If you’ve been dying to hold group chats while working on collaborative Word and PowerPoint documents inside Office Online, the feature is now live. Following Microsoft’s announcement in late November that Skype-powered group chat was coming, Skype recently rolled out the functionality to Office Online.
When two or more people are working on the same document, a chat button will appear, allowing you to communicate with your collaborators. The new feature is not yet available in Excel or OneNote Online.
The impact on you at home: Being able to chat with other collaborators in Office Online was a tricky business before the new Skype feature rolled out. Previously, you could only chat with one other person using a roundabout method we documented in our look at Office Online collaboration feature. The addition of Skype will make online collaboration much easier with Microsoft’s web apps.
To be continued
Once you’ve started a chat in Office Online it is named after the document. If you were working on a PowerPoint presentation called “Budget 2015,” for example, the chat would have the same name and be saved to your recent conversations list in Skype.
That allows you to close your Office document and open Skype on the desktop, mobile device, or the Windows Store app and continue the conversation.
While you’re chatting in the browser you only have the option for IM. For video or voice chats you’ll have to switch to one of the Skype apps. That may change, however, once Skype for Web is ready for prime time.
The one outstanding question we had is whether two people could chat inside the same document even if they weren’t Skype contacts—a previous limitation.
The answer is yes: You can chat with anyone inside an Office online document even if they don’t have a Skype account. Google offers a similar feature when collaborating on Drive documents. The one limitation is that it appears latecomers won’t have access to the chat history so they won’t be able to catch up with other team members by reviewing previously discussed subjects.
Nevertheless, the new Skype-powered group chat for Office Online documents is a great start, and over time it should only get better.
In the space of a few hours last night, BlackBerry’s value on the stock market skyrocketed by nearly a third and then promptly plummeted back down. The catalyst for that rollercoaster ride was a Reuters report alleging Samsung was courting BlackBerry with a$7.5 billion takeover bid, which was quickly refuted by officials from both Waterloo and Seoul. Though it’s now apparent that no imminent acquisition is in the offing, the mere rumor of Samsung buying BlackBerry proved appealing enough to get people to invest real money in it.
Setting aside the credulity of overeager investors, there are three big reasons that can justify BlackBerry’s price and they all relate to its potential value to a global giant like Samsung.
BlackBerry’s well-documented struggles as a smartphone maker tend to obscure the strength of its enterprise business. BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) is the gold standard for securing and managing mobile business communications, having been deployed by thousands of private and public organizations around the world. This market is unglamorous but reliably profitable, and Samsung has already demonstrated an appetite for it with its own Knox initiative on Android. Knox showed early momentum with approval for use by the US Department of Defense in 2013, however its security has since beencalled into question by a series of discovered vulnerabilities. Samsung’s response has been to integrate BlackBerry’s end-to-end encryption into Knox starting this year, but that solves only half the problem. Even under a best case scenario, Knox will take a long time to just get Samsung in through the office door, whereas the Korean company is looking to be a corporate player right away.
BLACKBERRY UNLOCKS THE LUCRATIVE MARKET FOR ENTERPRISE SOFTWARE AND SERVICESBig businesses have an ingrained reluctance to changing established practices, which makes the incumbent BES unlikely to be ousted from its leading position any time soon. Acquiring ownership of it would solve two problems at once for Samsung: the Korean company would immediately become a major presence in offices everywhere and its revenue sheet would add a consistent source of income. That’s particularly salient to Samsung as it tries to overhaul its all-important mobile devices division and revive flagging sales, but there’s pretty much no big tech company that wouldn’t benefit from the addition of BES. Together with BlackBerry Messenger — which is also cross-platform, usable on iPhones and Android handsets as well as BlackBerrys — BES marks a spectacular upgrade over Samsung’s in-house Knox and recently cancelled ChatOn efforts.
The crown jewel, in the words of CEO John Chen, of BlackBerry’s remaining assets is the QNX software platform. Noted for its security and flexibility, QNX is the predominant software used in modern car infotainment systems, even providing the basis for Apple’s CarPlay and recently supplanting Microsoft in Ford’s Sync 3. Samsung is going after the connected car and QNX is already there. Instead of fighting an uphill battle against the better software designers at Apple and Google, Samsung can establish a strong position for itself in smart vehicles by providing the platform underpinning middleware like CarPlay and Android Auto.
Besides smarter cars, the other big theme of the Consumer Electronics Show that just wrapped up in Las Vegas was the Internet of Things (IoT), where Samsung has again expressed a desire to be a leader. As it happens, QNX has a number of IoT-related use cases — covering diverse industries like aerospace, defense, security systems, and medical devices — that would help Samsung’s plans for future growth. Those capabilities could be expanded more readily with Samsung’s depth of resources and breadth of operations, making QNX one of the top reasons Samsung would desire BlackBerry.
THE INTERNET OF QNX-POWERED SAMSUNG THINGS COULD BE FORMIDABLEThe third pillar of BlackBerry’s enduring value is its patent portfolio. Decades of research and development into wireless systems and devices have built up an enviably deep pool of intellectual property. Valuations vary, but the patents by themselves would be worth billions of dollars, and Reuters’ source actually names them as the key attraction for Samsung. Through its subsidiary, Certicom, BlackBerry owns 130 highly regarded encryption patents — some of which are used by the NSA — that could come into play as more companies and services better secure their software and seek licensing to utilize those patents. We’ve already seen Google spend significantly more on acquiring Motorola’s library of patents, and BlackBerry’s might be the last appealing bundle of intellectual property left on the market. If Samsung doesn’t go aggressively after it, odds are that someone else will.
