Connecting tasks experiences across Microsoft 365

July 28, 2020

The original article is published on the Microsoft Tech Community Microsoft 365 Blog.

This new world of work can feel scattered. Even if you’re an old pro at working from home, things have changed. Your calendar is filled with meetings, you’re constantly managing requests from your team—not to mention your actual work. At times (or all the time), it can feel impossible to manage your ever-growing list of priorities, especially since those too are scattered across your calendar, Word docs, spiral notebooks, and sticky notes.

In this new normal, Microsoft’s vision for a unified tasks experience, which we first announced at Ignite last year, is more relevant than ever. Since then, we’ve made significant progress in creating a coherent, integrated, and intelligent experience to help you stay organized. Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Planner, Microsoft To Do, and Office—specifically, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint—all play a role in the Microsoft 365 tasks experience.

We’re celebrating progress in this space with the launch of a dedicated Microsoft 365 tasks experience webpage, where you can read about all the app connections that bring unified task management to life. But don’t go yet! Read on to see what we’ve been up to since Ignite and to learn more about our vision for this effort.

Teams: manage all your individual and team tasks in one place

If you’re like us, Teams is the nucleus of your workday, especially now that so much of our work is done remotely. So, it’s no coincidence that our unified tasks effort also centers around Teams, which brings tasks from both Planner and To Do into Tasks in Teams. First announced at Ignite last year, Tasks in Teams started rolling out to our customers today and will continue through the end of September. You can read more about the rollout here.

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We’ve made some exciting additions to the Tasks in Teams experience since the Ignite announcement. Here’s short summary of those changes, which are covered more extensively on our dedicated Microsoft Docs page.

  • Task publishing. Designed for companies that need strong communication between corporate and a large, geographically dispersed Firstline Workforce, task publishing lets you create tasks at the corporate level and push those tasks to targeted locations of their Firstline Workforce. Store managers can easily assign tasks to individual employees, while Firstline Workers can see a simple prioritized list of those tasks on their personal or company-issued mobile device. This task flow delivers an easy way for corporate and Firstline Workers to drive the right actions like sales promotions needed for business success. If you’re interested in task publishing—this feature is currently in private preview—please fill out this form to nominate your company.

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  • List view. Tasks in Teams includes the traditional Board, Charts, and Schedule views from Planner, plus the new Lists view, adding another option for visually managing all your tasks.
  • Edit multiple tasks at once. List view also comes with bulk editing capabilities, where you can select multiple tasks and make the same edits to all of them simultaneously. This feature supports changes for progress, priority, due date, and more depending on what task list you're looking at.
  • APIs and Power Automate. You can use Graph API and Power Automate integrations for Planner and To Do to surface tasks created in other apps in Tasks in Teams. Read more about these APIs on our respective Planner and To Do pages, but note that the existing To Do API will soon get updated to a new one. For Power Automate, search “Planner” or “To Do” on the homepage for a host of premade workflow templates.  

Outlook: take control of your entire day  

Outlook is more than email and calendar: it’s your personal organizer, where you manage your day around work and life commitments—often in the context of tasks. Like Tasks in Teams, Outlook is another hub for the Microsoft 365 tasks experience, where integrated task management capabilities leverage familiar and intelligent solutions to streamline your workday’s commitments.

  • My Day. Through My Day in Outlook, you can quickly see what your day looks like without disrupting your email workflow. My Day has two tabs: a calendar for creating and viewing meetings and events, and the To Do tab, lets you manage your individual tasks and lists. Any changes are synced to all your task lists across Microsoft 365.
  • Tasks from email. Turn an email into a task or event by dragging and dropping it into My Day, flagging it in your Outlook message list, or selecting the Create a Task option in the email itself.  For help while you’re away from your computer, use Play My Emails in Outlook mobile to flag emails for your To Do list or ask Cortana to add an email to your tasks list.

