Introduction to Office 365 – get the best from your software

Office 365 introduction
Here we give an overview of what apps you get bundled with Office 365 – what they are and what they do. The core Office Apps of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook are joined by Flow, Delve, Sway, Planner, Power BI and others. We help to unpack what is available to you and the benefits that these can bring to your organisation.

Get the best from the cloud

Working in the cloud offers some great advantages. But it requires you to do things in a different way. By working in the cloud, you are joined up to all of your colleagues, clients and suppliers. You can share documents, collaborate more easily, gather opinions quickly, and build processes that make sure things get done when they need to be done. Microsoft are now building all of their software ‘Cloud First’. Although desktop applications like Word and Excel are still more powerful than their online versions, the main drive is to make the online experience slick and easy because this is where the real business benefits are going to lie. This series aims to give an introduction to what the different Apps are and then give practical advice on how to use them. Please do share with your colleagues – training is the often forgotten piece in the Office 365 jigsaw, and any time that people spend getting more familiar with what’s available, the more productive the they can become. Which of these apps you get will depend on your subscription, and some are be purchased as optional extras. Do have a look at what you have availablein the Office 365 menu. Office 365 apps

Office 365 Apps – An Overview

OneDrive for Business

OneDrive for Business is where you store your files. You have 1 terabyte of space, that is 1,000 gigabytes, i.e. a lot! This is your personal space for storing work documents. You can share these files with other people, and you have a folder called ‘Shared with Everyone’ that, like it says, gives access to everybody in your organisation. Any file that you put here will be backed up, and even better, all previous version of the document are automatically stored for you.

OneDrive version historyOneDrive for Business files and version history

The screen capture above shows these files in a web browser. From here you can do most things – add, delete, view, edit files, and share them with other people. If you are using a Windows PC or laptop, these files will be synced down to you local drive, similar to how DropBox works. If you prefer, you can work on the files from there just as you would with any other file on your PC. OneDrive for Business will automatically upload the file and keep everything in sync – even if other people are working on the same file at the same time! OneDrive for Business

OneDrive for Business local copies

This is a great place to save your work. However, if you are working on a project with other people, it can be much better to store your files in SharePoint (see below)

Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint

Most Office 365 plans include the latest set of Office applications – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, Skype and Access. Each user can download these onto up to 5 PCs or Macs, 5 tablets and 5 phones – and you can download updates as soon as they come out, helping to keep everybody up to date and using the same version. As well as this, though, you can also use browser-based version of these tools. Assuming that you’ve stored your documents on OneDrive, OneDrive for Business or SharePoint, you can view and edit your files in your favourite web browser without having any software installed. This means you can even do quick edits on your phone or iPad. Office 365 web apps

Word and Excel Web Apps – work on your files from your web browser.

A useful feature is that these Apps also connect to DropBox. If you use DropBox for your personal files, you can open these in the web apps and edit them. The web apps aren’t as fully featured as the full versions, but they are more than good enough to create basic documents. You don’t need to worry about dropping your internet connection and losing work because changes are uploaded and saved as soon as you make them – there is no Save button.

Microsoft OneNote

For those who have discovered OneNote, it is an amazing little tool to help keep you organised. It gives you a wonderfully straightforward way to write notes and keep lists. These are stored either in OneDrive for Business or on SharePoint, although if you just use your default notebook, you won’t even be aware of where it’s stored. You have sections and pages, and once you are on a page you can just type away (or draw, if you’re on a tablet). Anything you do is automatically saved – again, there is no save button in OneNote – and so you are certain that you won’t lose any work, even if you suddenly go off-line or your battery goes flat. OneNote Sample

OneNote Sample

Click here to find out more about OneNote.

Outlook / Mail, People, Calendar, Tasks

You are more than likely to be used to using Outlook to manage your emails, contacts, calendar and, perhaps, tasks. You can carry on doing this, but these all now have a home in Office 365 as Web Apps, with all changes being synchronised back to Outlook. To access any of the Office 365 tools, click the menu button at the top of any page: Office 365 menu

Office 365 menu

You can now quickly get to where you want to be.

Outlook Online

Outlook Online


SharePoint serves the same purpose as OneDrive for Business – it is a place to store your files. However, SharePoint is designed for everybody in your organisation to collaborate on shared information. Typically, a company will have different sites for each department, location and project. These sites become self contained areas where files, calendars, task lists, contacts lists and so on are stored. They can be given their own permissions. SharePoint is a system that you can use to build your corporate intranet. As well as storing files, you can create business solutions – news-feeds, holiday planners, production schedules, project plans, quality management. You have a platform that can be used to help bring order to your business, without having to build costly databases or Windows Applications. Have a look at The Hub to see what can be done using SharePoint.


