AI Tools in MS 365 in Advance of the CoPilot Launch
Generative artificial intelligence is all the buzz and Microsoft is rolling out an AI tool called “CoPilot” with the promise of helping you leverage the Microsoft 365 tools so that you can synthesize information, ask your own data questions, suggest ways to be more responsive, stay on top of your schedule and more. While we are waiting for these enhancements to appear, what artificial intelligence tools have already appeared in the Microsoft 365 suite software/applications that you can use today?
Click on the Viva Insights button in the Outlook toolbar. A panel will open and show you suggestions to schedule time to focus and set lunch hours. More useful, it will help triage your inbox, with a section called “Follow Up” that unearths questions you have asked other people to answer. You can click to Follow Up and it will open the email so you can send a reminder, or you can click “Mark as done”. If you click on the ellipses, you can choose “this isn’t a follow up” to train the AI. Another useful section is “View Outstanding Tasks”. You can scroll through the list and Open the email, Add to To Do, mark as “Already done” or let it know the suggestion is “Not a Task”. Finally, there is a section called “Prepare for your meetings”. You can track responses and view by All, Organized, and Invited.
Technically an add-on, but one that merely needs to be turned on by your account administrator, FindTime helps you find time on your calendar and shows you availability for people within your firm/organization. For those outside of the office it sends a poll. Once everyone has taken the poll you can have it automatically add a Teams meeting to their respective calendars.
If someone sends an appointment to your calendar you may notice a little blue button that says “Meeting Insights” in the upper right side of the meeting. If you click on the button a panel will open with links to any recent email conversations or documents with the person who scheduled the meeting.
Create A Summary
In Word (browser only) click on the “Editor” and scroll to the bottom of the panel that opens on the right and choose the “Text Generation (Preview)” to create a document summary. You will see a warning/reminder that the text may contain inaccuracies or sensitive material since it was generated by AI.
Summarize A Document
Technically this feature is not in Microsoft 365, but it is handy. The new Bing AI in Microsoft Edge can be used to summarize any text on the screen, including a Word document viewed in the browser. Open up the Bing chat and ask it to summarize the document. Give it good prompts like “summarize the main points in this document in 300 words” and check out the results. Great for generating an executive summary.
As you use the Editor, again in the browser version of Word, when the Editor identifies issues with conciseness or clarity, highlight the sentence and right click. Choose “Rewrite Suggestions” from the resulting menu. The suggestions will help rephrase the sentence to remove passive voice or reconstruct the sentence. Rewrite suggestions will often offer a few different ways to rephrase the sentence.
Build A Slide Deck from Word
You can build a slide deck from an outline in MS Word (browser only). Create an outline in MS Word. Headings generally show up as slide titles, followed by bullets or numbers. Go to File – Export – Export to PowerPoint presentation. Choose a design theme and click Export. Your slide deck will open and you can edit as necessary.
Don’t forget, in PowerPoint (browser and software) the Designer will help turn your text-based slides into beautiful, graphical slides.
In PowerPoint on your smartphone, browser, or the installed software you can rehearse the timing and narration with a slide deck. Open the slides and in the Slide Show tab click “Rehearse with Coach”. In real time and in a summary, it will tell you if you are speaking too slowly or too quickly, if you are using too many filler words, whether you are reading the text from the slide deck and if your pitch variation is monotonous and boring. Teams video conference also has a Speech Coach, which sends a private summary to you and grades your performance. You can enable it on your meetings by going to More – Language and Speech and turn on Speaker Coach.
If you are not familiar with Pivot Tables, or do not use them enough to use them effectively then try the Analyze Data button in the Ribbon. When you click on the button a panel opens and provides some suggested questions or you can query the data yourself. A Pivot Table will be generated, and you can modify it as needed. Here is a video tutorial.
In many cases Excel is “smart” enough to see a pattern, like when you create a column to combine firstname and lastname columns. Sometimes, however, it doesn’t automatically recognize the pattern. Type in a few examples and then in the Data tab in the Ribbon choose Flash Fill. It will fill in a row or column based on a pattern, whether that is combining two columns or finishing a sequence. All without learning a function or calculation.
Picture to Text
If you take a picture or have a screenshot of a spreadsheet you can import it into Excel and it will attempt to convert it from an image to rows and columns with the data placed in cells. In the Data tab click on “From Picture” and choose the picture from your local drive or clipboard. You will go through and review the suggestions and then it will convert the image.