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  • Tasks from To Do in Search. When you open Search in Outlook mobile, it will proactively pull your top three tasks, regardless of where you created them, and add them to the Search home page. You can easily check them off your list as you go, or quickly open the To Do app to edit or add new tasks.
  • Cortana Briefing email. To help you prepare for upcoming meetings and stay on top of commitments, the personalized Cortana Briefing email appears automatically in your Outlook inbox around the start of your workday. In that email, Cortana recommends action items from previous threads that you can add as tasks to To Do.
  • MyAnalytics. If you’re using the MyAnalytics Insights add-in in Outlook, the “View outstanding tasks” insight reminds you of tasks that you've agreed to do during the last 14 days. You can also see inline suggestions to review suggested outstanding tasks for the person who sent the email or calendar invitation.

Planner and To Do: powering the Microsoft 365 tasks experience

The sub-headline says it all: Planner and To Do power the Microsoft 365 tasks experience. It’s from these apps that your team and individual tasks appear in Teams and Outlook. But that doesn’t mean they’re going away; on the contrary, Planner and To Do are critical to the success of this task management motion, so we’re as dedicated as ever to their evolution.

Planner is your go-to app for team tasks. Built around the Kanban approach to task management for teams, Planner lets you easily create plan boards and populate them with information-rich task cards that include files, checklists, labels, and more—everything you need to see tasks through to completion. The entire board can be organized around buckets and filtered based on priority, assignee, and other details. As your plan gains momentum, you can check the entire effort’s progress in the visual Charts view, where premade pie and bar charts provide quick status for all your plan’s tasks and team members.

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On the personal side of tasks is To Do, your go-to app for individual tasks. The perfect tool for homing in on your day’s top priorities, To Do helps create sanity in this new world of work. The To Do experience starts with My Day, where you can enter tasks you’d like to focus on for the day. These tasks can be manually added on your tablet or phone, or by asking Cortana to add one for you, and then tracked in Outlook. Added tasks are synced across Microsoft 365. This integration extends to Planner: tasks assigned to you there show up in the Assigned to you smart list. You can easily switch between your work and personal accounts on Android and Windows devices, too. But the best part? The To Do app is free, which means your family and friends with a Microsoft account can use it to coordinate on everything you love in your personal life. You can even share lists between your personal and work accounts, a highly requested feature that we’ve started rolling out this month.

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Word, Excel, PowerPoint: capture tasks without switching apps

Tasks can originate from anywhere at any time. This is particularly problematic if you need to break concentration from whichever Office document you’re in to assign that task through another app. But those were the old days; these days—these new Microsoft 365 tasks experience days—you can assign tasks using comment @mentions directly in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

This capability is now rolling out in Word and Excel for the web, with PowerPoint for the web availability coming soon. In the future, these tasks will also show up in Planner and To Do.

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@mention task assignments trigger email notifications with a link to the comment in the document. The email notification shows your comment alongside the associated Word sentence, Excel cell, or PowerPoint slide. Add to that Microsoft’s threaded comments experience, and task assignees have all the context they need to get started on the assignment. The person you @mentioned can also respond to the comment directly from their email notification without opening the associated doc.

@mention task assignments, which are a logical extension of a familiar feature (i.e., in-app comments), are a perfect example of the work we’re doing around the Microsoft 365 tasks experience. As we build out this motion, look for similar capabilities that bring task management coherence and integration to your everyday productivity apps.

Continuously connecting the dots

This unified tasks experience is a year old, but we’ve only just begun. Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and organization to achieve more, and we believe streamlining task management advances this goal. This starts with what you’ve read here: connecting the apps and services you use most into a coherent, integrated, and intelligent experience. This is especially important in this new, often-scattered world of work.

We hope you’ll continue to follow us on this journey through the Microsoft 365 tasks experience webpage. This experience is part of a larger collaborative work management initiative that we just launched last week at Microsoft Inspire. You can watch the 30-minute presentation video about that effort here. And as always, if you have ideas for improving your productivity, drop us a line on the various product UserVoice pages (Teams, Outlook, Planner, To Do, Word, Excel, PowerPoint).

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