Microsoft Office 365 is by far the most dominant application suite for businesses of all sizes. But far too many organizations don’t take full advantage of new features that can massively boost productivity levels.
And while there are thousands of features across Excel, Word, SharePoint, and Teams, we have identified a few M365 tips and productivity hacks that will make your life a lot easier.
We’ve broken things down into general and application-based tips that are guaranteed to save time and effort in all types of daily work tasks.
GENERAL MICROSOFT OFFICE TIPS
TIP #1: INSTALL ON YOUR OTHER DEVICES
You are not always going to be at your office. In fact, you might not always have your computer on you. While this may seem like your productivity levels will drop, it doesn’t need to be the case.
With the help of the brand new Microsoft Office 365 features, it is possible to install the applications onto your portable devices, such as your tablet or smartphone, and work on the necessary documents right from there.
While you might be limited a bit with what you can do on your phone, you can still make corrections and check documents. Of course, if you have a portable Bluetooth keyboard, you are able to continue working as if you were on your computer, whether it’s complex Excel documents or a simple Microsoft Word document for a report.
TIP #2: ALERT ME FUNCTION
When you’re working with a team, you are constantly checking to see when other team members have finished their end of the project work. Sometimes it can seem like you’re spending more time logging into your account and checking for updates than actually doing any work.
Well, this is a giant waste of productivity that doesn’t need to happen. In fact, you can skip this issue altogether with the Alert Me function in Microsoft Office.
Built into SharePoint, you can activate the “Alert Me” feature. With this feature activated, you’ll receive an email or text saying when a specific change has been made. This way, you can stop logging onto your cloud server and opening up company documents to see if the edits have gone through.
Whenever working with a larger team or just one other user, this is a major time-saving feature you absolutely need to take advantage of. In terms of cutting down wasted time, this is one of the best Microsoft 365 tips and tricks you can use.
TIP #3: ONENOTE TO CALENDAR
There are times when you’re going to receive invites and meeting updates through OneNote. Sometimes staying on top of what is happening in OneNote can be a chore. You need to sift through the different updates and dates on the documents saved and then copy them over to your personal calendar.
If this is something you deal with, you’ve probably wondered why there isn’t a better option. Well, there is. It is possible for you to convert notes in OneNote to your calendar. This will send notifications and updates directly to your calendar. This way, you’ll receive reminders and prompts when a meeting is approaching.
Whether you want to schedule a meeting, update your contacts, or alter your contact list, you can do all of this and never have anything lost between Outlook, your calendar, or OneNote.
TIP #4: SNATCH THAT EMAIL BACK WITH THE DELETE UNREAD COPIES FEATURE
How many times have you sent an email and then instantly regretted it? We’ve all been there. It doesn’t even need to have been something mean or nasty.
You might have sent an email to potential customers and realized as soon as you clicked “send” that someone else’s name was on the top of the message. Normally you would simply kiss that contact goodbye.
Well, that is no longer necessary. It is now possible to grab back email messages and delete unread copies before they are opened.
With the “Recall This Message” option under the “Actions” button on the message tab, you can pull the email back and delete unread copies. From here, you can edit the message and send it back out, or you can delete it altogether.
Whatever you decide to do with the message, it is a fantastic way to avoid problems down the line.
TIP #5: USING EMAILS IS SO LAST DECADE
If you work in a team, you know how much of a chore it is to rely on email. Email is fine if you want to send a one-off message, but when you’re working in a group and everyone is messaging back and forth, it really doesn’t work.
Sure, there are some IM services, but oftentimes you need to be within the internal network for it to work properly. If you’re not around, you might not be able to access the closed network IM service at the office. Thankfully though, with new Microsoft Office 365 productivity tips, that is no longer an issue.
Instead of relying on emails or working within the office to receive IMs, you can post and forward every single group email into a Team access folder.
By using the Teams application, you can select the “Get Email Address” option, then copy and paste the addresses of everyone you want to have access to the individual channel.
From here, everyone will receive messages in the same area (so you don’t need to hop in and out of different threads), and it basically works as a combination of IM and email service, all tied into one powerful productivity suite.
TOP OUTLOOK PRODUCTIVITY TIPS AND TRICKS
Here are a few of our favorite Outlook productivity tips you can begin using right away.
