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Office 2013 Tip: Manage Your Connected Services

Office 2013 Tip: Manage Your Connected Services

Office now connects to a variety of online services

Looked at from a high-level, the single biggest change in Office 2013 when compared with previous versions is its deep connectivity with online services. This connectivity takes a number of forms, including the syncing of settings through SkyDrive and the ongoing updates that occur to subscription-based versions of the suite. But one of the more interesting ways in which you can customize and improve Office is to connect it to the services you use every day.

This capability starts, of course, with your Microsoft account or, in the case of business-oriented Office installs, with your domain or Office 365 account. Most Office 2013 users will sign-in with such an account, because it makes Office better by syncing all of your Office settings to each PC you use. I discussed doing so in Office 2013 Tip: Personalize the Office Applications.

When you sign in to Office, that Microsoft (or organizational) account is automatically added as a connected service in the Account view in the Office Backstage. (You can see this by selecting the File menu and then Account.)

This provides you with instant access to the underlying document storage capabilities of the connected service. With a Microsoft account, this will be your SkyDrive storage and with Office 365 or a related organizational account, it will be SkyDrive Pro (formerly MySite) in SharePoint. This means you can open and save documents to this cloud-based storage service automatically. So, for example, when you select Save As from the File menu in Word, your cloud-based storage will appear in the list of locations alongside your PC-based file locations.

Office 2013 lets you add many other services, including both cloud storage services—SkyDrive and SharePoint-based—and online photo and video sharing services that require a Microsoft account.

You can add multiple storage services to Office 2013, and can even add multiple SkyDrive and SharePoint services if you’d like. So if you have, say, two SkyDrive accounts and three SharePoint accounts (or locations), you can add them all to Office. To do so, Select add a service and then Storage from the Accounts view in Backstage, and then pick the appropriate storage type.

What you can’t do is rename or re-order these services. In Office 2013, all of the SharePoint locations are listed before the SkyDrive locations. And the individual locations are sorted alphabetically. (Unfortunately, my own SkyDrive accounts are all named “Paul Thurrott’s SkyDrive” making it hard to differentiate between them. I’ve experimented with renaming them in the Registry, which works but only temporarily. Over time, the names revert back to the originals.)

If you do sign-in with a Microsoft account, you can also configure various photo and video sharing services, including Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn Twitter, and YouTube. Connecting to these services facilitates a new feature in Office 2013 that lets you easily insert online photos and videos into documents. I wrote about this in Office 2013 Feature Focus: Online Photos and Videos, but if you select the Online Pictures command in Word, for example, you’ll see the appropriate connected services appear in the Insert Pictures window alongside Clip Art and Bing Image Search.

The best part about this connectedness perhaps, is that it syncs across all your PCs as long as you’re signing with the same account on each. So you only need to configure these services once and they’ll always be available.

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