Category: Microsoft

Microsoft Groove Music App Gets A Healthy Update

Microsoft has rolled out a sizable update to the Microsoft Groove app, their music streaming and subscription service.  The update brings a lot of changes to the app that frankly, catches it up to other services that are out there.  This update is rolling out now so if you have the app installed, expect the OTA today or tomorrow.

The biggest new edition is that you can explore relevant artists, albums and songs for a particular genre.  This not only allows you to see your favorite artists but also expose you to some that you may not have heard of before.  It is a great way to discover new artists in your favorite kind of music.

Microsoft Teams App Update Brings Single Sign-On for Office 365

Microsoft has rolled out an update to the Microsoft Teams app that has a lot of new features and improvements for organizations who use it for collaboration.  The update’s biggest improvement is Single Sign-On (SSO) so that users of Office 365 will be able to sign in easier to Teams if they are already signed into other apps on their phone.

OneNote files can now also be shared in Teams.  If a OneNote file is being shared, it can be viewed in conversations.  Previously OneNote files couldn’t be viewed in Teams.

Microsoft Office 365 Apps for Android Updated With New Features

Microsoft has pushed an update out to the Android version of Excel, Word and PowerPoint to the Play Store.  The updated Office 365 apps brings new features to each app that continue the company’s drive to have feature parity between the desktop and the mobile screen.  For Excel, the big new feature is the ability to open a file that contains form controls.  Form controls, as the name suggests, are when you have a form embedded into a spreadsheet.  This previously could only be opened on the desktop.

For PowerPoint, a likely more useful addition than the form controls in Excel for most of us.  Now in PowerPoint on Android you can send a single slide to someone.  Previously you had to send the entire presentation and couldn’t send an individual slide.  Again, this is something you could do on the desktop and online version of PowerPoint but now can do it on your phone or tablet.

Microsoft Cortana Could Soon Have Lock Screen Access on Android

A new beta of Microsoft Cortana, the personal assistant AI from the Redmond company, is out for Android and with it comes a pretty nice new feature.  In the beta, you can allow Cortana to have access to your Lock Screen.  Why is that a big deal?  You could ask Cortana for information without having to actually unlock your phone.  It appears to function in nearly an identical way to Google Assistant in the Google Pixel Launcher or the Google Now Launcher.

Cortana, the AI character from the Halo series, is perhaps the most forgotten of the AI assistance out there, behind Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant.  But it is a solid performer and is integrated into Windows 10 and in Windows 10 Phone.

Outlook for Android Update Brings Mentions to Emails

Microsoft has pushed a new update out to Outlook for Android users.  The update should be hitting users in the next few days and when it does, you will find a new Mentions features.  The new feature allows you to mention people or call attention to things in your email by using the @ sign in your email.  When you use @ in your email, you will get a pop-up of your frequently used contacts or you can dive into your contacts list (personal or corporate if on Office 365).  This makes it just a couple of taps away from adding a person to an email you are sending.

Microsoft Arrow Launcher Gains Customizable Icons in Latest Update

Microsoft has once again pushed out another big update to their Android launcher app, Arrow Launcher.  The update is in the Play Store now and has a number of improvements and new features.  In fact, there are three big features that users of the launcher will likely enjoy immediately.  First is the ability to customize the icon and name of individual apps.  All you have to do is long press the icon and it will pop-up a menu that gives you these options.

Next is an all new backup and restore feature.  This gives you the option to save your app layout and settings and restore them if you need to reinstall the launcher.  This is a huge win as you no longer have to recreate your home screen layout if you delete and reinstall the app.  This is something many other launchers do so it is great to see Microsoft bring the feature to Arrow Launcher too.

Microsoft StaffHub Launched to Help Businesses Manage Employees

After spending the last three months in preview, Microsoft has pulled back the covers and launched Microsoft StaffHub for Android, iOS and on the web.  The service and app is aimed at providing a centralized place for managers and staff to handle schedules, send out information and connect with other workforce management tools that are in the market.  With it being across multiple platforms and on mobile devices, Microsoft is aiming to have staff management be easier regardless of where you are – work, home or at play.

Scheduling can be done by managers and allows works to see who is working when and for how long.  This is particularly important for businesses with shift workers.  Managers can also enable the ability for workers to trade shifts with other employees should a personal conflict arise.  This is all done within the app and can be pre-approved by the manager when the feature is enabled.