TIP #1: LISTEN TO YOUR EMAILS
Sometimes you just can’t look at your phone and sift through emails. Whether you’re driving or running to catch the bus, flipping through your screen simply isn’t an option. Thankfully, you can still check your Outlook email via Outlook and Cortana. Cortana is Microsoft’s digital voice assistant, and it comes integrated with the Outlook productivity suite.
All you need to do is go into your Outlook mobile device’s settings and activate Cortana. And don’t worry if you already have other digital assistants running on your mobile device. Cortana is activated with different prompts, which allows you to ask Cortana to begin reading your Outlook emails without worrying about Google Assistant turning on.
TIP #2: UTILIZE THE SCHEDULING ASSISTANT
Is there anything worse than a group text you don’t want to be a part of? Maybe it starts as dinner plans with a few friends, but it quickly spirals out of control. Now your phone is blowing up non-stop with messages you don’t want to read.
You’re a busy individual, so who wants to deal with texting back and forth? With the Scheduling Assistant built into Microsoft Office Outlook, you can skip all of this.
If you want to put together an event, create the event in Outlook, then add contacts to this event. You can then edit the time, destination, and day of the event. Once everything looks good, send the event invitation.
When people receive this message, they can check off that they can go. You’ll see their invite go green, signaling they are ready for the event. This will also add the event to their calendar—all of this without a long-winded phone conversation, IM chat, or group text message.
TIP #3: BRING SOMEONE NEW INTO AN OUTLOOK CONVERSATION
Sometimes when you’re in the middle of a Microsoft Office Outlook conversation, you might need to bring someone else on, but you don’t want to start a brand new conversation.
You also don’t want to call them to tell them to hop onto Outlook. Not a problem at all. Just “@” the person and type their name after (so, if their name is Steve, type “@Steve”). This will send them a notification that they have been mentioned in the chat.
It works like a poke, and it will instantly tell them about the conversation, allowing them to join.
TIP #4: AVOID THE CONSTANT EMAIL PING
You’re in the middle of something important when suddenly your phone goes off. You just received a new email message. You might try to continue with your activity, but you know there’s an email message waiting for you, so you eventually cave and check.
Chances are, this happens more than once. Constantly checking your email will zap your productivity as it will slow down the task at hand. Well, you can avoid this kind of issue by turning on the “Do Not Disturb” feature in Microsoft Office.
When you turn this feature on, you will stop receiving email notifications for the scheduled time.
Maybe you want to set it for the last hour of work, so you can get everything in order before leaving. Or maybe you want to shut it off when going to bed because, chances are, you won’t be able to do anything for that message in the middle of the night anyway.
These are great Microsoft 365 tips and tricks that will help you maintain focus.
TIP #5: MOBILE SWIPE
When using Outlook on your mobile phone, you have several options at your disposal. One such option you have is the ability to customize how you swipe on your phone. You can have different swipes perform different tasks within Outlook.
This way, instead of scrolling through to the menu and telling Outlook to do a task, you can instead just swipe.
Some of the Microsoft Office customization options you have include deleting a message, marking a message as read, flagging a message, archiving a message, and marking it as unread. Just make sure you remember which is swipe right and which is swipe left.
TIP #6: CLASSIFY YOUR MESSAGES
You probably get your share of spam and other annoying email messages. There is a spam filter on your account, but even so, it might not be doing you much good. You need to sift through the messages you want and delete the messages you don’t.
Well, with the Focused feature, Outlook can learn what you want to see and what you don’t, and as it learns, it performs the sifting for you. So make sure to activate the Focused Inbox feature.
TOP MICROSOFT EXCEL TIPS AND TRICKS
These are four simple tricks you can start using immediately to become a lot more productive in Excel.
TIP #1: AUTOCORRECT
Typically you will have rather generic terms to enter into your Excel spreadsheet. But what happens if you have complex terms that are difficult to type and easy to misspell? You don’t want to constantly go back and forth, checking your spelling and making sure everything is spelled properly.
Because if one thing isn’t spelled as it should be, it won’t appear during certain searches. That can turn into a really big pain really fast. Thankfully, Excel has a way for you to avoid this kind of problem.
