Writing tools

Office 365 – cool and uncool features

I’ve been using Office 365 a while now. Here are my cool and not-so-cool features.

They’re mostly simple things. It’s weird how the simple things make a big difference. Some of these features may already have existed, I just didn’t know about them.

Cool Word—how long have I been writing this novel?

Word tells you how long you have been editing a document.

Click on the File tab and you get document information. One of the tags in the Properties area is ‘total editing time’.

So far we have spent 37,595 minutes writing our latest novel—626 hours or 26 days straight. That’s a big chunk out of our life.

Document properties
Document properties


I don’t know how accurate it is for us. When I’m editing I often close the laptop without exiting from the document, but it’s an interesting indicator of how much time we do spend on a book.

Uncool Word—go to page doesn’t work the way it used to

In the old versions of Word you used to be able to click on the page number at the bottom of the screen and bring up the Go To Page box. Now I have to use <ctrl><g> (<ctrl><g> was always there, I just preferred to click).

Cool Word—simple markup

I like the simple markup option. It shows you a nice clean manuscript, but also indicates where revisions have been made.

Cool Word—pick up where you left off

When you open a document it gives you the option to resume where you last left it. Very nice when you’re in the middle of editing.

Cool Word—the ability to reply to comments

We often make comments as part of the editing process. It’s great to be able to reply to a comment.

Uncool Word—all those templates

The way Microsoft displays the templates on the File > New page has changed. It now shows you a list of templates you can open. Most people will think this is a good thing.

Word templates
Word templates


Me, I just want all that junk off my front screen. I’d love to be able to add my favourite templates here (normal, manuscript, blog) and get rid of the whole distracting mess of the rest. I don’t use other templates that often, and I’m happy to go look for them when I do.

While I’m on it, please, Microsoft, bring back the one-click for a new file based on Normal template. You haven’t had it for a few versions now, but I really miss it.

Uncool OneNote—sharing through the cloud

Again, one of those things that should really be an improvement, but Groove, I miss you.

I use a laptop and the desktop and write between, depending on whether I am at home or out. I add my continuity notes to OneNote. It used to be that I’d come home, plug the laptop into the network, open OneNote on the desktop and any updates I had made during the day were copied across to the desktop. Remember, too, that throughout the day I don’t have the internet on, because all I am using is the word processor.

To share OneNote in Office 365 I had to put the master file on the cloud drive. Now, I come home, plug the laptop into the home network, open OneNote on the laptop so it can copy its data up to the OneNote master, then open OneNote on the desktop so that it can update what has just been uploaded from the laptop.

It’s a lot more complex.

Uncool Outlook—lots of things

I think Microsoft needs to go back and redesign Outlook. All the good stuff that’s in Office 365 Outlook was already there in Office 2010. It wasn’t broken. They didn’t need to fix it.

I particularly hate the wasted space they force onto us by giving us the start of the mail beneath the mail heading. If I wanted a preview, I’d use the reading pane. It’s designed for people reading their email on tablets or phones. Microsoft, I have news for you. Some of us don’t.

I’d love an option to condense each mail down to its heading line.

They changed the icon from yellow to blue. Half the time I open Outlook when I think I am opening Word.

The bugs. One day I found I couldn’t open hyperlinks direct from Outlook mail. I had to go into the registry settings to fix it. (To be fair, I think Chrome has to take some of the blame for this one, but why was the issue limited to Outlook?)

In summary

There are some good things and some not-so-good with the new Office.

Most of my gripes have to do with the fact that Microsoft obviously designed this version of Office for tablets and phones.  Unfortunately for me, I’m not using either.  (A word processor, a spreadsheet , a presentation program and an email system. How many of these are naturally done on tablets or phones?  The only one that naturally works on those systems is email, and to be honest I don’t know anyone who uses Outlook as their mail system on either of those. They use the native mail system provided with their device, or some form of webmail system.)

Otherwise, the functionality itself is sound. Microsoft puts out a good product, and so far, it’s still that.

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