Office 365 customers can sign up to get new features early

Microsoft also launched a Web page listing current and upcoming enhancements for the cloud suite

Microsoft launched a public roadmap web page for Office 365

Microsoft launched a public roadmap web page for Office 365

Microsoft will give Office 365 customers the option to receive new and improved features considered to be significant before they are made generally available.

Customers who opt into the program, called First Release, will get these important updates at least two weeks before their scheduled rollout.

To sign up, Office 365 admins can go into the "service settings" area of their management console and turn on the First Release option, Microsoft said in a blog post Thursday.

Microsoft is surfacing the option gradually in the admin consoles and expects it to be visible to every Office 365 eligible customer within the next week. Within the next few months, Office 365 admins will be notified when the first batch of early release enhancements will be available to them.

First Release is available to business and academic users of Office 365, but not to customers of other editions of the suite, such as the Office 365 Government Community Cloud for U.S. government customers.

The enhancements distributed early via First Release will apply to the Office 365 user experience, SharePoint Online and Exchange Online. Other Office 365 components, like Lync Online, Exchange Online Protection and Office 365 ProPlus, aren't included in the program for now.

The First Release features won't be considered to be in beta status, but rather as "fully tested and supported," according to the blog post.

Microsoft also announced a new Web page that lists many recent enhancements to Office 365, as well as those that have been announced but not yet delivered.

"The public roadmap will be your best source of truth for product enhancements coming to the service," wrote Office 365 group product manager Jake Zborowski in the blog post.

The public road-map page is an attempt by Microsoft to keep Office 365 customers better informed about changes and enhancements to the suite, which can be hard to keep track of because they're being delivered continuously and at a rapid pace.

"Just as we transformed our development processes, we need to transform our communication processes regarding changes and future updates to the service," Zborowski wrote.

The concept and design of the public road-map page came from feedback from the Yammer team and from Office 365 customers, according to Zborowski.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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