Image © Microsoft Corporation
Microsoft has an interesting way to get the public hyped up about its products: the Insider program. Becoming an Office Insider is a way for early adopters to see what the company has in store for upcoming releases of its products within the Microsoft Office suite.
It’s not for everyone
Office 365 subscribers can become Office Insiders, but people who own standalone versions of PowerPoint are not. I suppose their reasoning is that being an Insider means that you receive regular software updates that include new features for you to try, and if you own a standalone copy of PowerPoint you are not likely to want or need regular updates.
There are two tracks, Slow and Fast. Office Insider Slow is for people who want fully supported builds and minimal risk. Office Insider Fast, according to the MS website, “[Is] best for Insiders who want to use the earliest preview builds, released more frequently, to identify issues, provide feedback to help make Office great, and don’t mind a bit of risk using unsupported builds. By choosing the Fast level, you agree to the program’s terms, which supersede your agreement with Microsoft to use Office.” So if you want the most stable updates and the least amount of risk that untested builds will somehow mess up your system, Office Insider Fast is probably not for you.
Why become an Office Insider?
With the risks involved in being an Office Insider, why would anyone join? For the same reason people clamor to be the first person to leave a comment on a YouTube video: you get to play with all the cool toys before the general public does! Plus, you get to provide feedback to Microsoft regarding your experiences with the new builds.
Some cool Insider releases for PowerPoint
I decided to take the plunge and join Office Insider Fast. Once I updated Office 365 I had some great new toys to play with:
Have you been staring at a blank slide for the past 30 minutes, wondering how to begin your next presentation? Well, stare no more with PowerPoint Quick Starter! You enter a subject, pick your starter slides then get your outline. The outline includes a title slide and a lot of information to get you started on researching your subject.
Easier background removal
The app now automatically detects the general background areas of your photo. Plus, the pencil for marking areas to keep or remove can now draw freeform lines instead of just the straight ones. When you’re selecting areas to remove the pencil lines are red, and when you’re selecting areas to keep the lines are green. This provides a nice visual cue for what you’re doing.
Now I don’t have to go searching all over the Interwebs to find those oh-so-trendy icons my clients demand! These scale beautifully and you can easily change their colors.
Select a word and right-click it. The Smart lookup panel appears and shows you the results of the search. Pretty cool if you’re too busy/lazy to look stuff up using a proper Web browser.
Is it worth the risk? It’s up to you!
For all of the caveats Microsoft lists for becoming an Office Insider, I was unable to find any online instances of horror stories related to system crashes, file destruction, plagues of locusts or anything else. I suppose time will tell if being an Office Insider messes up my computer somehow. For now, the great new tools I’ve received have made it worthwhile!