As technology continues to advance, so does the landscape of design tools. Microsoft has been a company at the forefront of business apps. Microsoft 365 began with about seven apps. It now offers new users access to over 20.
One of the newest ones added is Microsoft Designer. This quick-and-easy design tool has caught the attention of designers and professionals alike. You can use it whether you’re a graphic pro, marketer, or small business owner. Or someone that simply wants to make a funny meme.
Microsoft Designer offers a range of features to streamline your design process. If you haven’t used it yet, you may want to check it out. With AI features and an easy interface, it can elevate your design game. Not to mention saving time and money creating business graphics.
Let’s explore the key features.
Intuitive and User-Friendly Interface
Microsoft Designer boasts an intuitive and user-friendly interface. This makes it accessible to both beginners and experienced designers. The tool provides a clean and organized workspace. It allows you to focus on your design without distractions.
Its user-friendly features include things like:
Text prompts to start your design
The first prompt it asks is “Describe the design you’d like to create.” This makes it simple for someone with no design experience to use it. Based on your prompt, the system can leverage AI to generate graphics. You can also upload your own.
Comprehensive Design Templates and Assets
Microsoft Designer has several stand-out features. One of them is its extensive collection of templates and assets. It has a wide range of professionally crafted templates. These enable you to kickstart your design projects quickly.
Whether you need a business card, flyer, or social media post, this app has you covered. Additionally, the tool offers a vast library of assets. These include:
You can use these to create visually stunning designs. Ones that align with your brand identity. The abundance of design assets gives you creative freedom and flexibility. You can have fun bringing your vision to life.
Smart Layout Suggestions and Design Recommendations
Microsoft Designer goes beyond being a mere design tool. It’s a knowledgeable design assistant. The tool employs artificial intelligence. It can analyze your design and provide smart layout suggestions and recommendations. So even if making images isn’t “your thing,” you can make something decent.
The AI help is useful for those who may be new to design or seeking inspiration. Your “design assistant” can offer optimal font pairings, appropriate image placements, and more.
Microsoft Designer helps you make informed design choices. This elevates the visual impact of your creations. It also keeps you from spending hours on one design.
Seamless Collaboration and Integration
Collaboration is essential in today’s digital workspace. Microsoft Designer understands this need. The tool offers seamless collaboration capabilities. It allows several users to work on the same design project simultaneously.
You can easily share your designs with team members or clients. As well as get real-time feedback and edits. Furthermore, Microsoft Designer integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft Office applications. Such as PowerPoint and Word. This creates a cohesive workflow across different design and documentation tasks. The ability to collaborate ensures efficient teamwork. The integration with other tools enhances productivity.
Accessibility and Cross-Platform Support
Microsoft Designer recognizes the importance of accessibility and cross-platform compatibility. The tool is available both as a web application and as a desktop application. You can use it on Windows and Mac.
Use it working on your desktop computer or from a mobile device. The tool also adheres to accessibility standards. This means it’s inclusive and usable for individuals with diverse needs.
What Does It Autogenerate?
Just for fun, let’s see what we get with the AI-generated option. We’ll describe our design as, “a sales ad for orange juice with palm trees.”
In just a few seconds, this is what Microsoft Designer generated as options.
While some images might not be relevant, it gives many options that are. If you’re not getting what you want the first time, rephrase your prompt.
If you’re seeking a user-friendly design tool, Microsoft Designer is worth exploring. Whether you’re a seasoned designer or a beginner, it can save you time and money.
Learn More About Our Microsoft 365 Support
Microsoft 365 is a vast universe of apps. Ones that can lower costs and boost your productivity. From the Office suite to Intune for endpoint management, it’s a valuable asset.
Need help with M365 questions? Looking for setup and security support? We can help. Give us a call today to schedule a chat about our Microsoft support services.
In today’s digital workplace, printing remains an essential function. This is true for just about all businesses. But keeping up with your print infrastructure can be a time-consuming task. One printer down can mean work comes to a standstill.
