Office 365 – Eight ways to be more productive

Have you recently moved to Office 365? If so, you are probably using Word, Excel and Outlook every day. You might be thinking that they are the same familiar old friends you’ve always had in your working life. Look again. Here are eight ways to be more productive with the new Office 365 versions of these stalwart products.

Office 365 for business

1. Use the apps on multiple devices

Licensing of Office applications used to be a source of pain and frustration, with despairing comments like “I’ve bought Office so why can’t I use it on both of my computers?”. Office 365 has swept this away. Your Office 365 licence allows you to use all the applications on up to five computers (Windows or Mac, desktop or laptop) plus you can install it on up to five mobile devices (tablets etc) plus five phones. That ought to be enough for anyone.

2. Work online

The web versions of Word and Excel have been around for several years. If you looked at early versions, you might well have been put off by these very basic products that were slow and had almost none of the features we take for granted in the desktop versions. I can tell you that it’s now safe to look again. Microsoft has been working hard on the web versions and they are genuinely useable products. You really could work entirely in the cloud if you wanted to.

When you get the opportunity, and later sections in this article will give you that opportunity, try them out and see what you think.

3. Work offline

The hype tells us that we live in an always-on, always connected world. If 99% of the UK population is connected, it’s surprising how often you find yourself in that other 1%. Typically, it’s when you are about to start an important presentation and you discover you have no wi-fi, no signal, no connection.

Luckily, you still have the Office applications installed on your laptop, so all is not lost. And Microsoft hasn’t forgotten about making your data available offline too. Agreed, you need to plan ahead by synchronising those vital files and folders to your laptop, but the offline capability is there. You can easily synchronise data to your PC from all these sources:

If you would like a ‘how to’ guide to making any of this data available offline ask us at Riverbank, your IT support service company, Oxford or, contact us here.

4. Start using OneDrive (for Business)

OneDrive started out as Microsoft’s answer to Dropbox and similar web-based file stores. It is now one of the leading file sharing applications, as recognised by Gartner.

Figure 1 Source: Microsoft blog

As part of your Office 365 business subscription you will have OneDrive for Business. It’s time to start using it with your Office applications. Here are a few reasons why.

Store your files in OneDrive

OneDrive for Business comes with a cool 1TB of storage. One easy step to take is to use it as your store for your own work files. It is closely integrated with Office applications so it’s a very convenient way to access your own data. Synchronise your files to your PC/laptop so you have access to them offline and online; it makes it quick to open and save files and OneDrive takes care of the synchronisation with the cloud data store.

Share files with others

Sharing files with others is a common enough feature in web-based file stores and it’s easy to do in OneDrive. Where OneDrive starts to pull ahead of its competitors is that you can set and enforce company-wide policies to maintain your security. For example, you can decide if your staff should be able to share OneDrive files with people outside your organisation.

Use OneDrive on your mobile devices

You can use OneDrive on all your mobile devices. Space constraints usually mean that you will be viewing your online files, but you can tag files and folders that you want to have downloaded to that device for offline access.

With OneDrive on multiple devices, you’ll take for granted that you can see your own files and folders anywhere. You will also get used to editing your documents with the mobile versions of Word and other Office apps.

Try the web-based version of OneDrive

The web-based version of OneDrive is the central cloud store for all your OneDrive data. You can access it via your normal logon to Office 365 (e.g. from www.office365.com).

As well as viewing your files and folders there, you can edit them using the online versions of the Office applications. These applications run by default when you click on one of your files.

There is more to this view of OneDrive than you might think. Down the left-hand side you will see two features named ‘Shared’ and ‘Discover’. The ‘Shared’ files are the files that other people have shared with you – it is very handy to have all those shares in one place. The ‘Discover’ feature lets you see the files that your colleagues have been working on recently, giving you an overview of what’s hot in your organisation.

Get real-time co-authoring of documents

One truly impressive feature of the latest versions of Word is the ability for multiple people to edit the same document at the same time. This works for any shared document stored in OneDrive or Teams (see below). It works with the online version of Word and with the installed desktop application. It’s a major step forward.

5. Move up to SharePoint

SharePoint Online is the underlying data store for Office 365. It is an enterprise-scale data repository that is packed with great features. Unfortunately, all those features came at a price; SharePoint was quite clunky to work with and it never really took off in the small business market.

With the advent of Office 365, this is changing. Microsoft is building layers of much more usable software over the top of SharePoint. OneDrive for Business and Teams both use SharePoint to store all your data, but you don’t need to see that SharePoint layer underneath.

6. Work collaboratively with Teams

Microsoft Teams is one of many apps in Office 365. If you would like to read an introduction to Teams, you can find it here. You might think it’s a long way from your old friends Word, Excel and Outlook, but it is another indicator of how the world of business IT is changing.

Teams is sweeping away the old way of thinking about Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, or structuring files and folders like electronic filing cabinets. Instead, it brings together the members of a project team into one site and gives them access to all the files for that project. Word and Excel become the background tools, leaving you free to think about your project and your work.

Teams is also doing something else for us; it’s starting to wean us off our email habit. And that’s the penultimate topic for this article.

7. Start kicking the email habit

Admit it, you probably exhibit some of the symptoms of addiction to email. Is Outlook the first application you fire up in the morning? If there is something you check before you even get to work, it’s probably your email. If you are really addicted, it’s the last work-related thing you do in the evening. Apparently, some people even look at email in bed.

It’s time to start kicking the habit. There are new ways to communicate with your colleagues and they are called Teams,   and Skype for Business. You don’t have to use them all but they will all help you escape from “death by email”.

8. You are always up to date

The final productivity gain is the easiest, because it is fully automatic. Office 365 keeps the applications up to date for you. Updates and new features simply appear on your computer. It’s a small change to your working life, but it’s one of those 1% marginal gains that make life slightly better.

Enjoy working with Office 365 and don’t forget to look beyond the old familiar faces of Word, Excel and Outlook.