Introducing the new Office 365 App Launcher

As we continue to expand the great set of online productivity tools available to Office 365 users, we are committed to improving the experience that ties these services together. Today, we’re announcing a new version of the Office 365 App Launcher, which will provide improved discoverability to new and recently used apps, additional customization options and search across all the services and applications you use in the Microsoft Cloud. With one in seven people on the planet using Office, it’s important for us that this new experience feel familiar while also improving access to mission critical applications from across your organization.

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New tabbed layout

The Office 365 App Launcher has always provided a simple, consistent experience to surface applications when and where you need them. Now, we’re taking this one step further and helping bring the apps you use most front and center.

The new tabbed layout allows you to pin and organize tiles in a “HOME” section to provide fast, familiar access to your favorite apps from your Office 365 subscription, the Office Store, Azure apps, SharePoint apps, Line of Business apps and even custom tiles added by organization administrators.

Your company’s recently added apps also get their own “NEW” section, with badge notifications to let you know when a new app is available. We’ve also brought the “ALL” apps page directly into the App Launcher experience to give you quick access to your entire catalog of applications and search from anywhere within Office 365.

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Resize, pin and organize tiles

We also expanded the core functionality of the App Launcher to allow you to resize and organize tiles. These features mirror the familiar look and feel of the Windows 10 Start menu to make switching between applications as seamless as possible. To further enhance the speed at which users can multitask, you can continue to pin up to three applications to the right side of the navigation bar.

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Support for Office 365 themes

The redesigned App Launcher now supports Office 365 themes, including your company’s custom theme. Simply select an Office 365 theme from the Settings menu and see the color scheme reflected throughout the new experience.

Coming soon—access to recent Office documents

We’re working hard on exciting new features for the Office 365 user experience. Over the coming months, you’ll see the ability to access your recent files from across Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote Online simply by clicking the icon’s ellipsis menu. This will help you pick up from where you left off more efficiently.

As we continue to turn your feedback into reality and imagine new scenarios for working, we always want to hear your thoughts. You can always share your thoughts through the Feedback link at Office.com or in the comments below.

—Tom Batcheler, senior product marketing manager for the Office 365 team

Frequently asked questions

Q. When will I see these features in my Office 365 environment?

A. Customers who have opted into First Release will see them later this month. Others will start to see the update in October.

Q. What apps will be available in the App Launcher?

A. The App Launcher will display apps from your Office 365 subscription, the Office Store, Azure apps, SharePoint apps, Line of Business apps and custom tiles.

Q. Will I be able to customize my App Launcher?

A. Yes, however only customers with Exchange will be able to pin, resize and customize tiles.

Q. Why can’t I see the new tabs?

A. Only customers with Exchange will see the tabbed layout.

Q. Can administrators customize the HOME section of the App Launcher on behalf of users?

A. Not yet. We are currently working to enable greater control for Office 365 administrators. Please check back soon.

Q. How do I get additional apps?

A. Additional apps are available from the Office Store.

Q. What if my organization uses a custom theme?

A. Your organization’s theme will be reflected in the new App Launcher.

Q. Are there any resources available to help me communicate this change to end users in my organization?

A. Yes, there is an email template available on the Office 365 Success Center to communicate this change. This email is designed for you to send to your organization on the rollout of this new feature and includes customizable surfaces to reflect your organization’s brand and resources.

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AC for the DC

September is DevPro's month to focus on where IT is heading in 2017 and beyond.

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Free Windows Server 2016 eBook Available Today

In addition to just delivering news about the Windows Server 2016 launch at Microsoft Ignite this week, the company’s education arm (which, incidentally is supposed to be going away) Microsoft Press is making available a free eBook on the topic. The is called, Introducing Windows Server 2016.

Written by John McCabe, a senior premier field engineer at Microsoft, the eBook is available for download now in PDF format (ePub and MOBI coming soon).

Here’s the links:

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Office 365 administration announcements: new admin center reaches general availability and introducing the Service health dashboard

Today, we’re excited to announce that we’re taking the new Office 365 admin center out of preview. Since the first preview in September 2015, the new admin center has provided admins with an improved management experience that makes it easier and faster for you to manage Office 365 while providing new capabilities and insights.

