The Office 365 app launcher: 5 recent changes you should know about


Back in October, you probably noticed a change in the interface of the Office 365 app launcher. This is just one of the almost constant stream of improvements and updates to Office 365 that are coming out of Microsoft to improve the platform—the Office 365 roadmap attests to the frenetic level of activity at Microsoft HQ.

Now, these constant improvements are something of a mixed blessing. While it’s great that your company gets all the latest security, tools, upgrades and improvements as soon as they’re available, they arrive so often it can frankly be hard to adapt to them in good time. For example, while your employees might notice some sort of change to the Office 365 app launcher, only the must inquisitive will likely take the time to explore the changes and work out how to get the most out of them. And that’s a shame, because some of the latest improvements to the Office 365 app launcher could actually be really useful to your colleagues.

So, to help you get the most out of these improvements, here are the five key changes we think you need to know about (and should start using) today.

5 key Office 365 app launcher updates

The most important thing about the Office 365 app launcher updates is that they give your users more flexibility to customise their experience. When Office 365 was first introduced, there was relatively little scope for changing the user interface—you basically had to take it as Microsoft provided it, like it or lump it. While the latest updates don’t give you total control, they go a lot further than what was previously possible. And we think they’re pretty great!

1. Change the size and position of apps

If you’ve ever owned a Windows phone, you’ll be familiar with the idea of resizing and reshaping tiles. Essentially, Microsoft allows you to reorder the shape and position of your apps so they appear in the way that makes most sense to you. You can now do the same with the tiles on the app launcher.

It’s also easy to drag and drop the apps so they come in a different order, so you can now put the apps you use most regularly at the top of the app launcher. It’s a small improvement, but will make your tools fit around you more naturally.

2. Pin apps to the navigation bar

Another small but handy improvement is the ability to pin apps to the navigation bar. This makes the process of moving around Office 365 that much easier and customised to your personal preferences. If, for instance, you find you’re regularly moving between apps, but often want to hop to, say, your company’s ‘people’ app, you can now pin it to the navigation bar and it will appear everywhere in your Office 365 window.

Of course, you could do the same thing by clicking on the app launcher too, but by having the app pinned to the navigation bar, you save yourself one more click making things that little bit smoother.

3. Search for installed apps

The latest update to the Office 365 app launcher also includes a search feature—something that just didn’t exist before. If you use a lot of apps and can’t keep them all on your homepage, the search bar makes it easier to find them. Open the app launcher and click on ‘All’ at the top. You can then scroll through your apps or search for the one you want.

4. Add custom tiles to places in Office 365

This is a useful way of adding a shortcut to a specific place—say, a SharePoint team site where lots of employees regularly go or an Office 365 Groups page—to the Office 365 app launcher. It’s a little more complicated to configure than the other features, and you will need to have administrator rights to actually set it up. A full walkthrough can be found here. From the Office 365 admin centre, you can search for ‘tiles’ then add a custom tile. After you’ve walked through some simple steps to set it up, the new tile will be added onto the app launcher for you and all your users.

5. Add non-Microsoft apps to the app launcher home

Microsoft have always encouraged customers to extend and enhance Office 365 with the external apps they already use, and have built countless connectors to make the platform work seamlessly with an external system such as Dropbox. One more step in this direction is that you can now add these external apps right into your Office 365 app launcher. Say you use a simple non-Microsoft tool like our Phone Book add-in.

Once it’s downloaded and installed on your tenant, you can easily shift it into your users ‘home’ app view, rather than asking them to take the couple of extra steps it takes to hunt through all their apps to find it. It seems unnecessarily simple, yet as is often the case with user experience design, that one extra click can be the difference in your users adopting certain processes.

Get the most out of the Office 365 app launcher

If we had to make a criticism of Office 365, it’s that it has, until recently, been pretty restrictive on the customisation front. So, this latest set of improvements is very welcome—it will make using the tool that much easier to use, will fit just the little bit more easily around how people work and give that little bit more convenience that will make them engage with and adopt the platform wholeheartedly.

Customise Office 365 with the tools you love—find out more about our Office 365 apps and add-ins here.

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