What’s new: February 2015

February may be a short month, but it was packed with Office 365 updates. You can now preview the next chapter of Office on Windows, scan documents into PDF files from your Windows Phone, work with Office files stored in third-party cloud storage, handwrite and draw in OneNote for iPad and much more. There’s a host of improvements for business, too. Two new compliance capabilities and a new admin mobile app were added, Yammer and Power Map for Excel both got new features, and many security improvements were added for password-protection on mobile device, identity and access management, and encryption. And for millions of eligible students around the world, it’s now easy to sign yourself up to get free Office from your school. Leave us a comment to let us know what your favorite new feature is. If you missed last month’s updates, see What’s new: January 2015.

Office 365 Personal, Office 365 Home and Office 365 University updates

Preview Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on Windows 10—The next chapter of Office on Windows is here:  touch- and mobile-optimized versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote across devices. You can now preview the new Word, Excel and PowerPoint on PCs, laptops and tablets running the Windows 10 Technical Preview. Soon you’ll be able to preview the same apps on phones and tablets running Windows 10.

Office Lens now converts pictures of paper documents to PDF files—Go paperless! The Office Lens app for Windows Phone makes pictures of whiteboards and docs readable and saves them to OneNote. Now you can use Office Lens to take a picture of a document save it as a PDF file. The file is automatically saved to your OneDrive, so you can access and search it on any device. It’s like having a scanner in your pocket.

Office Online gets even better in 2015—Multiple improvements across Office Online make it easier than ever to use. An updated toolbar enhances your reading experience, you have more options for saving and managing files, you can now print PDF files directly from Word Online, you can add files to your OneDrive right from the toolbar, and more.

New cloud storage integration for Office files—The goal of working with Office files no matter where they’re stored is two steps closer. With file picker integration for iPad and iPhone, you can open, edit and save documents from third-party cloud storage providers right from within Office. And with integration of Office Online into cloud services like Box, Citrix and Salesforce, you can open, view and edit documents stored in those services in any web browser.

OneNote is now even more free—You can now access the full power of OneNote 2013 on your PC for free, including these features that were previously reserved for paid editions including password-protected sections, page history, audio and video recording, audio search and embedded files.

Two improvements to capturing and searching content in OneNote—Handwriting and drawing have been added to OneNote to iPad, making this top-requested feature available across all of the most popular platforms. Optical character recognition (OCR) was added to all versions of OneNote, so you can search text in images in notebooks saved on OneDrive.

Sway improvements and Sway for iPhone updates—Sway lets you create and share an interactive canvas of your ideas that looks great on any screen. An updated toolbar, improvements to Cards, fonts and drag-and-drop make Sway even easier to use. And Sway for iPhone is even more powerful with updates like the ability to add video from your phone, apply hyperlinks and crop images.

Introducing the OneNote Staff Notebook for education—Now an entire school or district can enjoy the benefits of OneNote’s organizational efficiency. The OneNote Staff Notebook, is an app for Office 365, which helps an education staff leaders cultivate and manage educator collaboration. Quickly set up a personal workspace for every staff member or teacher, a content library for shared information and a collaboration space—all within one notebook.

Office Mix authoring now easier for first-time users—Getting started with Office Mix, the free add-in for PowerPoint, just got easier for new users. Step-by-step instructions guide you through creating your first mix recording in two minutes or less. And the new Create an Office Mix template links you to examples and tutorials. For experienced users, publishing Office Mix presentations is now easier.

Sharing Office Mixes on social networks and improved embedding available—When you play a public Office Mix with audio or video, you can now pause the mix to see options to share to your favorite social network, including Twitter. And added support for two of the most popular embed formats on the web, embed.ly and oEmbed, means you can embed a mix in your blog or website.

Office 365 for business updates*

Office Online gets even better in 2015—Multiple improvements across Office Online make it easier than ever to use. An updated toolbar enhances your reading experience, you have more options for saving and managing files, you can now print PDF files directly from Word Online, you can add files to your OneDrive right from the toolbar and more.

