Call them the "mash and slash" Office apps. A new wave of productivity apps from Microsoft appear to have either one of two goals: mash together two or more Office apps, or strip down an existing Office app to its bare parts.
Last fall, those apps included Sway and Delve, Microsoft's content-creation app and its tool for finding relevant contacts and information, respectively. But Microsoft's new approach includes four new productivity tools: "Office Now," OneClip, Revolve, and Flow. And Microsoft said Thursday that, as promised, its Sway app had begun rolling out as part of the full-fledged Office 365 suite.
Much of the credit goes to Twitter user Walking Cat, who posted shots of the apps themselves or even links to download the files themselves, including OneClip.
Microsoft, however, declined to comment. "The Microsoft Garage is always creating, developing and testing all kinds of amazing ideas," a spokesman said in an email. "We don't have specific details to share right now."
Why this matters: Besides Zoho, a little-known productivity apps developer, there are very few companies actively trying to improve the productivity experience across the board--most are targeting a few narrow pain points. For its part, Microsoft has gone far beyond that, redefining the boundaries of apps and the nature of productivity itself. Think about it. Outlook.com now has plug-ins and addons. Sway combines Word, PowerPoint, and Bing. There's context and collaboration to a level that was unheard of a few years ago.
So what are these apps?
Revolve: We've known a bit about Revolve since last fall, when Microsoft started showing off the app behind closed doors in Redmond. Revolve, which is in private beta within the Windows Phone app store, is described like so:
"Revolve prepares you for every conversation in every meeting. It works in the background to find and display relevant insights about the people you're going to meet. Easily sidestep small talk and spark real conversations that matter."
Basically, Revolve is like Delve, but for your next meeting--pulling together elements of Outlook, Lync (now Skype for Business), and other Office components. Think of it as a cheat sheet on who this person is, what he likes and dislikes, your interactions with him, and so on. So far it all looks rather personal, but you can imagine this being a valuable tool for salespeople--if it's built out that way.
OneClip: Honestly, OneClip seems tailor-made for me personally. Comments on the Windows Phone Store (right now, it's another app in private beta) describe it as the perfect solution for moving snippets of data, including URLs, text, and photos, from one platform to another--including iOS, Android, Windows phones, and Windows PCs. You could think of this as OneNote without the notes, or Pushbullet; something more like a cross between Google Keep and Dropbox, possibly. Links to the app are available on Walking Cat's Twitter feed.
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