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Microsoft improves Search function, making it more intuitive and integrated

By Contributor
Tue 25 Sep 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

At Microsoft’s partner and user conference Ignite last year, it introduced personalised search across Office 365, a way to bring intelligent search and discovery experiences directly to customers.

Today, Microsoft announced that it is expanding that vision to encompass search both inside and outside of Microsoft 365.

By applying AI technology from Bing to the deep personalised insights surfaced by the Microsoft Graph, Microsoft is able to make search in an organisation even more effective.

With Microsoft Search, it’s introducing new organisational search experiences into the apps customers use every day, including Bing.com and Windows and our vision to connect across a customer’s organisation’s network of data.

Microsoft is also evolving the notion of what search means.

Getting pages of results with hyperlinks to other information is simply not enough.

Faced with ever decreasing attention spans, and an explosion of data, Microsoft recognises that the challenge is to find and deliver answers to a customer’s questions, suggest insights, and enable customers to take action on a customer’s tasks.

This makes search a powerful capability that stretches across a customer’s work to make customers more productive and take advantage of the collective knowledge from a customer’s organisation.

Our vision is a cohesive and coherent search capability, prominent in every experience, providing the way to search across all a customer’s organisation’s data—both inside and outside of Microsoft 365.

Over the next few months, customers will experience these first steps:

  • Search will move to a prominent consistent place across the apps customers work with every day. From Outlook to PowerPoint, Excel to Sway, OneNote to Microsoft Teams, Office.com to SharePoint, the search bar will be in the same place—across desktop, mobile, and web.  
  • Personalised results as soon as customers click in the search box, such as people customers share with the most and documents customers were working on recently. No query is required to get suggestions.  
  • The search box itself will also command the application where customers are working. For example, begin typing ‘acc’ in Word to get a list of suggested actions such as Accept Revision or Accessibility Checker. Customers no longer need to hunt through toolbars to look for a command.  
  • Search results will include results from across a customer’s organisation. For example, within Word, customers can find not only other Word documents, but also presentations customers were working on. Customers can navigate straight to that presentation or customers can choose to incorporate slides from that file directly into a customer’s document.  
  • Extending that same organisational search experience wherever customers are working—in Bing.com (when signed in with a customer’s Office 365 account), Edge or Windows. Search wherever customers want to and get the same experience.  
  • Unified administration of a customer’s organisational search results, including admin-curated results such as bookmarks.

Key to delivering the Microsoft Search capability is the ability to have a consistent scope of results, anywhere customers are searching.

Even if the interface looks different, the goal is to have the same experience, personalised and contextualized for that specific interaction point.

Microsoft Search in Bing.com

Over the last year, 180 companies participated in the private preview, with files, sites, people, locations, and groups based on Microsoft Graph data.

Based on the private preview feedback, Microsoft is announcing the ability to search across conversations in both Teams and Yammer simultaneously.

Searching in Bing returns both a customer’s organisational results and web results, making it an easy destination for broad searches to get the best of a customer’s work world and securing a customer’s web searches.

Public preview begins rolling out today.

Tenant admins must opt into the experience for their organisation, details are here.

Microsoft Search in Office.com

Get back to work faster with Office.com, surfacing the same search scope across Microsoft 365.

Find documents customers were recently working on, as well as recommended documents that a customer’s colleagues have mentioned customers in, and keep up to date with what has been worked on since customers last looked at it.

Microsoft Search in Office.com goes into targeted release today.

Microsoft Search in SharePoint mobile app

The new version of the SharePoint mobile app includes search as the default experience when customers enter the app.

It lists common questions, personalised results, and frequent searches that organisations can curate.

The new SharePoint mobile app is available for download today.

Microsoft Search in Outlook mobile app

The Outlook mobile app also highlights search as an important element of the user experience, providing access to commands, content, and people.

With “zero query search,” simply placing a customer’s cursor in the search box will bring up recommendations powered by AI and the Microsoft Graph.

The Outlook mobile app for iOS and Android are available for download today.

Outlook also brings zero query, fuzzy search and top results based on intelligent technology to other endpoints as Microsoft drives towards coherence.

Enhancements to search in Outlook for Windows, Mac and on the web started to roll out to targeted release mid-September.

Connect and curate data across a customer’s organisation’s systems

Boundaryless search is only as good as the sources it has access to.

Microsoft recognizes that organisations have a wealth of data in other third-party services and applications.

In 2019, Microsoft will build native connectors for popular third-party applications that will surface search results in line with Microsoft data into all the search experiences customers have, including Office, Windows, Edge, and Bing.com. Administrators will be able to select which connectors they wish to use for their organisations based on which investments they’ve already made in third-party applications.

Further extensibility with APIs will also be possible.

Organisations will be able to customise the search sources and the display of search results with custom refiners and verticals and control the display of how sources of information look in result pages.

Coming in the first half of 2019 Microsoft Search in Office Our new suite-wide search in the ribbon offers the same consistent experience and results across a customer’s favourite Office apps—across desktop, mobile, and web. Find, command, navigate, and discover directly from the same search box.

Microsoft Search in Windows Right from a customer’s taskbar, perform searches that include local and organisational search results, whether that is people, the location of an office or a customer’s files, they can find it all in Windows.

What’s coming next?

The Microsoft Graph gleans insight from the people, sites, devices and documents customers.

work with and is the basis for consistent learning across a customer’s organisation, wherever customers their colleagues work. Microsoft Graph ranks search results relevant to a customer’s needs.

Customers can see all the results that satisfy a customer’s query, but personalised search prioritises the results that are most likely to achieve a customer’s objective.    

Supercharging the Microsoft Graph with advanced AI technology from Bing and its knowledge of the world, Microsoft can extend our vision for insightful technology to make it simple to ask natural language questions and get real answers, without manual intervention. For example, a question such as “Can my brother work for me at my company?” means that not only syntactic parsing of the question is necessary but semantic understanding.

A customer’s organisation’s HR policy probably specifies ‘close family relationships,’ so Microsoft uses Bing’s knowledge of the world to expand and match ‘brother’ and couple that with searching a customer’s organisation’s intranet to derive the answer.

Using this machine reading comprehension technology is just one of the many ways we’ll be continuously improving Microsoft Search in the future.

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