Microsoft Office smartens up with new features

Here’s proof that Microsoft’s Office 365 has moved past the era when its apps got better almost entirely though one-fell-swoop updates every few years: The company is announcing a smattering of substantial new features for Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook. Most of them will be available starting this month or next.

Researcher is a Bing-powered tool (shown in the image below) that lets you pull up curated information and articles within Word, learn about a subject, and then automatically create citations in documents such as school papers.

•  Editor, also in Word, adds additional features designed to help people be better writers, such as usage and grammar checking (indicated by a blue double underline in a document) and style advice (flagged with a gold dotted line).

Zoom, a new PowerPoint feature vaguely reminiscent of Prezi, automatically summarizes a presentation with an overview slide that lets you zoom in and out of sections within your show.

•  Focused Inbox brings a key feature from Outlook’s mobile versions back into the Windows version. Like Gmail’s Priority Inbox, it pushes the most important messages to to the top of the list. 

•  @Mentions give you the Twitter-like  ability to highlight a person’s name within a message in Outlook, thereby directing that someone’s attention to the fact they’ve been name-checked.