Microsoft’s Next Lock Screen Update Brings Battery Life Improvements

Microsoft has pushed an update out to their Android lock screen app, Next Lock Screen.  The new 3.11 version brings much improved battery performance so all users of the app are encouraged to upgrade.  If you aren’t familiar with the app, it is designed to give you more information on your lock screen than the standard lock screen found on Android devices.  Sure it can give you things like notifications and weather, but it gives so much more.  You can for example text friends who have texted you right from the lock screen or have your favorite apps one-tap away.  It will also allow you to do searches via Bing right from the lock screen.  The idea is to give you quick information or access to key apps without having to go through the unlocking process.

Microsoft Teams Update Brings Voice Call Capabilities

Microsoft has rolled out a sizable update to their intracompany, Slack competitor, Microsoft Teams.  The update, version 1416 for those keeping score at home, brings a lot of improvements to the collaboration app, the most notable of which is the ability to have voice conversations through the app.  Now if you are collaborating with a colleague, you can elevate that chat to a voice conversation with a push of a button.  No longer do you have to leave the app for that voice interaction to happen, making this sweet and simple.  All indications are that this new feature is leveraging the existing Skype for Business infrastructure on the backend.

Another nice update to the app is the ability to delete messages.  Now you can delete a message within 24 hours of it being sent.

Microsoft Updates Arrow Launcher with Performance Improvements

Microsoft has pushed an update out for their Android phone launcher, Arrow Launcher.  The update to the launcher doesn’t bring a lot of new features but focuses on performance improvements and bug fixes.  In my How To Microsoft your Android Phone article, I pointed out that Arrow Launcher is a great launcher alternative for those of you who are heavy into the Microsoft ecosystem.  It allows easy access to recent files and contacts, your apps and photos.  Even if you aren’t a heavy Microsoft user, check it out.  It’s pretty good and continues to improve.

This updated version of Arrow Launcher, version 2.9.1 for those keeping score, brings a couple of changes.  First, Bing wallpaper is now an icon on your home page.  You can tap that icon to change your wallpaper instead of having to dive into settings on your phone.

How to Microsoft Your Android Phone

One of the biggest benefits to Android as a platform is its flexibility.  Google, much to their credit, has made it very easy for developers – including companies that compete with them – to produce apps for Android to sell or give away.  Microsoft, much to their credit too, has taken advantage of this openness.  The Redmond, Washington company as certainly competed with Google and more directly Android but equally, have produced great apps that allow you to stay within the Microsoft ecosystem without too much pain.  In fact, really no pain.

If you are new to Android but your personal and/or work life is surrounded by Microsoft applications, take heart.  You will find that Android is more than capable of giving you a rich, powerful Microsoft experience without the sacrifices in other areas.  I’m of course referring to Windows Phone.  Clearly the Microsoft experience on Windows Phone was outstanding but even the apps on that now all-but-dead platform lacked when you compared them to those for Android or even iOS.

In this How To I’m going to highlight some of the key apps from Microsoft that will make your Android phone (and in most cases tablets) a solid performing and excellent user experience for those who have their digital work or personal lives in Office 365, OneDrive and other apps.  While those apps are expected, it is the other apps that Microsoft offers that may be a surprise to you.

Today’s Deal – Microsoft Office 365 Home for $85

Today’s Deal over at Amazon is on the Microsoft Office 365 Home subscription.  Normally $99.99, it is down to $84.99 at the online retailer.  The Home edition of Office 365 allows you to install the Office suite of apps – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote – on up to 5 PCs or Mac (any combination) and also comes with 1TB of OneDrive storage for your files and photos.  That 1TB of storage applies to all users on the subscription so each will get 1TB.  It’s a pretty sweet deal on the flagship Office offering from Microsoft.

If you already have a subscription, you can still take advantage of this deal.  When you get the subscription card shipped to you, just go to your Office account and add it to your existing subscription. This will just push out your renewal date another year.

Add to this, with the Home subscription, you get full access to the Android and iOS versions of the Office apps.  These apps are free on both platforms but to get all of the features, you have to have a subscription.

Today’s Deal is on the physical subscription card being shipped to you (it’s Prime eligible so it won’t cost you anything if you are a member) and not on the download version.  That version is still $99.

Check it out at Amazon