Microsoft Plans Big Improvements to Office 365, SkyDrive

Microsoft said its cloud-based Office 365 and SkyDrive will be receiving major updates.

Microsoft announced that major updates will be coming to cloud-based Office 365 and SkyDrive. The update announced on Tuesday is Office 365's "first major service update," Microsoft said in its press release.

In all, Office 365 will get more than 30 new updates. As Microsoft promised in October's SharePoint Conference, one of these is support for Business Connectivity Services (BCS) in SharePoint Online. BCS is designed to let users access line-of-business applications and other external data sources within a SharePoint interface. In an interview during the SharePoint Conference, Microsoft's Jared Spataro, a senior director of SharePoint product management, described BCS this way: "The easiest way to think of it is that it is a mapping between an interface -- a 'list' is what it is, actually, in SharePoint -- and data that lives someplace else. And it allows you to have a read-write connection between the lists in SharePoint and the data that sits in the back."

Other new features include support for Windows Phone 7.5 in SharePoint Online, support for Lync for Mac and the Mac OS X Lion operating system, and the ability for administrators to reset their passwords by e-mail or SMS text message. A list of all of the new Office 365 updates is available here.

In addition, Microsoft announced that it has expanded the availability of Office 365 trial versions to 22 more countries, including Taiwan, South Africa, Argentina and Indonesia (the complete list is available in this Office 365 Community blog post). Also, full commerce versions are now available in South Korea, Russia and Brazil.

SkyDrive: Sharing Gets 'App-Centric'
Microsoft also unveiled a revamp of SkyDrive, its consumer-oriented cloud storage and file-sharing service. In this Inside Windows Live blog post, SkyDrive Group Program Manager Omar Shahine said the changes are meant to address "key" user feedback. "While not all of the feedback we've received is addressed, we feel that this release is a big step forward -- especially for the growing number of customers using SkyDrive to share and access Office documents," Shahine said.

To that end, the revamped SkyDrive now features simpler and more "app-centric" sharing. For example, Shahine said users working on a document in Word Web App can now share that file without having to exit the app. "This is possible since SkyDrive now lets you share or permission individual files within a folder," he said. Previously, users had to exit the app before sharing a file in order to set permissions, or to move the file to a different folder with the appropriate permissions.

Sharing files to social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as with people without a Hotmail or Windows Live account, is also easier.

In addition, the update streamlines several actions that users had complained were "cumbersome." Users can now perform more functions inline, including creating and renaming folders. Right-clicking on documents and photos immediately shows what actions users can take, and moving or deleting multiple files and folders is faster.

Other features include 50 percent faster sign-in to; drag-and-drop uploading for HTML 5-enabled browsers; improved photo slideshows; and support for .PDF and .RAW file formats.


About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editorial director of Converge360.

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