Microsoft Removes Reuse Files Feature from Word

Perhaps an Indication that Copilot Does a Better Job?

When I read message center notification MC668802 (18 Aug 2023), the thought went through my mind that Microsoft’s intention to retire the Reuse Files in Word feature might be a reflection of their focus on Copilot for Microsoft 365.

Starting in August 2023, users won’t see the Reuse Files option in the Word ribbon. However, you can still search for and use the feature. When you launch Reuse Files, Word uses Graph API calls to find documents that it thinks you might want to copy content from or include a link to in your current file (Figure 1).

Reuse Files feature in Word
Figure 1: Reuse Files feature in Word

Introduced in late 2020, I thought that the idea of being able to build new documents by reusing work previously done is good. However, Microsoft says that by January 2024, they will remove all traces of the Reuse Files feature from Word. Microsoft didn’t say anything about the availability of Reuse Files in Outlook (for Windows). Nor did they say if the Reuse Slides feature in PowerPoint will disappear sometime in the future.

Improving Your Subscription by Removing Reuse Files

In MC668802, Microsoft says that they are “committed to improving your Microsoft 365 subscription” and “we occasionally remove features and benefits that duplicate equivalent offerings.”

The comment about duplicating equivalent offerings is what brings me to Copilot. It can be argued that the reuse files feature could be replicated by simply opening a Word document and copying text from it into your file. The difference is intelligence. The Reuse Files feature uses Graph API requests to find files that the app thinks might be of use. Unfortunately, the initial set of files that it lists are usually just the last set of files that you’ve worked on, and the files found when you enter a search term don’t always seem to match the request.

At $30/user/month (plus an eligible Microsoft 365 subscription), Microsoft 365 Copilot is expensive. The required investment makes it imperative that organizations select those allowed to use Copilot with care, even if you believe the hype that users only need to get a couple of dollars value from using Copilot to offset its cost. But what we know of Copilot to date is that it applies a lot of artificial intelligence technology to find information to respond to user prompts (queries). In addition, tenants that use Copilot have a semantic index to help find appropriate information. That’s something which doesn’t exist in normal tenants.

Perhaps Microsoft is removing “AI Lite” features like Reuse Files from the playing field to give Copilot a clear run. Put another way, not having features like Reuse Files in the Microsoft 365 apps emphasizes the usefulness and capabilities of Copilot for Microsoft 365.

Maybe an Innocuous Decision

It’s entirely possible that I am reading too much into an innocuous decision by Microsoft to remove a feature that isn’t used very much. Microsoft might have decided that the engineering effort required to maintain and support the Reuse Files feature isn’t worth it because of low usage (or because the feature really isn’t very good). After all, if users don’t know about a feature, they won’t use it (OWA search refiners might be another example).

Only Microsoft knows, and they cloud the decision in words that make it seem that the removal of the Reuse Files feature is for our own good. Maybe it is. Who knows?

Clearing the Deck

Microsoft removes relatively few features from Microsoft 365. Clutter is one example, replaced by Outlook’s Focused Inbox. It’s nice to think that Microsoft removes items to improve our subscriptions. I suspect that the truth is that feature removals clear the deck and make it easier for Microsoft rather than users.

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