3 'secret' Office productivity apps

Anyone with an Office 365 account will be familiar with the double-edged sword that is the hallmark of Evergreen applications and application suites.

On one hand, you always have the most up to date software with great new features released monthly, but on the other you can quickly fall behind in terms of your knowledge of which features and apps are available, and what they enable you to do.

This situation is exacerbated by the pace at which these new features and apps are rolled out.

Organisations and teams spend so much time focusing on when and how to use Teams, Groups, Planner, Yammer and Sites that some extremely useful apps slip under the radar and go unnoticed by most information workers.

In this article, I’d like to highlight three of those unsung heroes, designed specifically with tablets and smart-phones in mind, and draw your attention to some of the ways they can make your life easier.

Office Lens

Originally a stand-alone app for ‘phones, Office lens is now integrated with OneNote and essentially turns your smart-phone or tablet into a scanner. This enables you to convert physical documents into digital files.

Microsoft recommend that you "Use it to take pictures of receipts, business cards, menus, whiteboards or sticky notes - then let Office Lens crop, enhance and save to OneNote".

The beauty of Office Lens is that it automatically recognizes the corners and edges of a document or whatever you are capturing, which you can easily crop. Office Lens will clean up and adjust the scanned image. Even if you capture the image at an angle, Office Lens will automatically give you a flat scan.

With built in Optical Character Recognition, there are further benefits. For example, if you scan a business card, Office lens will automatically generate contacts with the appropriate fields. Because you are converting analogue text to digital information, you can easily convert your scan into a Word document or PowerPoint presentation.

Using OneDrive for Business to share means that colleagues can easily access and even edit your Office Lens scans.

Find out more about Office Lens


GigJam is a new way to collaborate with colleagues on documents, files and information.

Although you can use GigJam on a desktop or laptop computer, it has been optimised for use on smart-phones and tablets.

The unique selling point of GigJam is its spontaneity – by inviting a colleague to a ‘Gig’ you can immediately share files from any number of cloud based platforms and services, such as OneDrive for Business, DropBox, Trello and Asana, as well as files from your local device.

The tricky process of administration of permissions is simplified – useful when you consider the number of different methods for setting access rights across multiple platforms.

Using a very simple interface, not only can you choose read-only or edit permissions, you can decide which parts of a document to share and which to hide – this focuses collaboration, discussion and feedback.

For example, if you want a colleague’s feedback on a CV you are looking at, you can share this in GigJam and choose to display only relevant sections of the CV.

Or perhaps you want a client or vendor’s help on filling in details in an area of your sales process and you want to keep certain confidential information hidden; GigJam allows you to decide who sees what.

Although GigJam has been available for a few years now, there are still areas for refinement and development, particularly in the user interface. However it’s definitely worth a second look as it provides a valuable, unique capability.

Find out more about GigJam


Sway is a unique app designed to help you build interactive presentations.

It has remained somewhat under the radar due to the prevalence of PowerPoint and Keynote.

Sway is different for several reasons:

  • Presentation formatting is simplified, and is enhanced through professional design styles and options.
  • It is very easy to change the look and feel of your Sway if you don’t like it.
  • You can very easily drag and drop media content to your presentation from a growing number of sources, including OneDrive, Pickit, Twitter, Bing, Flickr and YouTube.
  • As you add media, the presentation design options change to suit e.g. the colours in images you have used.
  • Switching between where you create your Sway and the preview screen is quick and easy.

Your Sways live in the cloud in Microsoft servers – you can’t download them as files. However, this makes your Sways easy to share – anyone with an up-to date smartphone or tablet can view, present and potentially edit your Sway.

Your presentations have the potential to be much more organic, meaning you can easily go off at a tangent to display related interactive content such as charts, audio and video, rather than following a linear path as with PowerPoint or Keynote.

Sway is refreshingly easy to use, especially with the new Quickstarter template which guides you through the process of creating topic-related Sways.

Find out more about Sway

As with all Microsoft apps, development of Office Lens, GigJam and Sway is in a state of flux as new features and refinements are added. However, each app in its own way signals the direction in which cloud services and mobile computing are headed.

If you are finding keeping up with Office 365 new features a struggle, our PWM Evergreen service can help. To get your free monthly newsletter for the next three months, please visit PWM Evergreen

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