Another issue is keeping up with all those printer drivers. If firmware updates aren’t done, vulnerabilities exist. One unprotected printer can cause an entire network malware infection.
Microsoft has come up with an answer to streamline print management. This solution is called Microsoft Universal Print. It offers a modern answer to age-old print problems.
Looking to improve how you handle document printing? Do you wish you could avoid printer problems? Below, we’ll explore the benefits and features of Microsoft Universal Print. We’ll also help you discover how it can enhance your printing environment.
What Can Microsoft Universal Print Do for You?
Microsoft Universal Print leverages the power of Microsoft 365 and Azure. It eliminates the need for complex on-premises print infrastructure. Here are some of the ways that it can improve your document handling.
Simplifying Print Management
Microsoft Universal Print eliminates the need for on-premises print servers. Print management becomes more simplified and all in one place. Organizations can centrally manage their printing needs from the cloud.
This ease of use removes the need for complex print server configurations. As well as driver installations and print queue management. This results in significant time and cost savings.
Seamless Integration with Microsoft 365
A key advantage of Universal Print is its seamless integration with Microsoft 365. It works in tandem with Azure Active Directory. This ensures a secure and authenticated printing experience for users.
This integration allows users to print from any device, whether it’s a Windows PC, Mac, or mobile device. There’s no need for complex setup or driver installations. It simplifies the printing process. It also enhances productivity for employees working across different platforms.
Flexibility and Scalability
With Microsoft Universal Print, organizations gain flexibility and scalability in their print activities. It supports both modern and legacy printers. This allows businesses to leverage their existing printer fleet.
Universal Print enables easy connectivity. This is true whether it’s a local printer or a network printer. As well as management through the cloud. Additionally, it offers centralized control and monitoring of printers. This makes it effortless to scale up or down based on business needs.
Streamlined Printer Deployment
Deploying printers across an organization can be a time-consuming task. Microsoft Universal Print simplifies this process. It does this by providing a centralized portal for printer management.
Administrators can easily add and configure printers. They can assign them to specific users or groups. As well as manage printer settings from a single interface. This eliminates the need for manual configuration on individual devices. Which can be very time-consuming and fraught with issues. It also ensures a consistent printing experience across the organization.
Enhanced Security and Compliance
A big benefit of using Microsoft Universal Print is its security capabilities. Print security is a critical concern for businesses, especially in today’s threat landscape. Microsoft Universal Print enhances security by leveraging Azure Active Directory. It’s used for authentication and access control.
It also supports secure print release. This means that sensitive documents are only printed under certain circumstances. Namely, when the authorized user is physically present at the printer.
Moreover, Universal Print integrates with Microsoft Endpoint Manager. This gives organizations even more capabilities. They can enforce security policies and manage print-related settings from a centralized location.
Insights and Analytics
Understanding print usage and optimizing print infrastructure is essential for efficient cost management. Microsoft Universal Print provides insights and analytics that help organizations gain visibility. They’re able to see print usage patterns. As well as track printing costs and identify opportunities for optimization.
With detailed reporting and analytics, businesses can make informed decisions. Reporting enables better print resource allocation. As well as the implementation of strategies to reduce printing costs.
Is Microsoft Universal Print for You?
Microsoft Universal Print offers a modern and efficient approach to print management. It streamlines the printing experience for organizations. It also eliminates the need for complex on-premises print infrastructure. There are also important benefits from the boost in security.
But is it for you?
We can help you understand the full capabilities of Microsoft Universal Print. Including the costs versus the benefits. Whether the solution is for you will depend on your printing needs. Extra factors to consider will be how often you print and your number of endpoints.
Get Cost-Efficient Technology Answers
It’s not easy to make software decisions on your own. That’s why we’re here to help! We can sit down with you to discuss your current infrastructure. We’ll help you evaluate solutions, like Microsoft Universal Print. Then, we’ll tell you straight up what makes the most sense for you.
Give us a call today to chat about your technology needs.