Office 365 Planner is a new online-only tool that lets you quickly set up and manage a new project. When you create a Plan, you get a task list and a notebook. The task list is divided into ‘buckets’. You can add as many buckets as you want, and you put tasks for people into the buckets. It is a highly visual tool which is really easy to use – great for getting people engaged with the whole Office 365 experience. Office 365 planner

Office 365 planner

Office Delve

Once you have got up and running with Office 365 and your organisation is storing documents on SharePoint and OneDrive for Business, you need to have a decent Search tool. Delve is a new concept in searching that uses artificial intelligence to work out what documents will be of most interest to you. Instead of you typing in search terms and the system giving you exact matches, Office 365 watches what you are working on and who you work with. When you go to Delve, it immediately suggests (and often gets right!) documents that might be interesting to you. When you do a search, it uses this artificial intelligence to give you very personalised search results. If you haven’t tried Delve, take a look. It’s fascinating what you can find! From a security point of view it is built to protect security and privacy. It will only show people documents that they are entitled to see, and it only records documents that you actually work on, so if you are browsing sensitive HR files, this won’t be highlighted in other people’s search results. Office Delve

Office Delve

Click here to find out more about Delve.


Flow is another tool that is brand new. One of the great things about Cloud Services such as Office 365 is it makes it possible to join things together to do really clever things. See here for a full description. For example, wouldn’t it be great if you could quickly build a tool to watch for an email coming from a particular client; when it arrives, store any attachments in the right folder in OneDrive, send a message to your phone, and create a task to follow it up. Flow gives you the ability to do this without using any code. Simply by selecting the services that you want to join together and filling in some forms, you can create sophisticated workflows. There is even a library of pre-built template Flows for you to use to get going. Flow template

Office Flow Templates


Microsoft CRM is a fully featured Sales tool, similar to SalesForce. Because it is integrated with Office 365, files that you save in CRM are actually stored in SharePoint and available to other Office 365 users in your organisation. It can be joined up to Outlook and emails so that you have an integrated management tool for your sales force. CRM is one App that you need to pay an additional monthly fee for, but it is well worth investigating if you need to get your sales and marketing better organised.

Microsoft Sway

Sway is a new way to create presentations. Instead of using PowerPoint to create slides in a sequence, Sqay gives you a continuous presentation that adjusts itself depending on what device you are using. Sway presentations look modern and fresh without a huge amount of input from you, and will look good on anything from a phone to a PC. Take a look at these to see what can be done: Slideluck Youth Initiative Smith Fashion Expansion


With Video you have a corporate Video Portal. By dragging and dropping, you can upload videos, which can then be quickly tagged. Once they have been uploaded and processed, they are fully searchable within Delve, and can be easily added to presentations, Yammer conversations, SharePoint sites and documents. Office Video

Office 365 Video Portal


Think of Yammer as a private FaceBook or LinkedIn for your organisation. It is a place for colleagues to create groups, collaborate on projects or issues, comment on documents, share ideas, or just catch up with associates. For larger organisations it can be an invaluable way to promote collaboration and communication. Global organisations are using it to create a real sense of community and belonging, and a way to use the knowledge that exists in an organisation to add value. Office 365 Yammer

Office 365 Yammer

Power BI

Microsoft’s Business Intelligence tools (or ‘Reporting’ in normal speak!) are now independently regarded as amongst the most powerful and easy to use on the market. There are a number of tools to let you mash up your data – sales, production, finance etc – and produce interactive reports that will give your board and analysts everything that they need to make good decisions. PowerBI will connect directly to your on-site databases and pull in live data that can be accessed from anywhere, just by using your Office 365 login. An amazing feature is the free text searching – you can simply ask Power BI a question such as “show Andrew’s revenue for last quarter” and it will interrogate the data to find an answer. BI is one of the major growth areas in the IT industry, and we are seeing a growing interest in what Microsoft tools can do. Microsoft Power BI

Microsoft Power BI


Building on the same technology that Flow uses, Power Apps are a way to build new solutions on top of Office 365.  They are designed to allow moderately technical people with no formal programming skills to build tools that hook into email, SharePoint lists, documents, databases and so on. Once they are built, they can quickly be deployed for use on phones, tablets or PCs. Read here for more information. Flow services

Power Apps – Join together all of your cloud services

Security and Compliance

Microsoft knows that security and privacy are the biggest obstacles to many companies putting their data in the cloud. They have been working hard over the last couple of years to give reassurances that your data is safe and secure. As well as keeping your data safe, you have a number of tools available to help you manage and monitor what your users do – checking emails to make sure credit card numbers or bank details aren’t accidentally sent, and auditing what is shared with whom outside of your organisation. The security and compliance centre pulls together a library of information and management tools so that you can put clear governance in place throughout your organisation.


And when you run out of toys to play with, there’s always the Store for you to browse through….                
  • Thanks for putting this single list together. There are a lot of clients trying out Planner and Groups at the moment. I can’t wait for the new SharePoint pages experience.

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