Use Smart Lookup for quick online research
A handful of new features help you do research or fact-checking when working on a document. The most useful for most people is Smart Lookup. Right-click a word, or highlight a group of words and right-click them, and from the menu that appears select Smart Lookup. Word then uses Microsoft’s Bing search engine to do a search on the word or phrase and displays the results in a pane that appears on the right side of the screen. Microsoft says that Smart Lookup uses the context around the words, not only the words themselves, to give you more relevant results.
If you’re using a consumer edition of Office 365, the Smart Lookup pane has two tabs at the top, Explore and Define. Explore shows information and links from the web, while Define offers definitions from the Oxford Dictionary.
For web links, click any result to go to the web page that is the source of the results. The first result on the Explore tab may be a brief definition of the word. Following that is often an entry from Wikipedia, followed by a variety of other results. For example, when I searched for “gravity waves,” the first two results were from Wikipedia, one for “Gravitational Wave” and other for “Gravity wave.” Depending on how much information Bing gathers, you may see the results put into groups, such as “Explore Wikipedia,” “Bing image search,” and “Web search.” When you click an image thumbnail in the “Bing image search” section, you’ll be sent to a web page with that image, plus other related images.
A three-dot icon to the right of the entry indicates that there’s more information available on the web. In most cases when you click the three-dot icon, you’ll go to the web page from which Bing gathered the information; in some instances, however, you’re sent to a new page in the Smart Lookup pane titled “Quick insights” that has the additional information, plus a “See also” area that has related topics you can explore by clicking the appropriate picture. When I performed the “gravity wave” lookup, for example, there were entries for Wind Wave, Capillary Wave, Rogue Wave, Internal Wave and Wave.
Enterprise and education editions of Office 365 have a slightly different Smart Lookup interface; there, the pane shows results under tabs marked All, Files, Web, and Pictures. Web shows web results (often starting with a simple definition), Pictures shows image thumbnails from a Bing image search, and Files shows matching results from your documents stored in OneDrive for Business. All, of course, shows them all.
Each web result has Open, Link, and Cite links underneath it. Click Open, and the page opens in your browser. Click Link and a link to the entry will be embedded in your document. Click Cite to embed a citation of the link source. File results have links underneath for opening the document, linking to it, or reusing content such as images or PowerPoint slides from it.
When you click an image thumbnail in the results, it is automatically pasted into your document at the point where you have your cursor. You can alternatively click a thumbnail’s three-dot icon, then the image’s source URL, to open the source page for the image in your browser.
Note that in order to use Smart Lookup in Word or any other Office app, you might first need to enable Microsoft’s intelligent services feature, which collects your search terms and some content from your spreadsheets and other documents. (If you’re concerned about privacy, you’ll need to weigh whether the privacy hit is worth the convenience of doing research from right within the app.) If you haven’t enabled it, you’ll see a screen when you click Smart Lookup asking you to turn it on. Once you do so, it will be turned on across all your Office applications for all features that use intelligent services.
Use Researcher for in-depth research
Academics, students, and those wanting to do in-depth research will welcome the new Researcher tool. Unlike Smart Lookup, Researcher doesn’t feed you information straight from the web via Bing. Instead, Researcher taps into reference materials and sources it considers trustworthy, compiled by a service called Microsoft Academic Search, so you’re getting a search that should be more reliable and in-depth than Smart Lookup. It also includes results from Wikipedia and Bing that it considers trustworthy.
Like Smart Lookup and Word’s new Translator feature (see below), Researcher uses Microsoft’s AI-driven intelligent services feature. If you haven’t already enabled it, you’ll need to do so before using Researcher.
To use it, select References > Researcher in the Ribbon. The Researcher pane appears on the right side of the screen. Type your search term into the text box, and you’ll see a list of results that are far more finely honed than you get when using Smart Lookup.
At the top of the screen you’ll find topics related to your search. For example, when I searched for “gravity waves” it found “Gravity wave,” “Gravitational wave,” and “Speed of gravity.” Click any topic and you’ll get more in-depth information about it, including results from Wikipedia and from other academic and general-interest sources.
Underneath those topics you’ll find individual results from a wide variety of sources, including academic research, newspaper articles, magazine articles, and more. The results are sorted into All, Journals, and Websites tabs. Click the appropriate tab to see the results filtered. Click any link to open a summary of the article or website, then click the “Open in browser” button to go to the full article or site in your browser.
You can add a citation directly from the Researcher pane into your document. Click the + sign to the right of the item, and Researcher adds the citation at the current location of your cursor. You can edit the citation in your document by clicking on it, then clicking the small down arrow that appears to its right. You can also add text from the Researcher pane, or add text and include a citation. To do it, select the text you want to add, and from the menu that appears, select either Add or Add and Cite.
Finally, at the top of the Researcher pane you’ll find a My Research tab next to the Find Sources tab. Click it, and it displays all of the results that you’ve clicked on so you can easily return to them.
Get instant translations with Translator
Another useful addition is the Translator pane, useful for those who need to work in multiple languages. To translate words or phrases, select them, right-click your selection and choose Translate from the menu that appears.
The Translator pane appears. The top of the pane shows your selection, and the bottom shows the translation. The top pane attempts to identify the original language, which it does with uncanny accuracy. If it misidentifies the language, though, simply select the right one. After that, in the bottom of the pane select the language you want to translate to.
The translation appears. To insert it somewhere into the document, move your cursor to the spot where you want it to appear, and click the Insert button at the bottom of the pane. You can also copy and paste any part of the translation into the document or another document.
