MS Word Gets New Research, Editor and Style Features

John Lister's picture

Microsoft has announced several new features for its Office applications. They include a new research tool and improved spell check facilities in MS Word.

The new features will be rolled out automatically to users of the online Office 365, rather than having users download and install the updates or upgrade to a new edition. (Source:

Microsoft Word has two major changes, dubbed Researcher and Editor. The Researcher tool is for exploring online information without leaving the document editing window, while the Editor tool enhances and simplifies spell check and grammar.

Tool Only Checks Credible Sources

With the Researcher tool, users can single click to open a side bar on a document, which then shows information about a subject from relevant websites. Rather than searching the web using a web browser, the Researcher tool gathers information from the "Bing Knowledge Graph," which aims to only use credible sources such as encyclopedias or government records. There will also be an option to add an automated citation for the source in formats suitable for school and college assignments. (Source:

On the other hand, the Editor feature brings together the existing spell check and grammar check features into an enhanced service with additional information. To make the tool simpler, spelling errors will continue to be underlined in red, however, suggested grammar problems will be underlined in a thick blue line, while suggestions of improvements to writing style will have a gold dotted line. There will also be added detail on why MS Word has made suggested grammar changes.

Style Tips May Make Writing Clearer

The style suggestions are a new feature and will use a combination of machine learning and human linguist input. Rather than concentrate on purely subjective errors such as spelling mistakes, the style suggestions will be about ways that writing could be clearer or more effective, such as replacing unnecessarily complicated or wordy phrases with more direct alternatives.

Microsoft is also tweaking MS Outlook with a feature named "Focused Inbox," which aims to figure out the most important emails and puts them in a separate folder. The idea is that this folder is the go-to point when users only have limited time to check email.

What's Your Opinion?

Will the Researcher tool make life too easy for students or does it teach them skills such as assessing and citing sources? Will the style suggestions be useful or is this something that can't work well with an automated system? Do you trust Microsoft to accurately distinguish the most important emails?

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dan_2160's picture

Can the grammar and style features be turned off? I don't need no advice from no artificial intelligence on how to write goodly.

Seriously, the relative handful of people who do write well simply do not need these grammar and style features that just clutter up the screen. I hope that these two features still can be turned off and just spell check left on.

plparmer_7477's picture

One can only hope. I am a professional editor, and it is annoying beyond belief how often the spelling and grammar check is wrong. A true enhancement would be to correct the current problems, not offer me more explanations why MS thinks it's correct. I am intrigued by the citation functionality. I would hope that it's an improvement on the current citation management function; the current system is good but not especially easy to use. It also needs an import function to pull in citations from another document (i.e., the style importer).

rohnski's picture

The new features will be rolled out automatically to users of the online Office 365, (Source:

Yes that is correct, as far as it goes. It is a cleverly written misdirection. These new features are being given ONLY to Office 365 "pay-forever" subscriptions. People with Office 2016 1-time payment licenses are "second-class customers" who do not deserve it.

OK, I can almost buy into this, but it just extend the digital feature divide creating 4 different classes or levels of feature support on various Office licenses. You now have Office 2016 "consumer" at the bottom of the pile, then Office 2016 "business" (include "BI features"), then Office 365 consumer (new features as released, but no BI) finally Office 365 business which gets all new features and has BI.

One of the selling points of Office as a bundle, when it first came out was that it moved away from the marketing approach of having 2 or 3 different levels of feature support in applications. All applications had exactly same feature sets regardless of the Office bundle. Bundle differentiation was made by the number of applications in the bundle. That had the advantage that all users had the opportunity to learn all features, even "specialist" features that they formerly could not access. That is coming back!

But, a couple of days ago we learned in a semi-public announcement that MS would be releasing an update to Word and Outlook. The "missing" grammar checking features have finally been recreated and will be restored in an update released in August for PC and "later" in the year for MAC. The problem is this "new feature" is going to be limited to Office 365 subscribers. That is simply wrong! This grammar checking is not a "new feature"! It is fixing a BUG in the September GA release of Office 2016. Grammar checking features that had been in several versions before this were "left out because they were not finished in time".

So now, people who paid for 1-time Office 2016 licenses are both "second class customers" and illiterates.

You can see the unofficial announcement in this question:

The following Options are included:
• Complex Words*
• Contractions*
• Wordiness
• Clichés
• Informal Language
• Double Negation
• Jargon
• Nominalizations
• Passive Voice with Known Actor
• Passive Voice with Unknown Actor (No Suggestions available)*
• Words in Split infinitives (more than one)
• Gender-Specific language
• Words Expressing Uncertainty*
• Slang
• Oxford Comma
• Punctuation with Quotes*
• Spaces between Sentences*

nospam_5346's picture

I still use Office 2003. I can't stand the ribbon interface and while I know there is a third party application that adds the old interface as a tab in the ribbon, why bother?

My use doesn't require the new and improved version.