New cloud storage integration for Office files—The goal of working with Office files no matter where they’re stored is two steps closer. With file picker integration for iPad and iPhone, you can open, edit and save documents from third-party cloud storage providers right from within Office. And with integration of Office Online into cloud services like Box, Citrix and Salesforce, you can open, view and edit documents stored in those services in any web browser.

Two improvements to capturing and searching content in OneNote—Handwriting and drawing have been added to OneNote to iPad, making this top-requested feature available across all of the most popular platforms. Optical character recognition (OCR) was added to all versions of OneNote, so you can search text in images in notebooks saved on OneDrive.

Innovations in Office 365 compliance—Two new compliance capabilities were added, demonstrating the Microsoft commitment to build privacy as a foundational component of our cloud services. We incorporated controls that comply with the ISO 27018 standard for protection of personally identifiable information (PII) in public clouds. And we added compliance with HITRUST, a standard used by organizations that create, access, store or exchange personal health and financial information.

Yammer updates for iOS and Android—New for iOS 8 is Handoff, which lets you start collaborating on your Mac and—with one swipe—continue on your iPhone or iPad. With Android Wear support, you can glance at your wrist to quickly read and ‘like’ team messages and reply using voice commands—directly on your smartwatch. These and more innovations make mobile team collaboration better than ever.

Updates for Power Map for Excel for Office 365—A brand new feature–Data cards–extends the Power Map tooltip so you can display more contextual information about data on your map. Improvements to heat maps enable you to use them in amazing new ways so you can represent the data just the way you want, for example, by changing the aggregation type and customizing the color scale.

Office 365 Partner admin mobile app available—The Office 365 Partner admin mobile app gives partners the flexibility to manage and administer customers from Android, iOS and Windows Phones as well as desktops. Just download the app and sign in using the same credentials you use to access the main Office 365 partner admin center portal.

PIN lock and other updates to Outlook for iOS and Android—If your company email policy requires that devices have a password in order to sync mail, Outlook now enforces this on iOS and Android devices. Also, remote app-level wipes are quicker—they now happen within seconds. And new user features that you asked for were added, too, like IMAP support, toggling conversation view for iOS, and customizing swipe gestures on Android.

New identity and access management features added to Office 365—Two new identity and access management capabilities have started rolling out to Office 365 customers. You can brand the sign-in page and Azure AD Access Panel with your company’s custom text, color and images. And you can enable self-service password reset, which allows your users to reset their password if they forget it.

Encryption control updates in Office 365—Office 365 encryption controls help you protect sensitive data and meet specific requirements. One control, Office 365 Message Encryption, has been updated to enable recipients of encrypted messages to download Office 365 Message Encryption viewer apps. Another control, Information Rights Management (IRM), has been updated so you can now sync your IRM-protected documents on OneDrive for Business and you can create your own policy templates for specific departments.

Extended email retention for deleted items in Office 365—Before, items in the Outlook Deleted folder disappeared after 30 days. With this update, Office 365 administrators can set the length of time items remain in this folder. You can keep the 30-day policy or set a custom retention period. To enable this, over the next month the Default MRM Policy will be updated for everyone using Exchange Online.

Students worldwide can now check if they’re eligible for free Office from their school— Students getting Office at no additional cost to schools is a benefit Microsoft provides to education institutions that buy Office for faculty and staff. Millions of students around the world are eligible for free Office from their school and now it’s easy for eligible students globally to sign themselves up to get Office 365 and install free Office. (Self-sign up is not available in China.) All you need to complete the sign up is a valid school email address.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Office 365 developer update

Extending the My Apps and Apps Launcher UI—In this Office 365 Developer podcast, Jeremy Thake talks to Mauricio Ordonez and Russell Palmer about how you can extend the My Apps and App Launcher user interface in Office 365.

Please note that some of the updates may take time to show up in your Office 365 account, because they’re being rolled out to customers worldwide.

—Andy O’Donald @andyodonald

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*Not all updates apply to every Office 365 plan; please check the individual post for specifics.