Advanced AI is a new buzzword in cloud computing. The launch of tools like ChatGPT and Bard have made big waves. Developers are now racing to introduce the next level of features to apps. Features that do part of your work for you. Such as writing emails or making follow-up checklists based on contact data.
These AI-based applications do much more than automate processes. People are using them to write business correspondence, create websites, and write scripts. AI is also quickly transforming the everyday office workflow.
Microsoft is one of the biggest players in the office application field. It’s at the forefront of introducing transformative technology. The company is about to transform Microsoft 365 in a huge way with its new Copilot tool.
Microsoft 365 Copilot is a new tool designed to help users get the most out of their Microsoft 365 apps. This revolutionary tool is an intelligent, personalized assistant. It’s designed to help users navigate and use M365 more efficiently.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Microsoft 365 Copilot. And tell you the key ways it’s going to improve M365 apps and your business workflows.
What is Microsoft 365 Copilot?
Microsoft 365 Copilot is an AI-powered assistant. It helps users with their day-to-day tasks in M365 apps. It’s like having a personal assistant right in your Office apps. Users can ask questions, get help with tasks, and receive personalized recommendations. Copilot responds leveraging the context of their usage patterns.
Microsoft 365 Copilot works across all M365 apps. This includes:
Whether you’re doing any number of tasks, Microsoft 365 Copilot is there to assist you. This includes working on a document, meeting scheduling, or collaborating with a team.
How Does Microsoft 365 Copilot Work?
Microsoft 365 Copilot uses AI and machine learning to understand users’ needs. It provides personalized help. It uses data from users’ interactions with M365 apps. It learns a user’s usage patterns and offers recommendations based on their preferences.
For example, say you frequently use certain features in Excel. Microsoft 365 Copilot will learn this. It will offer suggestions when it detects that you’re working on a similar task.
Say that you’re working on a presentation in PowerPoint and struggling with design. Microsoft 365 Copilot can offer design suggestions based on your company’s brand guidelines.
Microsoft 365 Copilot can also help users with common tasks. Tasks such as, scheduling meetings and managing emails. Users can simply ask Copilot for help. They can ask it to schedule a meeting or find an email from a specific person, and Copilot will take care of the rest.
Why is Microsoft Copilot Important?
Copilot is important because it can help users be more productive and efficient. By providing personalized support, the tool can save users time and reduce frustration.
Imagine you’re working on a report in Word and you’re struggling to format a table. Instead of spending time searching for a solution online. Or trying to figure it out on your own, you can simply ask Microsoft 365 Copilot for help. Copilot can offer suggestions. It can even walk you through the process, saving you time and reducing frustration.
Microsoft 365 Copilot is also important because it can help users get more out of their M365 apps. Many users may not be aware of all the features and capabilities of their M365 apps. But with Copilot, they can discover new ways to work more efficiently and effectively.
The capabilities of Copilot go even further. Say that you need to give your team an update on a marketing strategy. You won’t need to dig out emails, chat threads, or meeting notes. Instead, you can ask Copilot to “tell my team how we updated the marketing strategy.” The app will then search all those places for you and craft an update for your team.
Need a first draft of a meeting agenda or presentation? Just ask Copilot. It can access existing M365 documents and content and craft an initial draft for you.
Benefits of Using Microsoft 365 Copilot
Microsoft 365 Copilot provides personalized help based on users’ usage patterns and preferences. This means that users get the help they need when they need it, without having to search for solutions on their own.
Microsoft 365 Copilot can help users save time on common tasks. Such as scheduling meetings and formatting documents. It can take on many information gathering tasks, like summarizing meeting notes. This saves users considerable time. Especially for manual tasks such as searching for information.
Knowledge workers spend an average of 2.5 hours per day searching for information.
Microsoft 365 Copilot can help reduce frustration. It provides solutions when users are stuck on a task. The tool can also help users struggling with an Excel chart or table. Instead of having to figure out how to generate it, they can simply give a command to Copilot to do it for them.