The new Office 365 admin center reaches general availability

Over the last years, Office 365 has been evolving at a rapid pace, making more features and functionality available to users and admins on an almost daily basis. Over 350 new services and features were introduced last year alone. As we continue to add new capabilities to Office 365, we are focused on providing a first-class admin experience with tools to efficiently manage all aspects of the service. The new admin center has been designed to support this rapid growth and will continue to improve as the service further evolves.

We’d like to again thank each one of you who has provided feedback on the new admin center. Over the last year, we have received more than 49,000 pieces of feedback that have helped us identify gaps, fix bugs and evolve the new admin center to a management experience that meets the needs of all company sizes. And it’s great to hear how it’s already making your work easier:

“I love everything you are doing to make Office 365 for Business an incredible management and organizational tool for business. The old format sorely needed updating and is a constant source of complaints by users. Thanks guys for finally getting this whole thing right!”
—Customer feedback in the new admin center

Here is a summary of the main improvements:

The new admin center makes it easier and faster to manage Office 365

Quickly access relevant information and functionality from the new home page—The home page has been redesigned with you and your most common tasks in mind—such as adding a user or resetting a password. The new admin center makes these items accessible directly from the home page. The home page also proactively surfaces information important to you, such as notifications from the Message Center.

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Customize your admin experience—Frequent tasks may vary from admin to admin, so we’ve enabled customization of the home page, making it a truly personal experience. Remove cards that aren’t important to you. Rearrange cards so the ones you care about most are at the top, and add other cards so you can get to tasks straight from the home page.

Quickly find what you’re looking for with improved navigation and search—If you’re looking for a specific setting or feature, you can use the navigation menu, which has been reorganized to make it easier for you to find information. For example, you can see the settings for all services in one place. The search bar (at the top) is the easiest and fastest way to navigate the admin center, by giving you the power to search for most every capability within the admin center.

Manage licenses in fewer steps—The new admin center makes it easier for you to purchase and assign licenses. When you add a new user, you can buy and assign a license in one simple step.

More functionality at your fingertips

The new admin center isn’t just an update to the look and feel of the old admin center, it also provides new management capabilities and additional actionable information.

Manage more user details—Now, the user list supports infinite scroll, so that admins can see all their users on one page, including which license is assigned to a specific user. When you click a user’s name, important properties appear in a fly-out window allowing you to edit settings such as email forwarding, automatic replies and email apps.

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Edit more user details simultaneously—The new admin center provides the ability to bulk edit more user details simultaneously, including product licenses, domains or user roles. In addition, the bulk edit limit has increased—you can now edit up to 100 users at the same time.

Edit all groups in one place—The new admin center fully supports all group types including distribution lists, security groups, mail-enabled security groups and Office 365 Groups. You can manage all your groups from the same location.

Message Center improvements—The Message Center has completely been redesigned to provide you with more functionality. You can filter by message type, dismiss a message, mark it as read or unread or even share it with peers. The Message Center also allows you to use machine translation to view messages in your preferred language.

Reports you can act on

The new admin center also provides you with a richer reporting experience and additional insights that help you to proactively manage your service.

New usage reporting dashboard—The new usage reporting dashboard provides you with valuable insights about how the Office 365 services are being used and delivers details down to the individual user level. The usage reports will be accompanied by a Power BI content pack that will allow you to share the reports and to pivot by attributes like region or department. More information will be shared next week.

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Export additional information—To further analyze and process the data, you can now export more information directly from the UI—including the usage reports as well as the user list—to a CSV file.

Monitor your Directory Synchronization (DirSync) Status and quickly identify issues—The DirSync card on the home page and the new subsite make it easy for admins to understand their DirSync status and to identify errors.

We will continue to further improve the new admin center to provide you with the best management experience possible. We’re currently working on additional reports and on modernizing the product admin centers.

The old admin center will be retired at the end of December.

Announcing a new Service health dashboard

For many of you, moving to Office 365 was a big change. In an on-premises world, if there was a service incident, you were the ones investigating and solving the issue. With Office 365, you trust Microsoft with running the service and quickly solving service incidents. But moving to a cloud service shouldn’t mean losing the ability to know what’s going on. With this in mind, we built a new Service health dashboard that provides admins with a new level of service health insights that are personalized for their organization. This allows admins to stay on top of service incidents, improve your internal support experience and improve your users’ Office 365 experience.

