Christian Braun is a program manager on the Office Shared Experience engineering team.
At the beginning of this year, we launched a brand-new feature in Word Online, Tell Me. Tell Me is now also available in Excel Online and PowerPoint Online. We figured that this update to Office Online might be a good time to tell you more about what motivated us to build this feature and how you can use it to be even more productive.
Tell Me is located right in the middle of the Ribbon.
We know that Office apps are being used for a stunning array of different purposes. There simply is no typical Office usage scenario or Office user. However, there is one thing we keep hearing from our users very regularly: productivity is key for them. Tell Me is aimed squarely at this goal: enabling you to get more done with Office Online.
The basic idea is simple. We all know the feeling when we want to do something in, say, Word, but can’t quite remember how to do it. Wouldn’t it be great if we could ask the app to help us out? That’s exactly where Tell Me comes in. You tell it what you want to do and it shows you the commands you need.
Tell Me is designed from the ground up to be fast, convenient, and efficient. Let’s take a closer look at how it can help you be more productive.
One of the key ways Tell Me saves you time is by allowing you to use intuitive language to find the commands you need. When you start typing in the Tell Me box, you don’t have to stop and try to remember what something is called officially in the app. Whether you type “insert picture,” “new image,” “add pic,” or just “pic,” Tell Me has your back and will display the Insert Picture command.
Speaking of language, you don’t even have to use complete words when you’re typing in the Tell Me box to search for a command. Tell Me uses a technique called “word-wheeling,” which enables it to start showing results as soon as you start typing. With every keystroke, the results are modified and refined. This means that you might use just a few letters to get to the desired command. As the screenshot below shows, typing “fon” is enough to get you to the various font-related commands. These instant results that appear as you type mean more time saved. Sometimes you don’t even have to type anything at all to find the command you need. Tell Me shows you the last five commands you executed following a search, so you can simply repeat an earlier command by clicking it, without typing anything. It doesn’t get any easier than that!
Tell Me displaying results for incomplete input and showing recently used commands
Tell Me helps you find the command you need fast by allowing you to access all the command buttons that an app has to offer in one place. Even if your current context is not the right one for a specific command, Tell Me still shows you the command. That way, you know the command is available in the app, even though you need to move your cursor to a different place to use it.
For example, if your cursor is in a paragraph of text and you type “insert row” into the Tell Me box, the results shown will include “Insert Above” and “Insert Below”; however, these results are grayed out, i.e. they are not clickable, because they are table-related commands. In order to use them, simply move your cursor into a table and issue the same query again.
Here’s another time saver: to help you to get to Tell Me really fast, we introduced a new shortcut to it in Office Online, giving you one-key access to finding the command you need. Wherever you are in your document, just hit CTRL + ‘ (apostrophe) and the cursor moves right to the Tell Me box on the Ribbon so you can start typing away!
You can also get to Office Help right from the Tell Me box, either by asking directly for it (just type “help”) or by clicking the Help link that appears at the bottom of every Tell Me list of results (See related tips and articles).
You can get to Office Help right from Tell Me.
All these time-savers combine to make Tell Me a very powerful command tool—whether you’re working in Word Online, PowerPoint Online, or Excel Online. Here’s a video that gives you an example of how you can use this tool to increase your productivity while working on data in Excel Online.
What if Tell Me doesn’t work the way you expect it to? Or you have an idea for how to improve it? Let us know about it! How? It’s easy. Just type “feedback” in the Tell Me box and it will guide you to the Microsoft feedback page. We’d love to hear from you. With your help, we can make this the best productivity-enhancing feature imaginable!