Microsoft Copilot handles tasks that go beyond what business apps have historically done. For example, you can use it in PowerPoint to create a presentation for you. Use a command such as, “Create a six-slide presentation based on (this) document.” You can also tell it to find appropriate Microsoft stock photos and insert them.
The sky is the limit right now for how much this tool is going to impact office productivity.
When Will Microsoft 365 Copilot Be Available?
At the writing of this article, Microsoft hasn’t announced a release date yet. It is currently testing Copilot with a limited number of users. You will most likely see it coming out sometime soon.
Improve Your Microsoft 365 Value & Security
Need help with security or setup in Microsoft 365? Give us a call today to talk to one of our cloud app experts.
Data visualization is a powerful tool for communicating complex data. It presents it in a simple, easily understandable format. But it is not enough to simply create a graph or chart and call it a day. To truly make use of information, it is important to create insightful reports. Reports that effectively communicate the story behind the data.
Insightful reports help decision-makers understand key trends and patterns. As well as identify areas of opportunity and make informed decisions. If analytics graphs and bar charts are only telling part of the story, it can lead people to wrong decisions.
Creating holistic and insightful reports requires the use of several data points. One tool that enables this is Microsoft Power BI.
What Is Microsoft Power BI?
Microsoft Power BI is a business intelligence tool. It allows you to connect many data sources to one dashboard. Using Power BI, you can easily model and visualize data holistically.
The platform has over 500 different data connectors. These connectors can tap into sources such as Salesforce, Excel, Azure, and more. Users can leverage pre-built report templates to save time in creating data-rich reporting. Teams can also collaborate and share dashboards virtually.
Tips for Designing Great Data Visualization Reports
Getting started in Microsoft Power BI entails:
Signing up for the software
Connecting your data sources
Using its tools to create report visualizations
But creating great reports goes beyond that. Below, we’ll go through several tips and best practices for getting the most out of your Power BI output.
Consider Your Audience
You should design reporting dashboards with the end user in mind. What is it that this audience wants to see? Are they looking for bottom-line sales numbers? Or do they want to cover insights that can help target productivity gaps?
The use of clear and concise language and effective visualizations are important. These help to highlight the key takeaways from the data. Customize reports to the audience’s level of technical expertise and business goals.
Don’t Overcomplicate Things
Many times, less is more. If you find that your dashboard looks crowded, you may be adding too many reports. The more you add, the more difficult it is to read the takeaways from the data.
Remove all but the most essential reports. Look for ways to include different data sets in a single report, such as using stacked bar charts. Dashboards should show important data at a glance, so do your best to avoid the need to scroll.
Try Out Different Chart Types
Experiment with presenting your data in different ways. Flip between bar, pie, and other types of charts to find the one that tells the story the best. When building a new dashboard for your organization, get some input. Ask those who will review the reports which chart type works best for them.
Get to Know Power Query
Power Query is a data preparation engine. It can save you a lot of time in developing insightful reports. This engine is used in Microsoft tools like Power BI and Excel.
Take time to learn how to leverage this tool for help with:
Connecting a wide range of data sources to the dashboard
Previewing data queries
Building intuitive queries over many data sources
Defining data size, variety, and velocity
Build Maps with Hints to Bing
Bing and Power BI integrate, allowing you to leverage default map coordinates. Use best practices to leverage the mapping power of Bing to improve your geo-coding.
For example, if you want to plot cities on a map, name your columns after the geographic designation. This helps Bing identify exactly what you’re looking for.
Tell People What They Are Looking At
A typical comment heard often when presenting executives with a new report is, “What am I looking at?” Tell your audience what the data means by using features like tooltips and text boxes to add context.
Just one or two sentences can save someone 5-10 minutes of trying to figure out why you gave them this report. That context can get them to a decision faster. It also helps avoid any confusion or misunderstandings about the data.
Use Emphasis Tricks
People usually read left to right and from top to bottom. So put your most important chart at the top, left corner. Follow, with the next most important reports.
If you have specific numbers that need to stand out, increase the font size or bold the text. This ensures that your audience understands the key takeaways.