Translator can also translate an entire document. To do it, go to the Review tab on the Ribbon, and in the Language section, click Translate > Translate Document. The Translator pane appears. You can let it auto-detect the original language or click the From drop-down to set it. Then click the To drop-down to set the language you want to translate the document to and click the Translate button. Word opens the translated document in a new window.
Keep in mind that Translator is part of Microsoft’s Intelligent Services, the artificial intelligence behind other Office features including Smart Lookup and Researcher. You’ll need to enable it before using any of these features.
Add new types of charts
Since 2015, Microsoft has added several new types of charts you can add to documents, spreadsheets, and presentations: Treemap, Sunburst, Waterfall, Histogram, Pareto, Box & Whisker, Funnel, and Map charts. Each provides a unique way to display data visually. See our Excel for Office 365 cheat sheet for details about the new chart types, including what each one looks like and what type of data it’s best suited for.
To insert any of the new chart types (or any other chart) in a document, select Insert > Chart and then choose the type of chart to insert. When you do that, the chart appears in your document with placeholder data, and a pop-up window appears that looks like a mini Excel spreadsheet. Enter or edit the data, or else click the Edit in Excel button to open it up in Excel and edit it there.
Note that the Pareto chart does not show up when you select Insert > Chart. To insert one, select Insert > Chart, select Histogram, and at the top of the screen that appears, select the option to the right, Pareto.
Review or restore earlier versions of a document
There’s an extremely useful feature hiding in the title bar in Word for Office 365: You can use Version History to go back to previous versions of a file, review them, compare them side-by-side with your existing version, and copy and paste from an older file to your existing one. You can also restore an entire old version.
To do it, click the file name at the top of the screen in an open file. A drop-down menu appears. Click Version History, and the Version History pane appears on the right side of the screen with a list of the previous versions of the file, including the time and date they were saved. (Alternatively, you can select the File tab on the Ribbon, then click the Version History button.)
In the Version History pane, click “Open version” under any older version, and that version appears as a read-only version in a new window. Scroll through the version and copy any content you want, then paste it into the latest version of the file. To restore the old version, overwriting the current one, click the Restore button at the top of the editing window.
Use AutoSave to provide a safety net as you work
If you’re worried that you’ll lose your work on a document because you don’t constantly save it, you’ll welcome the AutoSave feature. It automatically saves your files for you, so you won’t have to worry about system crashes, power outages, Word crashes and similar problems. It only works only on .docx documents stored in OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint Online. It won’t work with files saved in Word’s older .doc format or files you save to your hard drive.
AutoSave is a vast improvement over the previous the AutoRecover feature built into Word. AutoRecover doesn’t save your files in real time; instead, every several minutes it saves an AutoRecover file that you can try to recover after a crash. It doesn’t always work, though – for example, if you don’t properly open Word after the crash, or if the crash doesn’t meet Microsoft’s definition of a crash. In addition, Microsoft notes, “AutoRecover is only effective for unplanned disruptions, such as a power outage or a crash. AutoRecover files are not designed to be saved when a logoff is scheduled or an orderly shutdown occurs.” And the files aren’t saved in real time, so you’ll likely lose several minutes of work even if all goes as planned.
AutoSave is turned on by default in Word for Office 365 .docx files stored in OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint Online. To turn it off (or back on again) for a workbook, use the AutoSave button on the top left of the screen. If you want AutoSave to be off for all files by default, select File > Options > Save and uncheck the box marked “AutoSave OneDrive and SharePoint Online files by default on Word.”
Using AutoSave may require some rethinking of your workflow. Many people are used to creating new documents based on existing ones by opening the existing file, making changes to it, and then using Save As to save the new version under a different name, leaving the original file intact. Be warned that doing this with AutoSave enabled will save your changes in the original file. Instead, Microsoft suggests opening the original file and immediately selecting File > Save a Copy (which replaces Save As when AutoSave is enabled) to create a new version.
If AutoSave does save unwanted changes to a file, you can always use the Version History feature described above to roll back to an earlier version.
Other new features worth checking out
Two other recently introduced features may prove useful for some business users:
If you’re the kind of person who needs help focusing on the work at hand, you’ll be pleased at Word’s Focus mode. When you put Word into Focus mode, the Ribbon and all toolbars are hidden, and all parts of you screen that aren’t Word turn black. So you’ll find no distractions at all.
To put Word into Focus mode, choose View > Focus (the Focus button is in the Immersive group near the left end of the Ribbon) or press Alt-W, then O. To get out of Focus mode, press the Esc key. When you’re in Focus mode, if you want the Ribbon to appear (with white text and icons against a black background), move your cursor to the top of the screen. Press Esc or start typing in Word to make the Ribbon go away.
Create a Sway web page from a document
If you’re one of the few people who uses Microsoft’s Sway app, which lets you easily create simple, web-based presentations, you’ll want to try out a feature that lets you create a Sway page from a Word document.
To do it, select File > Transform. The Transform to Web Page pane appears. Select a style in the pane, then click the Transform button. A web page is created on the web and opened in the Sway app in your browser. To share it with others, select the Share button on the Sway page and follow the instructions.
Handy keyboard shortcuts
Using keyboard shortcuts is one of the best ways to accomplish tasks quickly in Word. You can even use them to navigate the Ribbon. For instance, Alt-H takes you to the Home tab, and Alt-G takes you to the Design tab. (For help finding specific commands on the Ribbon, see our Word for Office 365 Ribbon quick reference.)
But there are many other keyboard shortcuts to help you accomplish a vast array of tasks in Word. We've listed the ones we've found the most useful below. For even more shortcuts, see Microsoft's Office site.
Useful Word for Office 365 (in Windows) keyboard shortcuts
Don't forget to download our Word for Office 365 Ribbon quick reference!