Updates strengthen ties between Microsoft Outlook and other Office iOS apps

Changes give iPhone, iPad users an easier way to share and edit documents through email

Office for iPad and other free movile versions have enough features for the vast majority of  everyday users.

Office for iPad and other free movile versions have enough features for the vast majority of everyday users.

Microsoft's Office apps for iOS were updated Wednesday to make it easier for people to work with files sent and received using Outlook for iOS.

Thanks to the upgrade, users can now tap on a Word, Excel or PowerPoint file emailed to them in Outlook and quickly edit it in the corresponding app on their iPhone or iPad. After editing, the app will export a new version of the document and switch back to Outlook so users can reply with their changes attached. People who are editing a file in Word, Excel or PowerPoint can export it to Outlook, attach it to an email and then get redirected back to the app they used for composing after their message is away.

The features will make it easier for people to share files through email, and may also help drive users to purchase a subscription to Office 365. While Word, Excel and PowerPoint are free to download, users who want to edit files with them have to pay Microsoft a regular subscription.

In addition to the integration with Outlook, Word also now allows users to quickly change the capitalization of selected text to and from uppercase, lowercase and sentence case. PowerPoint was changed to add a new task pane where users can view comments people have left on a slide alongside the slide's content itself.

OneNote for iOS also picked up an update that lets users disable page previews when looking at a notebook's contents. When the setting is enabled, users will only see a list of note titles without any indication of what they might contain. That would be a good choice for people who want to quickly scroll through overstuffed notebooks that have pages with detailed titles, as well as those people who want the list of notes in a given section to look like what they would see in the desktop version of OneNote on OS X and Windows.

The updates are part of Microsoft's ongoing push to rapidly improve its collaboration applications, even on platforms that it doesn't control. Microsoft first launched Office for iPad last year and has provided significant upgrades to the apps ever since. It's also good news for the overall health of Outlook for iOS, which is based on the app Microsoft acquired when it bought Acompli at the end of 2014. Since then, the company has been in the process of integrating Acompli's code with the rest of its Office mobile apps for iOS and Android, and Wednesday's updates mark the latest extension of those efforts.

The update released Wednesday comes just a week after Microsoft updated Outlook for iOS to add an Apple Watch app that lets users manage their email from their wrist. Under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has put more effort into improving its apps for a wide variety of platforms, even on platforms they don't control.

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