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10 secret Office 365 features you need to know

Office 365 has built on previous versions of Microsoft Office to deliver the best-yet software for getting stuff done. There are a bunch of great features across its apps that save you time and effort, which is really what makes Office 365 the success it is.

Some of these features are not always well known, so we rounded up some of our favorites that we use every day to help handle our workload.

PowerPoint laser pointer

If you're ever about to begin a PowerPoint presentation and realize you left your trusty laser pointer at home, PowerPoint has a feature that lets you turn your cursor into a glowing red dot.

Here's how to use a PowerPoint laser pointer in an existing PowerPoint document:

  1. Launch PowerPoint from your Start menu, desktop, or taskbar.
  2. Click Open Other Presentation.

  1. Click the PowerPoint file you'd like to open.
  2. Click the Slide Show button near the bottom of the window. It looks like a projector.

  1. Hold Ctrl on your keyboard.
  2. Click and hold the left mouse button.

Your mouse cursor will now turn into a glowing red dot, just as if you were holding and pointing a real laser pointer.

Create PDF files in Word

Switching between software to work with PDF files slows you and your PC down. Word can handle creating PDFs, so that you can stay focused on the task at hand.

Here's how to create a new Word document and export it as a PDF file:

  1. Launch Word from your Start menu, desktop, or taskbar.
  2. Click Blank document to open a new document.

  1. Type any content you'd like to be in the PDF file.
  2. Click File in the top left corner.

  1. Click Export.
  2. Click Create PDF/XPS.

  1. Type a filename for the PDF document
  2. Click Publish.

Edit the text of a PDF file in Word

The content of existing PDF files can be imported into Word to be edited, then saved as a DOC or other filetype.

  1. Launch Word from your Start menu, desktop, or taskbar.
  2. Click Open Other Documents.
  3. Double-click the PDF file you'd like to open.

  1. Click OK.
  2. Make any changes to the PDF.

  1. Click the Save button in the top left corner of the screen. It looks like a floppy disk.
  2. Click the dropdown arrow next to Save as type.

  1. Click the filetype you'd like to save the PDF as.
  2. Click Save.

Create a password-protected section within a OneNote notebook

If you share your OneNote notebooks with other people, you sometimes want to keep certain information private. No problem! You can add password protection to selected sections of OneNote notebooks.

Here's how to create a new notebook and add a password to a section:

  1. Launch OneNote from your Start menu, desktop, or taskbar.
  2. Click File in the top left corner.

  1. Click New.
  2. Click the Notebook Name field.

  1. Type a name.
  2. Click Create Notebook.

  1. Type content you'd like to password protect.
  2. Right-click the New Section 1 tab.

  1. Click Password Protect This Section.
  2. Click Set Password.

  1. Type a password and hit Tab on your keyboard.
  2. Type the same password to confirm.

  1. Click OK.
  2. Click Lock All to lock any sections of the notebook you created a password for.

Your password protected sections within this notebook are now locked down. There are no backup for the password, so don't forget it or you will also be locked out.

Access password-protected notebook sections in OneNote

Once you've created a password-protected section of a notebook, you need to know how to open it!

  1. Launch OneNote from your Start menu, desktop, or taskbar.
  2. Click File in the top left corner.
  3. Click Open.

  1. Click the file you'd like to open.
  2. Click within the section or hit Enter on your keyboard to begin the unlock process.

  1. Type your password.
  2. Click OK.

Get help, fast

If you can't find a tool in the Office 365 app's menu, you can type a quick question and you'll be shown the tool you're looking for from a dropdown menu.

Here's how to open a new Word document and get help fast:

  1. Launch an Office 365 app from your Start menu, desktop, or taskbar. In this case we use Word.
  2. Click Blank document.
  3. Click the Tell me what to do field. It's located near the top of the window and has a lightbulb beside it.

  1. Type your question or problem.
  2. Click the corresponding action from the dropdown menu.

Change OneNote handwriting into text

Did you have a great idea that you jotted down using OneNote's drawing tool? Maybe they've piled up for awhile, but now you want to change the written notes to text.

