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Using Microsoft Office 365

The Office 365 Upgrade: SharePoint on the Web, PC and Mobile Devices

SharePoint Online is one of the biggest changes in the new Office 365

In addition to the completely revamped Outlook Web App, users who migrate to the new Office 365 will also experience a vastly improved SharePoint Online experience. But in this case, the changes happen both on the web and on PC and mobile clients, too. That’s because Microsoft is supporting this release with new client solutions for Windows 7/8, Windows Phone, Android and iOS.

SharePoint is one area of the new Office 365 I’ll be examining closely in the weeks ahead, so this will serve as a cursory overview of what to expect as you move from the old version to the new. Long story short, this is a substantial upgrade.

This is obvious the moment you examine both web services back-to-back. The old Office 365 version utilizes a SharePoint 2010-style user experience, while the new version features a modern look and feel with nicer typography and open white space.

Out with the old...

Old Microsoft Office 365

In with the new...

New Microsoft Office 365

If you’ve been following along with the changes in SharePoint 2013, you know there have been some big changes with regards to the language used to describe various service features. For example, your document library is now called SkyDrive in the web interface in order to align the brand with Microsoft’s consumer cloud storage service.

This change extends to the PC desktop, which is arguably where most users will notice the biggest differences. If you’re familiar with Office 2007 and 2010, you know that Microsoft offered a client application called SharePoint Workspace (formerly Groove). This unusual application let you access content in SharePoint from your PC desktop, sync that content with the PC, and access it offline.

In Office 2013, there is a new client called SkyDrive Pro that works a lot like the SkyDrive desktop application for Windows. That is, instead of providing a proprietary interface to SharePoint, it simply integrates with the Windows file system, synching your SharePoint content to the PC in real time and allowing you to access it normally, as you would with any other documents.

(And yes, you can have both SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro installed side-by-side. They look and work similarly, but not identically, and don’t interfere with each other’s operation.)

SkyDrive Pro offers exactly the seamless operation you’d want and expect, and it’s a welcome change. But I’m also intrigued by what will be an increasingly complete selection of SharePoint mobile clients as well. If you think about SharePoint functionality at a high level, two obvious areas for apps emerge: SkyDrive Pro for document access (similar to the SkyDrive mobile apps you see on all mobile platforms) and SharePoint for access to the service’s News Feed functionality. (You might also argue that OneNote Mobile is technically part of SharePoint, too; fair enough, that app is available on all major mobile platforms too.)

Microsoft’s intention is to deliver apps for each on all the major mobile platforms over time. Looking at what’s available today, I see the following:

Windows Phone 8 already offers SkyDrive Pro-like functionality through the Office hub, and the SharePoint Newsfeed app is now available.

Office 365 SharePoint

iPhone/iPad. SharePoint Newsfeed is currently available and SkyDrive Pro is on the way, Microsoft says.

Android. Microsoft currently supplies mobile web experiences on Android but plans to ship native apps for each in the future as well.

I’m also curious about modern apps for Windows 8 and RT, though there’s no news there yet. Regardless, I’ll be examining these mobile apps—and any future additions—in the near future.

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