Since the launch of Office 365 in 2011, our promise to provide you with timely, targeted and accurate communications in the event of a service incident hasn’t changed, and we’ve focused on being transparent in our operations so that you can monitor the service, track issues and have a historical view of availability. Service health is a very important area for all of you and over the last year, we’ve received a lot of feedback that has helped us to reimagine service health.

Here is a summary of the improvements that you’ll find in the new Service health dashboard:

Access rich and more actionable incident insights—The new Service health dashboard provides you with more relevant incident insights and features a new view that separates major business critical outages from others and splits them into two categories: incidents and advisories. This new view makes it easier for you to identify the issues relevant for you that you might want to act on immediately.

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Quickly understand the incident—A new summary view surfaces the most relevant and critical details to you in just two short sentences—easy and quick to consume. If you want to access additional details, you can go to a more detailed view that provides you with all available information, including workarounds and message history.

Easily see the impact for your organization—The new dashboard allows you to quickly understand the impact of the service incident on your organization by showing you the number of impacted users.

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Sign up for the preview program

The preview of the new Service health dashboard is available for Office 365 customers worldwide today. To get access to the new dashboard, please send an email with the subject “I want to be part of the preview” to shdpreviewsignup@service.microsoft.com and include both your tenant ID and your tenant domain (i.e., contoso.com). After we have enabled the preview for your tenant (it can take 1-2 weeks), you will receive an email with access instructions.

More to come

This is just the beginning. Our goal is to provide you with richer and more actionable service health insights that will help you to stay on top of incidents, reduce support costs and improve end user experiences.

We’ll be adding more enhancements in the coming months, including:

Tell us about issues—If you are impacted by an issue that is not showing up on your Service health dashboard, the Tell us feature will provide you with a quick and easy way to let us know.

Stay informed through your preferred channel—The new Service health dashboard will enable you to sign up for notifications via text and/or email so that you can monitor the service and track issues through the channel you prefer.

Access user level details—In addition to the number of impacted users, you will also be able to access a full list of impacted users to enable you to drive more targeted communication and support.

Check the health of your users—The new Service health dashboard will also include new features that will improve the end user experience. On-demand user health checks will allow you to check end user health by running a test against our service. User Monitoring will enable you to proactively monitor specific users and to find out about possible health issues affecting those users right away—often before they might even notice them.

Let us know what you think!

Please try the new features and provide feedback using the feedback link in the lower right corner of the admin center. And don’t be surprised if we respond to your feedback. We truly read every piece of feedback that we receive to make sure the Office 365 administration experience meets your needs.

—Anne Michels, @Anne_Michels, senior product marketing manager for the Office 365 Marketing team

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New Outlook partner integrations help you extend your email capabilities

Today, email powers our communication with customers, coworkers, business partners as well as friends and family. Many of these emails drive action, such as adding a customer contact or updating a to-do list. To accomplish these tasks, we often need to move back and forth between email and another service, such as a customer relationship management, task management or a notetaking app.

There’s a better way to work! Over the last year, we’ve introduced add-ins for Outlook on the web and desktop, which help you accomplish tasks quickly right from email, saving you the time spent switching between apps or signing in to separate services. Today, we are excited to announce that we’re bringing these add-ins to Outlook for Mac 2016 users. Additionally, we are launching new Outlook integrations—Connectors for the inbox and Actionable Messages—that enable you to take quick actions right from email.

Let’s get into the details of what’s new.

Get more done with add-ins in Outlook for Mac 2016

Whether it’s scheduling a meeting at your favorite coffee shop, updating a CRM entry or paying your friends, you will soon be able to accomplish all this and more right from your inbox through add-ins in Outlook for Mac 2016. In the coming weeks, add-ins in Outlook for Mac 2016 will begin to roll out—starting with Office Insider Fast. All existing add-ins for Outlook on the web and desktop—including Boomerang, Dynamics 365, Evernote, Giphy, Nimble, PayPal, Starbucks, Yelp, Uber, Wunderlist and Zomato—will be available as part of Office Insider Fast access.

If you are interested in getting early access to add-ins in Outlook for Mac, join the Office Insider Fast program for Mac. You will need a valid Office 365 subscription to join this program. When add-ins are made available to Office Insider Fast users, you will see the Office Store icon in Outlook. Just click the Store icon in the Outlook command bar to open the Office Store. Next, search for the add-in you are looking for and turn its toggle to On. You will then see the add-in command appear in your inbox you can start using it.