Decoupling BlackBerry’s smartphone production from the rest of its operations helps to illuminate the company’s strengths, but any takeover would have to account for BlackBerry’s still significant hardware business. It continues to lag badly behind Android and the iPhone, and though BlackBerry OS is improving, the ecosystem gap is so vast that there’s little hope of it ever catching up. If there’s any ray of sunshine, it would come from a giant of Samsung’s stature putting its marketing and manufacturing muscle behind BB OS. For Samsung, the motivation would be the same as the one driving it to persist with its unloved Tizen OS in spite of little external support: avoiding an all-out reliance on Google and its Android platform. Still, with Samsung unlikely to shift its smartphone production or design, taking over BlackBerry phones would be accepting a liability rather than gaining an asset.
In an overheated tech market where unprofitable social apps fetch valuations in the tens of billions of dollars, BlackBerry’s rumored $7.5 billion price feels almost quaint. Yes, the smartphone division is an unholy mess, but BlackBerry is rich on unique advantages whose value would be greatly amplified by being integrated into a larger company with broader operations. Imagine BBM preloaded on every Galaxy device, Blackberry Bridge on every Ativ laptop, BES on every corporate server, and QNX on literally everything. Samsung is the world’s most diverse manufacturer of things and BlackBerry has the pieces to make those things smarter, better connected, and more secure.
Despite Microsoft Office’s evolution toward menu-driven shortcuts, it’s worth remembering those funky Fn keys still serve a purpose. As part of key combos inWord,Excel, and Outlook, they make it easier and faster to perform commonly used commands.
Here are 15 of the most essential function-key strokes. Once you get the hang of two-fisted input using the mouse and keyboard shortcuts, you’ll find yourself shaving hours off your projects.
F1 is the Help key in almost every software program available, including all the Microsoft products. Ctrl+F1 displays or hides the ribbon menu bar in Word and Excel.
F5 is the GoTo key in both Word and Excel. Excel displays a dialog box prompting for a cell reference such as B55 or G12. Word’s dialog box prompts for 13 different locations, including the page, section, line, table and graphic.
3. Toggle between documents
Ctrl+F6 toggles between multiple Word documents when you have more than one open, or between worksheets when you have more than one Excel file open.
4. Spell Check
F7 opens the Spell Check dialog box in Excel, Word, and Outlook.
Shift-F12 saves the current document, spreadsheet, or whatever task is currently open in Outlook (email, contact, task, etc.). F12 opens the Save As dialog box in Excel, Word, and Outlook, then prompts for a new filename.
6. Change Case
Shift-F3 toggles the case of the selected text (in Outlook as well), rotating from sentence case to uppercase to lowercase and so on. Just highlight the text you want to format and continue to press Shift-F3 until the case you want appears. No more deleting text when you accidentally press the Shift key in the middle of a word or forget the Caps Lock key is turned on.
7. Repeat last action
F4 repeats the last action you performed. For example, create a text box, insert a graphic, or draw a line, then press F4 and the action is duplicated.
Shift-F7 opens the Thesaurus dialog and suggests synonyms for the selected word.
9. Disable hyperlinks
Hyperlinks can be deactivated one at a time through the right-click menu. But removing dozens of hyperlinks from a document using this method takes time. Ctrl+Shift-F9 also disables one active hyperlink when it’s selected. But to disable allactive hyperlinks in a document, first press Ctrl+A to select the entire document or email, then press Ctrl+Shift-F9.
10. Edit a cell
F2 edits the active cell (text and formulas)—a quick and easy way to manage formulas.
11. Insert Function
Place your cursor in the target cell, then press Shift-F3 to open the Insert Function dialog. Choose a function from the list (SUM, AVERAGE, IF, COUNT, etc.) and click OK. Next, the Function Argument dialog opens, prompting for the range you want to calculate using the function you just selected. If the target cell is below a column of numbers, Excel automatically enters the range above the target cell. Once the range is determined, clickOK. Excel enters the function/formula plus range and calculates the answer.
12. Create cell reference
F4 toggles thru formulas to create absolute or relative cell references. In this case, the graphic below is worth a thousand words for explaining this feature.
13. Display Macro dialog box
Alt+F8 displays the Macro dialog box, which provides the options to Run, Step Through, Edit, Delete, or customize any macro.
14. Calculate the active worksheet
It takes time to recalculate a really huge worksheet, especially if it’s loaded with formulas. So, many power users turn off the “auto-calculate” feature (File>Options>Formulas, then click Manual under Calculation Options-Workbook Calculation). Once disabled, you’ll be able to work more quickly, When you’re finished entering and editing text and formulas, press Shift-F9 to recalculate everything.
15. Create a chart with data in current range
F11 creates a chart of the data in the active range of the active worksheet. However, highlighting the range first could save time when editing the chart.
Let us know your favorite function-key strokes for Office in the comments. And stay tuned for more tips.