Microsoft today announced its plans to extend the social features of Office by integrating Skype into Office Online, allowing users to communicate by voice and video chat within Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote Online documents, as well as in Outlook.com. With the integration, users will be able to see and chat with Skype contacts right from within their file, which Microsoft says will help teams better collaborate. In addition, Skype’s chat history will remain connected to the document, so you’ll be able to see where you left off after closing a file and later returning.
Microsoft also rolled out a new Chrome browser extension, which makes it easier to quickly access or create new Office documents with a click on Chrome’s toolbar.
The Skype integration is part of a continued rollout that sees Microsoft bundling its flagship communications app into its Office suite. The company last month introduced Skype for Business (previously Lync) into Office 2016 on the Windows desktop, at the time promising that a similar Office Online integration was planned for later this fall.
Today, Microsoft is announcing Skype for Office Online, but notes that it will be available worldwide to anyone with a Microsoft account starting in November. That’s days away, however, so the wait should not be long now.
In addition, the company has introduced a web browser extension for Google Chrome users that lets you create or open files by clicking on a small Office icon placed in Chrome’s toolbar. The extension is able to access and launch files saved on OneDrive and OneDrive for Business, as well as documents stored on your computer.
This is an interesting shot against Google and its rival Google Apps suite of productivity tools, as Microsoft is actually taking advantage of Google’s popular web browser and its extensibility as a way to connect users to its competing Office suite.
“Use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Sway Online without needing Office installed,” the description on the Chrome Web Store reads.
While the above features were the key announcements Microsoft unveiled today regarding its Office suite, it also noted a few other, more minor tidbits in a blog post about the changes, including the release of a 40 percent smaller version of the Office for Android app with Android M support for Enterprise and compliance with Android for Work, alongside other tweaks; as well as improvements to Visual Basic Editor for Office 2016 on Mac.