Use can also use colors to emphasize things like a “High, Mid, Low.” For example, a low level of accidents could be green, a mid-level in yellow, and a high colored red. This provides more visual context to the data.
Need Help with Power Bi or Other Microsoft Products?
We can help you get started or improve your use of Microsoft 365, Power BI, and more. Give us a call today to schedule a chat about leveraging this powerful platform.
Scheduling appointments is a common activity. Salespeople often set up virtual appointments to answer questions about a product. Software companies allow people to schedule live demos. Telehealth therapists allow clients to book video sessions.
Those are just a few examples of some groups that are going to love a new Microsoft Teams feature. Virtual Appointments was recently added to the platform. It adds a new meeting style tailored for engagements with customers.
Have you’ve been using Teams and a different online appointment app? This new feature will streamline the experience.
What Is Virtual Appointments in Teams?
Virtual Appointments gives you an all-in-one meeting platform for customer engagements. You can schedule, manage and conduct B2C meetings in Microsoft Teams.
This new feature brings together the scheduling component with the video conference interface. Anyone with the link can join the virtual appointment. They do not need a Teams account.
The power of Microsoft’s scheduling app, Bookings, connects to Teams. This makes the Virtual Appointments function as seamless as possible.
Some of the features below will be available with any Microsoft 365 plan. Some are available with a premium plan.
Teams Virtual Appointments Features
Manage Scheduled Appointments
You can see your scheduled appointments in a single view. Manage cancellations and time changes easily.
Send Customized Confirmations & Reminders
You can send customers a customized message via SMS or email. This personalizes the experience for them. You can also use automation to give that personal touch without having to send each one manually. Automated appointment reminders are another time-saving function.
Customized Waiting Room
Add a personal touch to your virtual engagements. You can customize the Teams waiting room. You can use themes and logos to brand your business. You can also chat with attendees while in the lobby waiting room. This is helpful if your current appointment is running a little long. You can let them know you’ll be right with them.
You can send meeting follow-ups after a virtual appointment. This helps you reduce the time it takes to send any promised follow-up information. You also keep all details in a single place. This makes your client communication trail easier to follow.
Organization & Department Analytics
How effective are your appointments? It’s hard to know if your demos are resulting in sales if you don’t have a good tracking system. It’s also important to have visibility into customer appointments across the organization.
You can do this with a premium analytics feature. It gives you helpful reporting. The reporting provides insights into B2C virtual appointments in all departments.
How to Use Virtual Appointments
To start using Virtual Appointments in Teams, admins must set up a few things. Note, they must be a Bookings admin to access these settings.
Create a Calendar
In the Virtual Appointments app choose to “Create a calendar.” You can find this option on the Home tab.
Larger organizations may wish to create different calendars for different departments.
Next, add staff members. You can add up to 100. You will also need to assign them a role. Once you’ve added your staff, you can view their availability in both Teams and Outlook.
What’s another nice thing about using an integrated platform like M365? It’s the cross-app compatibility. Your calendar syncs across apps.
Create Appointment Types
You’ll next set up your appointment types. You can choose from these two options:
Scheduled: You schedule the day/time. The system adds this information to the email confirmation.
On-demand (Teams Premium): Customers can choose when to meet from your booking calendar.
Set Up SMS Notifications (If desired)
If you choose to use SMS notifications and have the right Teams plan, you can set this up next. This allows you to easily send appointment confirmations and reminders via text message.
Note: Attendees currently need a valid U.S., Canadian, or U.K. phone number to receive the SMS notifications.
Link Forms (If desired)
If you would like your attendees to fill out any forms, you can link them now. Virtual Appointments allows linking up to four cloud-based forms. These would be forms you have created in Microsoft Forms.
Publish Your Booking Page
If you want to give customers the ability to book on-demand appointments, take this next step. You will need to publish the booking page. You do this on the “Manage” tab of Virtual Appointments. Select “Booking page,” and turn on “Publish booking page.”
