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Microsoft Updates Office 365, Releases New Tooling

Microsoft unveiled several Office 365 improvements recently, including a new Windows desktop release, as well as improved setup and branding capabilities.

Last Wednesday, the company released version 1905 (Build 11629.20196) of Office 365 for Windows Desktop to subscribers. This release includes a few improvements for end users, as detailed in Microsoft's announcement. For instance, users can now see their personal and work accounts in one place within a new account manager, which lets them easily switch accounts. Microsoft also made it easier for Outlook users to "add Outlook.com and Gmail accounts that use 2-factor authentication."

PowerPoint now has a "live captions and subtitles" feature that transcribes a presenters word's into text. The text can appear in either the same language or a different language. Twelve spoken languages are currently supported for transcription.

Excel, PowerPoint and Word all have "@Mentions" collaboration support. It lets end users send e-mails to others from within a document. The e-mails point recipients back to a document.

Excel users now have an improved coauthoring collaboration experience with regard to "conditional formatting, cell styles, range protection, view gridlines, and cross-sheet cut/paste." Microsoft also added the ability to change the background color of Word's "Learning Tools" feature, which permits users to make text changes for better reading comprehension.

Improved Setup and Branding
IT pros also got Office 365 improvements. There's a new setup experience in the Microsoft 365 Admin Center that's being delivered to subscribers over a period of "several weeks," according to a May 24 Microsoft announcement. This enhancement will create "a logical group of tasks related to your admin function" within the Setup page, Microsoft explained. It's a more filtered view for IT pros, and will show their completed setup tasks, as well as tasks still requiring attention.

Microsoft also made it easier for organizations to add their logos and branding on the Office 365 navigation bar seen by end users. Now it's possible to add "any file size and any format" for logos within the navigation bar across Office applications, including Office.com, according to Microsoft's Thursday announcement.

Free DMARC E-Mail Monitoring
San Francisco-based Valimail, a provider of e-mail authentication services, is offering its Valimail Monitor for Office 365 at no cost to Office 365 subscribers. It verifies that communications are actually coming from an organization's end users. The solution serves to ward off potential e-mail fraud generated by "shadow IT" applications (unauthorized use of services by end users) and phishing attempts (impersonated e-mails). Using Valimail Monitor, Office 365 e-mail traffic gets checked using "domain-based message authentication, reporting, and conformance" (DMARC) technology, Microsoft explained, in a Monday announcement.

DMARC is an open standard used for e-mail authentication. It works with an e-mail system's Sender Policy Framework and DomainKeys Identified Mail functions, according to this Microsoft document description. However, the XML-based log information that gets generated by DMARC can be difficult to figure out. Valimail Monitor for Office 365 helps IT pros interpret this information, according to Microsoft:

Instead of manually parsing the massive amount of XML-based IP address data you get in DMARC reports, Valimail Monitor for Office 365 digests DMARC aggregate reports and turns them into an easily readable list of named services. In addition, for each of these services, Valimail shows how many messages are passing authentication and how many are failing and provides overall stats on DMARC authentications and authentication failures.

Microsoft claims that Valimail Monitor for Office 365 lets IT pros "easily see all third-party services sending on their behalf, as well as potential imposters that are spoofing their brand," without having to wade through XML reports,

Office 365 Tools
Microsoft also recently announced various Office 365 tools that may be helpful.

IT pros using the Azure Cloud Shell now have support for Exchange Online, according to Microsoft's announcement last Tuesday. The added support lets IT pros access the entire Exchange Online PowerShell library from a browser.

The Azure Cloud Shell is "a browser-based, authenticated shell experience, hosted by Microsoft," that gives IT pros access to PowerShell or Bash command line interfaces. Users can access Azure Cloud Shell from within the Azure Portal interface or via "shell.azure.com, the Azure Mobile App, [or] the Azure Extension in Visual Studio Code." Using Azure Cloud Shell requires having an "an Azure subscription and an Azure Storage account," but Microsoft suggested that the cost from using Azure Storage "is typically very low."

Developers who create Office 365 applications now have access to the Office365APIEditor tool, Microsoft announced on Monday. It's an open source tool, not supported by Microsoft, that lets developers test sending requests to REST-based application programming interfaces (APIs). It supports Microsoft the Graph API, Outlook API and Office 365 Management Activity API, according to a Microsoft video.

Microsoft also announced a new Exchange Server 2019 Sizing Calculator tool late last month. It's for organizations using Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2019 or Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus products. The Exchange Server 2019 Sizing Calculator helps IT Pros choose disk types, including the "just a bunch of disks" (JBOD) low-cost option, when using virtualization. It also lets IT pros estimate things like CPU requirements, metacache database support and database sizes (up to 2TB).

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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