There is an AutoCorrect feature that will allow you to correct difficult entries without all the painstaking proofreading instantly. To do this, you’ll want to select the “File” menu, then choose “Options,” followed by “Proofing,” and then “AutoCorrect Options.” You’ll then select an entry that you know is spelled correctly (let’s say it’s a person with a very long last name. Perhaps it’s a foreign name and uses letters not in the English alphabet).
You’ll select this entry and then type in what you’d like to type while inputting entries.
So, let’s say you have Arnold Schwarzenegger as an entry. You don’t want to type that out every time. Instead, you’ll just select his name and then choose “AS” as to how you want to enter it.
Now, whenever you enter AS in Excel, it will automatically swap it out and put in the full name. You’ll want to use a term or letters you’re not going to type in regularly (so “as” might not work, but ARS might).
Whatever you decide will make going over your spreadsheet and making sure there are no mistakes that much easier.
TIP #2: SWITCH DATA FROM A ROW TO A COLUMN
We’ve all been there. We are typing out information, flying through the spreadsheet, everything looks and feels good, and then you realize you typed a row when you should have typed a column.
Major headache. It used to be, at least, but now you can easily convert a row into a column with just a few clicks.
To do this, you’ll want to copy the row in question, then move your pointer to a blank section on the spreadsheet. From here, choose “Home,” then “Paste,” followed by “Transpose.” Just remember you need to copy the data before it is going to work.
TIP #3: GET RID OF BLANK CELLS
When you have blank cells around your spreadsheet, you’ll need to remove them. However, randomly scrolling through, clicking, and hitting delete is time-consuming. Especially if you have a large number of blank cells you need to remove.
There is a way around this by removing the blank cells with just a few clicks. Instead, you’ll want to only choose the column with the blank cells, then select “Data,” followed by “Filter.”
Once the down-facing button appears, you’ll choose “Undo Select All” and then choose the last option given, which is “Blanks.” You can then return to “Home” and then “Delete.” This will remove all those pesky blank cells that are cluttering up your spreadsheet.
TIP #4: ADD A DIAGONAL LINE
There might be times when you need to block out a cell for the time being. Perhaps you just want to make sure you don’t enter information into the cell (which can throw some things off if you don’t catch it), or you need to leave it blank because the cell does not apply to a particular entry.
Whatever your reasoning, the best way to block it out isn’t to add in random text or numbers, which can throw off some calculations; instead, you’ll want to input a diagonal line to the cell.
To do this, you’ll want to choose the cells in question, then click “Home,” followed by “Font.” Once the new window appears, choose “Borders,” then click on ‘More Borders.” Here you will have the option of selecting a diagonal line.
TOP MICROSOFT WORD TIPS AND TRICKS
Let’s now turn our attention to the most actively used Microsoft Office application and see how you can speed up your work.
TIP #1: STOP COPYING, PASTING, AND CUTTING WITH THE MENU
This is one of the more basic tips, but if you’re still manually copying and pasting through the menu, you’re doing it wrong. Or at least you’re taking way too much time doing it.
You should be using the keyboard shortcuts for this one. Thankfully these are easy shortcuts, and in no time, it will feel like second nature. It’s even a great way to save before performing any kind of edits quickly.
On your Windows computer, you’ll want to hold down the “Ctrl” key, and on your Mac, you’ll want to use the “command” key for this.
Then, to copy, you’ll hold that button down, highlight the section you want to highlight, and press “C” to copy. To cut, you’ll press “X” instead, and to paste, you’ll press “V” (the “P” button is the print keyboard shortcut, so you’ll need to train yourself to use “V”).
Now, let’s say you want to make sure you don’t accidentally remove something you want to keep. The “Copy” feature will also serve as a temporary backup, as whatever you copied will be stored in the system’s temporary memory. If you want to select the entire document at once, hold down the Command/Ctrl key and then “A.” This will highlight everything within the document.
TIP #2: DITCH THE UNNECESSARY FORMATTING
Added formatting can be a real pain in the butt. You don’t see all the codes from within the text, but the text might suddenly come out all funky looking if you add it to an email.
Returns might not be added, or there might be strange spaces throughout. Sometimes it’s hard to tell exactly what happened, but usually, there’s something with the formatting.
You can ditch the formatting from your document by highlighting the section in question (or you can select all of it using the Control/Ctrl and “A” hotkeys) by holding down the Control/Ctrl button and then pressing the Spacebar. This will remove all the formatting from the highlighted section.