Get Help Using Your Microsoft 365 Tools More Effectively
Microsoft 365 is a platform with many possibilities. Often, companies aren’t using all the features they could. As a result, their team may be less effective. They could also be wasting money on apps they don’t need.
Are you interested in help supercharging your Microsoft 365 experience? Give us a call today to set up a meeting.
Companies both large and small share this one cybersecurity problem. They have computers that are still running older operating systems. Staff might use these devices only occasionally. Or the company may be running customized software that won’t run on newer OS versions.
The problem is that when the OS becomes outdated, the system is open to cyberattacks. When Microsoft or another developer retires an OS, it means that it is no longer supported. No more feature updates and no more security patches for newly found vulnerabilities.
The latest operating system to lose all support is Windows 8.1. Microsoft released the OS in 2013, and it was officially retired on January 10, 2023. Microsoft issued the following warning for companies:
“Continuing to use Windows 8.1 after January 10, 2023 may increase an organization’s exposure to security risks or impact its ability to meet compliance obligations.”
Here are a few facts you should know about what this retirement of Windows 8.1 means.
The OS Will Still Technically Work
When an operating system reaches its end of life, it doesn’t just stop working. Thus, many companies go on using it without realizing the security risk. Technically, the OS will work as it did the day before retirement. But it’s a lot less safe due to the loss of support.
Your System Will No Longer Receive Security Patches
Software and OS vulnerabilities are sought out and exploited all the time. This is what hackers do for a living. The vulnerability cycle usually begins with hackers finding a software “loophole.” They then write code to exploit it that allows them some type of system access.
The software developer learns of this, usually once hackers start breaching systems. They write code to fix that vulnerability. Developers then send the fix to users via an update that they install. This protects the device from one or more hacker exploits.
When an OS reaches its end of life, these fixes are no longer made. The developer has moved on to focus on its newer products. So, the vulnerability remains. It leaves a device vulnerable to hacks for days, months, or years afterward.
Approximately 61% of security vulnerabilities in corporate networks are over five years old.
Options for Upgrading
If you have a computer that is still running Windows 8.1, you have two options for upgrading. You can opt for Windows 10 or Windows 11. If the computer is running such an old OS, there is a chance your system may not meet the requirements for one or both. In this case, you may need to buy a new device altogether.
Microsoft states that there is no free option to upgrade from 8.1 to Windows 10 or 11. Some of the advantages you gain when upgrading include:
Better built-in security
Capability for more modern features (like facial recognition)
Improved accessibility features
Updated productivity tools (like snap layouts in Windows 11)
What Happens If I Don’t Upgrade?
Security & Compliance Issues
Your data security is at risk if you stay on Windows 8.1. Without any security updates, any vulnerabilities will stay unpatched. This leaves your system highly vulnerable to a breach. One hacked system on a network can also cause the breach or malware infection to spread to newer devices.
If you have to comply with a data privacy regulation, like HIPAA, you’ll also run into issues. Data privacy rules dictate making reasonable efforts to protect data. Using a device with an outdated OS jeopardizes meeting compliance.
The older systems get, the slower they get. Staff that must work on outdated software often complain that it hurts productivity. 77% of surveyed employees were frustrated with outdated tech. Employees dealing with outmoded systems may also quit. They are 450% more likely to want to leave and work elsewhere.
An outdated operating system can hold your staff back. They miss out on modern time-saving features. They can also run into problems with bugs that will no longer get fixed.
Incompatibility With Newer Tools
Software and hardware developers aren’t looking back. Once Microsoft retires an OS, they aren’t prioritizing its compatibility. In fact, some may not want their product to be compatible with it because of the liability.
When you have issues using modern software and hardware it hurts your business. You become less competitive and begin to fall behind. Staying on an outmoded OS keeps you stuck in the past.
Get Help With Your Windows Upgrades
We can help you upgrade smoothly from an older Windows OS to a new one. If you need a new system, we can point you in the right direction for the best value. Give us a call today to schedule a chat about upgrades and where your security stands.