Here's how to create a new Notebook, draw a note, then change it into text:

  1. Launch OneNote from your Start menu, desktop, or taskbar.
  2. Click File in the top left corner.

  1. Click New.
  2. Click the Notebook Name field.

  1. Type a name.
  2. Click Create Notebook.

  1. Click Draw.
  2. Cick a drawing tool.

  1. Click and hold to draw a note.
  2. Right-click the drawn text.

  1. Click Convert Ink.
  2. Click Ink to Text.

No, it's not perfect, but those of you with nice handwriting will have a much better time with this feature.

Save time with Flash Fill in Excel

If you're ever working in Excel with an enormous table of data, Excel can help you out by automatically filling in values. All you need to do is insert enough data for Excel to notice a pattern, and it will take care of the rest.

Here's how to open an existing Excel spreadsheet and use Flash Fill on the data already within:

  1. Launch Excel from your Start menu, desktop, or taskbar.
  2. Click Open Other Workbooks.

  1. Click the file you'd like to open.
  2. Type a value in a cell and hit Enter on your keyboard.
  3. Hit Ctrl + E on your keyboard to automatically fill in the rest of the column values.

Click the file you would like to open. Type a value in a cell and hit Enter on your keyboard.

If Flash Fill doesn't work immediately, keep filling in values until Excel recognizes a pattern.

Create custom animations in PowerPoint

Morph in PowerPoint allows you to create custom animations using virtually any art or text inserted into your slides. It's really up to you what you do with the tool, and some people get very creative with weaving images in and out of their presentations.

We'll leave the intricate art up to you, but here's how to create a new PowerPoint presentation and float a star between two slides.

  1. Launch PowerPoint from your Start menu, desktop, or desktop.
  2. Double-click a presentation template.

  1. Click Insert.
  2. Click Shapes.

  1. Click a star.
  2. Click and drag your mouse to create a star.

  1. Right-click the slide thumbnail to the left of the window.
  2. Click Duplicate slide.

  1. Click and drag the star to a new location.
  2. Hold Shift on your keyboard and click the first slide thumbnail.

  1. Click Transitions.
  2. Click Morph.

You'll be shown a preview of the animation you just created. This can be chained along multiple slides, and with much more intricate artwork.

Create instant charts with Excel

Having a lot of data in Excel can be confusing, especially if you just need to reference the data quickly and often. Excel has an included tool that automatically creates a chart from data.

Here's how to open an existing Excel spreadsheet and create a chart from the data within:

  1. Launch Excel from your Start menu, desktop, or taskbar.
  2. Click Open Other Workbooks.

  1. Click the file in which you'd like to create a chart.
  2. Click and drag to highlight the data you'd like made into a chart.
  3. Hit F11 on your desktop keyboard, or Fn + F11 if you're using a laptop.

That's all there is to it. Excel will switch over to the sheet containing the chart.

Here's how to switch back to your sheet containing numerical data:

  1. Click the Sheet 1 tab. It is located near the bottom of the window.

Here's how to delete the chart when you're finished with it:

  1. Right-click the Chart1 tab. It is located near the bottom of the window.
  2. Click Delete.

  1. Click Delete.

Your favorite Office 365 features

What are some less-known features of Office 365 you love to use? Let us know in the comments section below!

Cale Hunt
Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.

13 Comments
  • PDF to Word and viceversa have been life savers since Office 2007/2010.
  • Yep but improved a lot again in 2016... More complex pdf documents are converted much better now.
  • What's wrong with simply Save As > PDF? It is one of the available file types in the drop-down menu.
  • Sorry, double post.
  • 10 secret features of Office 365? What is this? WC propaganda for Office 365 subscriptions? These are all available for retail versions of Office 2016. Why "Office 365" remark?
  • Maybe because most people have Office 2016 through Office 365?
  • Why is that soo important?;)
  • Actually, iirc the Morph functionality in Powerpoint is currently only available to Office 365 Subscribers. A lot of new features are exclusive to 365 when they launch.
  • I hope MS doesn't remove these features because telemetry data shows no one uses it. It's a secret, so if they want people to use it they gotta advertise. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Can't remember where oh found this video ( maybe on this site or in Reddit AMA thread) but I've found a bunch of cool stuff in it
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nbkaYsR94c Good demo and jokes makes it great
  • The notebooks I password protect in OneNote 2016 are not password protected in OneNote Mobile and are viewable without hindrance. Am I doing something wrong?
  • ...but if we know them, they won't be secret features anymore!
  • "Secret" - Microsoft doesn't communicate with its customers about their products. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android