New Microsoft Teams app eliminates an obvious advantage for Zoom

A new add-on has introduced real-time translation functionality to video meetings on Microsoft Teams, closing the gap on rival vendor Zoom.

The service is supplied by a company called Interprefy, which was invited to integrate its cloud-based translation offering into Microsoft Teams.

The integration gives Microsoft customers access to Interprefy’s network of professional interpreters, who dial into meetings on request. Once a session has begun, users can switch between the original audio feed and the interpreter’s translation via a drop-down menu.


(Image credit: Interprefy)

Live translation for video meetings

Back in June 2021, Zoom announced the acquisition of live translation startup Kites GmbH, which was brought on to help develop machine translation (MT) solutions that would allow users to communicate in real-time with colleagues from across the world.

“We are continuously looking for new ways to deliver happiness to our users and improve meeting productivity, and MT solutions will be key in enhancing our platform for Zoom customers across the globe,” said Velchamy Sankarlingam, President of Product and Engineering at Zoom, at the time.

Although this vision hasn’t come to fruition just yet, Zoom has also long offered the ability for human interpreters to dial into meetings via a feature called Simultaneous Interpretations.

Until now, Microsoft has been able to offer neither machine-based nor human translation, but the integration of Interprefy into the Teams platform will fill this gap in lieu of a first-party offering.

“We're thrilled to have been working closely with Microsoft in bringing Interprefy's multilingual meeting expertise to Teams users worldwide”, says Oddmund Braaten, CEO at Interprefy. “This is a huge step towards inclusivity and accessibility of global meetings to foster cross-cultural understanding and collaboration.”

Separately, but in a similar vein, Microsoft announced earlier this week that it would open up its live captions feature to a wider pool of users in an effort to improve accessibility standards.

Introduced soon after the shift to remote working as a result of the pandemic, the Microsoft Teams live captions feature is designed to ensure all video meeting participants can follow the thread of conversation effectively.

Until now, the live captions feature has been gated behind a registration wall. In other words, if someone was joining a meeting as a guest via a link provided by the host, they would have to make do without the accessibility feature. But this will no longer be the case, courtesy of an update expected to land by the end of April.

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This new Microsoft Excel feature is so obvious we can’t believe it didn’t already exist

Microsoft is preparing an update for spreadsheet software Excel that rectifies an obvious shortcoming dating back a number of years.

According to a new entry in the company’s product roadmap, Excel will soon allow users to drop hyperlinks into comments added to spreadsheets. Currently, links can only be added to comments in plaintext, so must be pasted manually into a web browser.

The feature is currently under development, but should roll out to all Microsoft 365 users by the end of next month.

Given the simplicity and obvious utility of the new Excel feature, we found it difficult to believe it didn’t already exist. But lo and behold, a brief investigation revealed the current version will not allow the user to click through a link embedded in a comment thread, which adds unnecessary friction to the experience.

A quick search online reveals this is a problem Excel users have faced for years. Until now, people have had to rely on a rough-and-ready workaround to sidestep the issue.


(Image credit: Future)

As various online tutorials demonstrate, it is possible to add a hyperlink to a note (which is distinct from a comment) and pin that note to the sheet so it doesn’t disappear when the user mouses away from the associated cell. Microsoft Excel will then launch that URL in the default browser when someone clicks through via the note.

However, this method is neither particularly straightforward (it demands all existing formatting and any additional characters are removed from the note) nor particularly pretty, so the ability to simply drop a hyperlink into a comment thread will be welcome.

The update can be considered part of the wider campaign to optimize Microsoft 365 apps for live collaboration, in a world in which many people expect to either remain remote or adopt a hybrid working model.

In December, for example, Microsoft rolled out a series of improvements for the Excel web client, which can now support a wider range of files. Microsoft Outlook, meanwhile, received a feature that lets users specify whether they will attend a meeting in-person or through video conferencing software.

The company has even launched an entirely new collaboration app, called Loop, which allows users to create portable components that move freely and stay in-sync across all Microsoft apps.

The new hyperlink facility for Excel is yet another piece of this same puzzle.

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Zoom will soon make it obvious if you’re late to your next big meeting

Zoom is rolling out a number of new updates for its video conferencing software and one of them might finally encourage users to ensure they're on time for their next big meeting.

According to a new blog post from the company, Attendance Status makes it easier for organizations to streamline the start of their Zoom Meetings by allowing meeting hosts and co-hosts using its Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar integrations to view who has accepted or declined a meeting invite.

However, this new feature also gives them the ability to see whether everyone invited to a meeting has joined. If you're used to arriving earlier for video calls, you should be fine but for those that try to slink in unnoticed later on in a meeting, your boss or manager will now be aware of your absence, so tread carefully.

You'll also no longer be able to use the excuse that you had to update your Zoom client as Zoom recently added a new automatic update feature for Windows and macOS that ensures everyone in a meeting is running the latest version of the company's software.

Slides, polling and watermarks

In addition to its new Attendance Status feature, Zoom is also rolling out other new features to help hosts engage with their attendees and get the most out of their recorded content.

As a presenter isn't always the one controlling a slide show, Zoom users can now select multiple people to control the movements of slides in a presentation. This means that presenters will no longer have to ask another attendee to move their presentation forward.

When it comes to getting feedback and insights from team members during meetings, Zoom has added more options for creating polls including ranked responses, matching, short and long answers and even fill in the blank. At the same time though, this feature can also be used for quizzes to create more effective experiences for students, onboarding sessions or other events.

Finally, Zoom is adding additional watermark settings to its software to help organizations and individuals get the most out of their recorded content and avoid distracting watermarks. Users can now set the size and placement of watermarks as well as enable them by default and customize them via the web portal prior to starting a meeting.

Looking to improve your video calls? Check out our roundups of the best video conferencing softwarebest business webcams and best headsets for conference calls

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