Tag Archives: SkyDrive

Microsoft Announces Updates to SkyDrive Cloud Storage Site

Introduction:
Microsoft recently announced a series of enhancements to SkyDrive, their web-based cloud file storage service.   This is another step in the right direction for Microsoft as they try to gain market share in the cloud-based file storage and web applications arena. Some of the recent improvements announced include:

Better sharing capabilities:
This is one area that was always a little clunky for SkyDrive.  Before, you were forced to place the files you wish to share within a folder that was “shared” and open for public viewing.   In addition, it was difficult for users to share files with other people who were outside of the Microsoft ecosystem.

With the new improvements, both of these issues are addressed by allowing files to be shared individually from any folder (instead of only from a “shared” folder) and with other users through several different methods (email, links, and social networks).  As stated on their blog, Microsoft is hoping to create a more “app-centric” experience.

More User Friendly File Management
File management in SkyDrive has not been their strong point.  In comparison to other cloud-based services like Google DocsBox, and Zoho, the SkyDrive user interface has been underwhelming.    These most recent updates hope to address some of those issues.

Some of the added file management functionality include:

  • The ability to change file and folder names inline
  • Move, delete and download multiple files
  • Move and Copy folders and files more easily
  • The addition of right-click functionality for photos and documents
  • Faster creation of Office Web Apps files.

Enhanced User Experience
In addition to the improvements to sharing and file management, Microsoft also made some additional changes to increase the overall speed and user experience for SkyDrive.  Some of the other improvements include:

  • Better browser support for FireFox, Chrome, and Safari
  • Ability to read other file types (PDF, RAW, etc.)
  • Enhanced photo editing

In Conclusion
All of these improvements I think show that Microsoft recognizes that the future is in the cloud.  Even with these improvements, I still think they have a way to go to catch up with other services like Box and Google.

The good news for them is that cloud-based file storage is still in its infancy and they stand to grab a huge market share of enterprise users who currently use products like SharePoint and Office.  As businesses slowly move to the cloud, Microsoft will be in a position to gather a large portion of those customers that wish to keep continuity in their products.

We’ll be watching to see where SkyDrive end up in the cloud computing race.

-TW

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Microsoft Office Web Apps - Excel

An Intro to Microsoft Office Web Apps: Nice Interface, Needs Functionality

Introduction:
In the past few weeks, I’ve posted a few articles comparing several web-base word processing and spreadsheet applications.  For the word processors, I focused on Google Docs, Zoho Writer, ThinkFree, and Adobe Buzzword and for the spreadsheets; Google Docs, Zoho Sheet, ThinkFree, and Sheetster.   Based on my review, Zoho and ThinkFree were the best online word processors, and Zoho Sheet was the runaway winner for spreadsheets.

The one major provider that provides web-based productivity suites that I was not able to review was Microsoft.  At the time of my original postings, Microsoft had not fully released their versions of Microsoft Office Web AppsOffice Web Apps is Microsoft’s answer to the Google Docs, ThinkFree, and Zoho web-based office suites.   This post will provide a brief review of both the Word and Excel web-based applications.

Microsoft Office Web Apps - Excel

Microsoft Office Web Apps - Excel

The ‘Excel Web Apps’ Review:
The first tool I tried with Office Web Apps was Excel.  I uploaded the same test file that I used in the original web-based spreadsheet test I did a few weeks ago to  Microsoft’s data storage site (dubbed Skydrive) that doubles as the  access point to their web-based office suite.

To my surprise, the file would not even open!  This was definitely a significant negative to me.   All of the other programs (Google, ThinkFree, and Zoho) were able to at least load the file, even if all the functionality associated with the VBA macros and PivotTables that were included in the test file were not available.    I then went back and opened the file in my desktop version of Excel and removed both the macros and the PivotTables and tried again.  I was able to open the file.

After opening the file, I was pleasantly surprised out how nice the user’s interface was.  Microsoft did an excellent job at maintaining a consistent feel between their Office 2010 desktop and online versions.    For the most part, all of the basic functions worked well and were included within the program.   Most advanced features did not work in the online version of Excel.  The VLOOKUP tables did work well.

Pros: Great user interface consistent with desktop version, speed, drag-and-drop uploading through SkyDrive
Cons: Not able to import Excel files with advanced features, lack of advanced functionality, folder structure in SkyDrive

Microsoft Office Web Apps - Word

Microsoft Office Web Apps - Word

The ‘Word Web Apps’ Review:
When I tried the web-based Word application, I had similar feelings to those I had when reviewing the web-based Excel.  I uploaded the same test file that I used in the original web-based word processing test and started to review the document.

The test file imported well.  There were a couple of areas where the graphics were not justified correctly, but it was easy to fix that.  I liked how user interface had the same feel as the Office 2010 desktop version and was easy use.   Like the web-based Excel version, only basic functions were included within the web-based version.

Overall, I thought the web-based version of Word performed about the same as the other programs previously reviewed (Google Docs, Zoho, ThinkFree, Adobe), even though  it did not have all of the advanced functionality of some of the other programs.

Pros: Nice interface, easy upload, consistent import
Cons: Lack of advanced functionality, some graphical import problems.

In Summary:
I was pleasantly surprised with Microsoft Office Web Apps.  With a few tweaks and with the addition of some advanced features, I think it could easily outperform all of the other competitors.  One thing that I am not aware of is how the licensing works. I own versions of Office XP, 2003, and 2007 and did not have any problems accessing and creating files on SkyDrive.

I believe that web-based office suites are still in their infancy. If Microsoft is able to respond to customer’s demands, work out licensing issues that can compete with companies like Google and Zoho, and invest in more advanced features, I think they can still hold a large portion of the market for the foreseeable future.

Related Articles:
Get Ready for Microsoft Office 2010
Comparing Zoho, Google, Adobe, and ThinkFree Online Word Processors
A Brief Comparison of Online Spreadsheets

Office 2010

Get Ready for Microsoft Office 2010

Office 2010

Source: Microsoft

Last year Microsoft announced they will be releasing the latest version of Office, aptly named Office 2010,  in mid-2010.   I have not found a firm date, but some sites have suggested it will be released around May or June.The layout of Office 2010 will be similar to that of Office 2007.  Some of the new key features that will be incorporated into the latest version include:

– The ‘Ribbon’ has been modified to be more intuitive and easier to use
– Enhanced integration with Microsoft’s SkyDrive web site.
– Increased image editing capabilities within the Office applications
– Enhanced social media connectivity and collaboration tools

Rumors also have been floating that Microsoft will offer free online versions of Excel, Word, and PowerPoint through Microsoft’s Live Office website to compete with other online programs like Zoho and Google Docs.   I’m skeptical about this since I have not seen anything from Microsoft that can compete with Zoho and Google’s strictly 100% online applications – they may be possibly waiting to release access to this until Office 2010 is officially released.

Other changes include the addition of Office 2010 Starter to replace Microsoft Works and a new mobile version of Office 2010.

Screenshots of Office 2010 can be found on the CNET website.   Microsoft has also released a beta version to the public which can be downloaded from their site.

Sources:  Microsoft.com, Wikipedia.org, CNET.com