and then offer to make a correction. The Editor will also look at your word choices, spot unclear phrasing, and identify extra clutter. In some ways, this could be disastrous...for people who make a living editing and proofreading documents. The major benefit is that business writing will improve tremendously.
4. Extract color in your PowerPoint slides
This one sounds painful but it's not. PowerPoint 2016 now has a special skill. When you add a bunch of photos to your presentation and then pick a design element like a bounding box, the app will be able to analyze the colors you're already using and match accordingly. This is a great help to those of us who lack graphic design skills and have trouble getting everything to look more uniform.
5. Tap into the knowledge bowl
It's inevitable that business documents will someday "write themselves" when you ask an A.I. bot to create a proposal or write a summary for the shareholder meeting. For now, you can still reuse content, and it's an A.I.-driven process. In Word and Outlook, you can use the new Tap feature. Basically, you search for existing content and the A.I. suggests material you can use, saving time and improving your doc.
6. Generate maps with a click in Excel
I really like this one and I've used it several times already. Excel has a new Maps feature that generates colorful maps with a few clicks. Let's say you want to create a map of your sales based on a geographic region. In Excel, you type in the data, then Maps takes over. It can correlate the data right down to the zip code or county level.