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Microsoft Begins Integrating Bing with Office

Baby steps

Microsoft announced today that it has begun integrating its Bing search engine into Office, starting small with just Word Online. But once you see how they're doing so, you're going to wonder how you ever lived without this functionality.

I will say, too, that this integration should be the final nail in the coffin of people calling on Microsoft to jettison Bing. The firm's search engine may never be a totally successful standalone product, but it has become so infused into its other products and services that it may not matter. And this coming integration with Office is a great example of why.

According to Microsoft, this new Bing integration is called Insights for Office. I might have gone with Bing Insights for Office but whatever. The idea is that people writing documents in Word often need to do research about a topic they're writing about, and today that means opening a separate browser window, typing in a word or phrase that's already in their document, and navigating through a set of search results.

With Insights for Office, you never need to leave Office (which, in this case means only Word Online). You can right-click a word or term and select Insights from the context menu, and a new Insights pane appears giving you information about that topic. (You can also use the Tell Me box at the top if you prefer that method.)

Microsoft notes that it uses the context of the document you're writing to deliver better results, and the most relevant results will be shown at top. (Example: If you're writing about Abraham Lincoln and search for Lincoln as in the above example, you will be shown information about the president and not about the car company.) The prioritized results will include information from Snapshot, Wikipedia, Bing Image Search, and related web content, Microsoft says.

You can check out Insights for Office in Word Online today via, though it's only available in English at the moment. More languages, and presumably more Office apps, will come online over time.

Note: Microsoft has also improved Office Online in other ways. It now offers enhanced PDF support, so you can find text inside a scanned or photographed PDF file (as with Office Lens), visible document page boundaries, a Symbols gallery similar to that in desktop Word and some new Tell Me features beyond the Insights integration noted above. (You can get word count and find sub-commands more easily now too.)

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