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You will soon be able to use add-ins from popular apps and services in Outlook for Mac 2016.

Get updates from your favorite apps with Connectors for the inbox

Earlier this year, we introduced Office 365 Connectors, which let you deliver relevant interactive content and updates from popular apps and services—such as Trello, Twitter and more—to Office 365 Groups. We are now bringing Connectors to your inbox (in preview), starting with a rollout to Outlook on the web users with Office 365 mailboxes. With Connectors for the inbox, you will be able to track updates from your project boards, social media accounts and more, right from your email.

Starting today, the preview will roll out for the following connectors: Asana, Bing News, Bitbucket, GitHub, Twitter, Trello, Wunderlist and Yammer. More services will be added soon.

To access Connectors for the inbox in Outlook on the web, click the Settings gear icon (top right) and select Manage Integrations. Click Connectors and then add the connector you wish to install. The connector will allow you to subscribe to a rich set of notifications and you may configure additional settings based on your preference. Once configured, you will start receiving notifications from the connector.

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Click the Settings icon > Manage Integrations > Connectors and then add the connector you wish to install.

Configure the settings for the selected connector.

You should start receiving updates from the connector directly in your inbox.

Take quick actions in your email with Actionable Messages Preview

All of us have received emails reminding us to pay our bills or approve expense reports. Wouldn’t it be great if you could pay your bills and approve expense reports right from email—without having to sign in to another app? Actionable Messages have the power to do just that, transforming your inbox into a “do” box. As the name suggests, Actionable Messages enable users to take quick actions—such as updating a task or liking a social media post right from an email—with no need to visit another app or service.

Actionable Messages enable you to take quick actions such as “Like” or “Retweet” right from an email.

Starting today, Actionable Messages will start rolling out in Outlook on the web for Office 365 users and will initially be available for Connectors from Asana, Bitbucket, GitHub, Trello, Twitter and Wunderlist.

For example, when you enable the Trello connector in Outlook on the web, you will be able to receive a notification when someone creates, moves or comments on a card on your Trello board. The notification will now also include quick actions, such as adding a due date, adding a comment or moving a card, which you can take right from your email.

The Trello connector now allows you to add a due date, add a comment and more!

In addition to Actionable Messages delivered by Connectors, any app or service can turn any email they send into an Actionable Message and surface contextual actions directly in Outlook. Services such as SAP Fieldglass, Microsoft Flow and TINYpulse will soon start sending out Actionable Messages that will allow users take action from within the email. This capability will initially be available in preview in Outlook on the web for Office 365 users.

As an example, if your organization is using SAP Fieldglass to manage your vendor employee expenses, you may be receiving notifications when someone submits an expense report. These notifications will now contain quick actions such as “Approve” and “Reject” that will enable you to approve or reject those expenses right from Outlook on the web.

A new expense notification from SAP Fieldglass with built-in “Approve” or “Reject” actions.

Join the conversation—we’re listening

We’re excited for you to give these new Outlook integrations a try! We’re eager to hear your feedback and any suggestions on new partner solutions that you’d like to see in Outlook. Joining the conversation is easy—visit the add-ins section of Outlook.UserVoice.com and sign in with your Microsoft account to leave your feedback.

Frequently asked questions

Q. When will Outlook for Mac 2016 users who are not in the Insider program get add-ins?

A. Add-ins for Outlook for Mac 2016 will initially be available to Office Insiders in the coming weeks—starting with a rollout to Office Insiders Fast followed by Office Insiders Slow and will then be broadly rolled out to all Office for Mac 2016 users. Note that you will need your Outlook 2016 for Mac to be connected to a migrated Outlook.com or an Office 365, Exchange 2016 or Exchange 2013 SP1 account to use the add-ins.

Q. Will Connectors for the inbox and Actionable Messages come to Outlook on the desktop and Outlook.com?

A. Yes, we’re working to bring Actionable Messages and Connectors to Outlook.com and Desktop Outlook users soon.

Q. I am a developer interested in integrating my app with Outlook. Where should I start?

A. To learn more about building apps for Outlook, visit dev.outlook.com. You can find code samples, videos and learning resources for building add-ins, Connectors and Actionable Messages and leveraging Outlook REST APIs.

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