TIP #3: ADD IN THAT HYPERLINK QUICKLY
Perhaps you already have the hyperlink saved, and now you need to add it to a chunk of text. To do this, highlight the word or phrase you want to add into, then press Control/Ctrl and “K.” This will add the hyperlink to the selected text.
TIP #4: SMART LOOKUP
Have you ever been typing, and, after inputting a section, you find the need to either add a hyperlink to source information or you want to provide additional insights to someone who might be on the receiving end and want additional background info?
If so, you’ve probably gone over to your Internet browser, typed in a search phrase, and then sifted through the links until you found what worked. Well, thankfully, there is an easier way. With Smart Lookup, you can cut out many of these steps.
To do this, simply highlight a word or phrase, then right-click the highlighted section and choose “Smart Lookup.” This will automatically open up your browser and bring up a Google search for what you selected.
This way, you can jump right to the links you want to share and copy them back over onto the text (to add a hyperlink, just right-click the selected section again and choose “Hyperlink.”).
TIP #5: DELETE THAT FULL WORD
Is there an entire word you need to delete? Of course, there is. But do you really want to be clicking away at the Backspace button? That’s cumbersome for those longer words, and if you hold it down, you’ll easily wipe out an entire line.
Instead, return to that trusty Control/Ctrl button and then Backspace. This will delete the previous word. You can also double-click the mouse on the word, and it will automatically highlight that word, for which you can then press Backspace.
Or, maybe there’s an entire paragraph or block of text you want to remove. Triple-click inside this block and the entire paragraph will be selected.
TOP MICROSOFT TEAMS HELPFUL TIPS AND TRICKS
Here are some of our favorite tips and tricks for Microsoft Teams that can make it so much easier to work with.
TIP #1: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE COMMAND LINE
This little line can save you so much time. The command line is a blank bar, and it has a pencil-on-paper icon next to it. In this line, you can type several commands that will instantly take you where you need to go.
Sifting and searching for a particular bit of information can be a headache and a major zap of time. Instead, just type in one of the accepted commands, and Microsoft Teams will take you there. Some of the commands you can type in include:
- /activity – see someone’s activity
- /app – search for an app
- /calendar – view and schedule meetings
- /files – search files
- /last – jump to the last spot
- /online – set your status to online
- /out – send an out-of-office message
- /org – see someone’s org chart
- /recent – navigate to a recent location
This is just an example of some of the commands you can type in for instant information.
TIP #2: @MENTION
If you have only a few individuals you’re talking with through Microsoft Teams, this isn’t much of an issue. However, if you have several conversations going on and attempting to sift through all of them has become a pain, you can instead use the “@Mention” feature.
With this, you will type in the “@” symbol, followed by their name, into the search bar, and it will instantly bring up the conversation.
TIP #3: GROUP PEOPLE TOGETHER
Do you find you’re constantly sending out a small group message to two or three people? When doing this, you’re probably typing in their full name (or at least using the “@” and then typing the beginning of their name before Microsoft auto-fills it into the conversation).
Well, an easier way to do this in Microsoft Office is to group individuals into a single tag.
To do this, you will want to choose the “Create a new tag” option and then give it a name. Whether this is for a particular department or maybe it’s named after your trivia night friends from work.
Once you’ve named it, you can then add people. Click the “Add People” option and type in the names of the people you want to include in the single tag. Now, instead of typing out all the individuals you want to send the message to, you can simply use the “@” and then add the name of the group.
So, if the group is called Cats, just type in @Cats, and everyone within the group will be instantly tagged into the message.
TIP #4: ORGANIZE YOUR TEAMS
You probably have several teams within Microsoft Teams, and some are more important than others. Nothing wrong with admitting that. You will want to make sure you’re on top of the more important messages, and the best way to do this is to organize your teams and have the most important teams at the top of your list.
This is easy to do.
Just click and hold down on the team name, then drag it to the location you want it to appear in. Whether it is at the top of the page or you find your eye always wandering to the Calendar button, you can tweak and edit the configuration as much as you’d like.
TIP #5: CHANGE MESSAGE TO UNREAD
We’ve all been there. We receive an email while going into a meeting or when getting into the car.
