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Image credit: Carlo Allegri / Reuters

Microsoft merges search across Windows 10, Office, Edge and Bing

It's also bringing more AI features to 365 and boosting OneDrive on Mac.
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Carlo Allegri / Reuters

Amid hardware updates and other announcements at Ignite 2018 Monday, Microsoft said it's releasing a string of new features to boost productivity, including one major change that will affect how you find what you're looking for. The company is unifying search across Windows 10, Office, Edge and Bing in Microsoft Search. The search box will live in a "consistent, prominent place" across the apps, the company said.

Microsoft is enhancing search with access to commands and personalized results. For instance, artificial intelligence can combine data from your company with knowledge from elsewhere to answer questions such as "Can I bring my wife and kids on a work trip?" A preview of Microsoft Search is rolling out now on the Office and Bing sites, as well as in the SharePoint mobile app.

Elsewhere, Microsoft is harnessing AI for three features in Microsoft 365. Ideas will offer suggestions based on what you're doing in the likes of Excel and PowerPoint, such as recommendations on designs and layouts, as well as charts and pinpointing outliers in your Excel data. Excel should get the feature imminently, and Ideas will land on the other 365 apps soon, starting with a preview in PowerPoint.

Speaking of Excel, Stocks and Geographies data types are rolling out -- they can bring updated stock prices, populations and company details to your spreadsheets. Meanwhile, Excel has an image recognition tool that can turn printed or hand-drawn tables into spreadsheets, which could save data entry clerks everywhere a ton of time.

Additionally, Microsoft has an update in store for OneDrive on Mac. OneDrive Files On-Demand for Mac will let you use Finder to access your files in the cloud and download files only when you need them, instead of them taking up space on your hard drive unnecessarily. A preview for beta testers should arrive Monday.

Microsoft also announced Cortana Skills Kit for Enterprise, which allows businesses to create custom voice apps for employees and customers. The kit is invitation-only for now, and Microsoft demonstrated its effectiveness with a proof-of-concept tool that lets users complete IT support tickets using their voice.

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