Feeds

Microsoft Office 2013 heads for the cloud but fails to soar

Deep inside Redmond's cash cow: many improvements ... but ... yawn...

High performance access to file storage

Office and SkyDrive, joined at the hip

More interesting than the various nips and tucks made to the individual Office applications, however, are the broader changes that link Office to Microsoft's online service offerings. That linkage becomes explicit with an Office 365 subscription, but it's there even for the perpetual-license version of Office 2013, unless you go out of your way to break it.

It all comes down to Microsoft Accounts and SkyDrive. When you install a new copy of Office 2013 and start using it, it makes every effort to remind you to sign into a Microsoft Account. If you're using Windows 8, you're probably already signed into one, so it will use that by default. If you're not signed in and you attempt to create a document, you'll be reminded again.

The idea that Microsoft is trying to drive home here is that Office and SkyDrive are inextricably connected. Each Microsoft Account comes with a certain amount of SkyDrive storage, and once you're logged in, SkyDrive becomes the default save location for new documents and the go-to place to find old ones. If you use Office, you're supposed to be using SkyDrive.

I'm still not totally sold on this. For starters, it means that saving new documents takes longer, because the new Save As screen requires more clicks than the old dialog box that assumed you wanted to save your document to a local drive.

What's more, the whole idea of using a network share on the public internet as primary storage just seems sketchy. Naturally, loading and saving files is slower than with local storage. Worse, it can lead to unpredictable results.

If I open a document from SkyDrive in Word 2013, lose my network connection, then try to save my changes, the operation seemingly completes without an error message. I can even quit Word and my changes are preserved. Open the file again, though, and rather than reloading it from the server, Word loads it from wherever it tucked it away on local storage and warns me that an update to SkyDrive is still pending. How do I know I have the most recent version of the document? What if it changed on the server since I last opened it?

For that matter, why mess around with loading and saving files directly to and from the server at all, when the SkyDrive client for Windows syncs local files to the cloud automatically? Isn't that a faster and more reliable way to handle cloud storage?

Mind you, you can still store files on your local drive. You just have to be explicit about it. But by doing everything it can to ensure that customers are logged into their Microsoft Accounts and storing their Office documents on SkyDrive, Microsoft gains two things: Customers stay beholden to Microsoft's online services (obviously), and Microsoft can offer cloud-based services around Office documents.

Cloudy with a chance of documents

So far, most of Office 2013's cloudy features involve document sharing and collaboration. For example, because every document stored on SkyDrive has a unique URL, it's easy to send large files via email or IM using SkyDrive URLs, rather than as attachments. In Office 2013, you can do this right from the File menus of the various applications, without launching a separate client.

Storing documents on SkyDrive also means they are viewable using the Office Web Apps – which, while not perfect, make documents accessible from any device that has a modern, standards-compliant web browser.

Office 2013 gives you lots of ways to share documents through the cloud

Office 2013 provides many ways to share documents via the cloud (click to enlarge)

Not surprisingly, Microsoft has worked to integrate Office with various social networking sites, as well, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, by linking users' social network accounts to their Microsoft Accounts.

In some cases, these links have obvious value; for example, Outlook 2013 can now sync contacts with social networks. In other cases, Microsoft seems to have added social features just because it could. How many times will I need to post an Excel spreadsheet directly to Facebook, I wonder? The option is there, however, if I ever need it.

The new Office includes some additional features for workgroups, too. For example, if you're signed into a Lync server, Office 2013 allows you to collaborate with others on your documents in real time, directly from within the Office applications. The suite also bundles a copy of SkyDrive Pro, which allows businesses to use an on-premise SharePoint server for their cloud storage, rather than Microsoft's servers.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Windows XP still has 27 per cent market share on its deathbed
Windows 7 making some gains on XP Death Day
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
US taxman blows Win XP deadline, must now spend millions on custom support
Gov't IT likened to 'a Model T with a lot of things on top of it'
Microsoft TIER SMEAR changes app prices whether devs ask or not
Some go up, some go down, Redmond goes silent
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.