Microsoft has announced a new feature for Office Online that is called 'Insights for Office' and it brings together Bing, machine learning and Office to create a new way to find locate valuable content. At its heart, this is a new search feature for Office Online but it works by bringing contextual content to the forefront of your searches.
This new feature brings a search box to the Office Ribbon and it allows you to search the web while inside an Office document; you can also access this feature by right-clicking on a word and selecting 'insight'. While this may seem like a simple feature, it's functionality is more profound than a traditional Bing search.
And because you do not have to leave the Office app to search, Microsoft can use the context of your content to help make searching more accurate. For example, if you are doing a report on James Garfield and how he was the 20th President of the United States, searching for 'Garfield' in the new search box will allow Bing to surface information about Garfield the President, and not the cartoon.
This is accomplished by Bing being able to use machine learning on your document to understand that you are only looking for content about James Garfield - and therefore, your search results will reflect that, and will not include results about the lasagne-loving cartoon cat. If you were to go to Bing.com and perform the same search, your results would be a mix of the historical content and the animated feline.
This simple new feature, bringing together multiple Microsoft products, helps to refine search results before they are displayed will make your searches more specific and should reduce the time you spend searching the web.
But what about security? With Bing able to scan documents, this will likely raise a few alarms from people concerned that they may be 'scraping' content. That's not the case here as the process is ad-free which means none of your data gets passed outside of Bing and is only used to provide contextually aware content.
And what about use for non-online apps? Microsoft isn't commenting on if or when this will make its way in to the full Office apps but if we were to speculate, we'd guess that the next version of Office will include this feature.
This is the second time in the past few weeks that we have seen Microsoft integrate its search platform into its applications. The Sway preview was recently update to support Bing searching of images and we suspect that we will see more Bing integration in other applications in the near future.
This feature is rolling out now and you can try it out by using Word Online.