We scan through it and attempt to make a mental note to re-read the email or reply to it, but over time, that mental note disappears, and by the time you remember to message the person back, it’s been days (if you remember at all).
All of this would be a lot easier if the message still popped up as unread.
Well, in Microsoft Teams, you can do that. In a message you receive, you’ll want to click on the three dots on the right of the message. From the pull-down menu, select “Mark as Unread.”
This way, it will be highlighted and ready for you to read whenever you have a chance to sit down and go back over your messages.
TOP SHAREPOINT TIPS AND TRICKS
Now let’s look at what Microsoft Office has to offer when it comes to file-sharing solutions, company documents, and taking advantage of document access services.
TIP #1: SET UP A PORTAL
Microsoft SharePoint makes it easy to share documents with a detailed version history and for other employees to access these files. However, without a central connection point, employees might find themselves sifting through folders, trying to find out where another worker placed a particular file.
This leads to all kinds of issues.
Not to mention the need to constantly send emails and IMs to find out the actual location of the file. When this happens, it drags down the potential of cloud-based data sharing of documents saved by multiple users.
Instead, you need to set up a portal for all company communication and file sharing using the powerful cloud services features.
With the communications portal, all employees will be able to bring up a company-specific web page. This page makes it possible to not only stay on top of where information is being sent, but it makes it easier to send out schedule change notices, daily updates, and even provide department-centric insights and instructions.
This way, all communication and information are stored in one centralized location. Employees won’t need to dig around their emails to find an old document or call you to ask about when the call from corporate is coming. It will all be right here, where everyone can find it.
TIP #2: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF VIEWS
When you run a large company, there will be all kinds of files and folders changing hands. If you’re trying to find a file, in particular, it can become rather difficult, even if you know exactly where it is.
If it is among the trees of a few hundred other folders, it takes time to sift through all the other files. However, it doesn’t need to be this difficult or time-consuming. With the help of “Views,” you can make all the clutter go away.
Within SharePoint, there is a “Views” filter option. Within Views, the kind of information stored can be organized into specific categories.
This way, the sales staff can adjust their viewing filter and see only the sales-related sensitive files. Your marketing department can adjust what is displayed and see only the instructions for artwork and information needed to be on specific advertisements.
This little feature makes a world of difference, especially as your business grows, and you still retain all the same previous versions to be able to track changes.
TIP #3: DITCH TRACKING DOWN VENDOR SIGNATURES
If you’ve ever found yourself trying to track down vendor signatures and contacting the heads of other companies to sign off on invoices, you know just how difficult and time-consuming it can be.
Spending hours a day trying to track down the head of one business is hours you won’t get back. These are hours you could have dedicated to other tasks around the office. Thankfully that can be a thing of the past with electronic forms.
One of the best Microsoft SharePoint tips and tricks is the ability to create an electronic form. When you create an electronic form, you can email or text out a link to a specific page. They will have built-in validation to make sure only they can access the particular form.
Once on the page, they can download it, save it, sign it, save it back to your web page, or do anything else you might need from them.
With this feature, you can kiss goodbye to the need to track down vendors or fax over important documentation ever again.
TIP #4: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MOBILE APPS
Yes, SharePoint is best experienced when working on a computer and using Microsoft Office 365. However, that doesn’t mean you are limited to working on a computer. After all, there will be times when you can’t have a computer with you.
Thankfully SharePoint does work with other mobile applications. You can integrate top applications, including Quickbooks, Outlook, PowerApps, Flow, Salesforce, and a number of other apps.
This gives you instant access to important company files wherever you are and whatever you are doing.
With an IT service provider, you can easily have the applications integrated into SharePoint and linked up properly. This way, you’ll know the applications not only work but that the apps are protected with your company’s network security and powerful cloud services as well.
TAKE YOUR PRODUCTIVITY TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Once you become a power user in Microsoft Office, you’ll quickly notice that you don’t just navigate the applications more quickly, but you also stay focused with fewer distractions.
But your business’s productivity could also be impacted by the very systems and hardware you’re using, and identifying those types of issues should be just as much a priority for you.
Your first step should be contacting our managed IT services team at Charlotte IT Solutions for a free consultation. We can explain exactly what our services include and how your business could achieve productivity levels like never before.