October 16, 2012 3 Comments
I have to admit thus far I’ve been a bit disappointed with Office 365; at the time when SkyDrive was a standalone web service with no APIs or desktop integration the promise of SharePoint and a move away from LiveIDs sounded just the ticket. What arrived has been something that I can best describe as being “whelmed”… OK it’s not a real word but fits how I feel of not jumping for joy nor being completely critical.
Having tried various demos thus far of the 365 for Education plan a couple of issues always bugged me…
- one of the most useful features in Live@Edu was the Office Web Apps and how easy it was to create new documents… in 365 this is hidden away in your “My Site” and the interface only allows new Word documents by default:
- the welcome page after you log in isn’t customisable and seems to have over emphasis on Team Sites and nothing for the user’s personal files.
But there is hope on the horizon!
When poking around TechNet for a download of Office 2013 to drop on my x100e I found it’s been rebranded to Office 365 ProPlus Preview. Initially signed up for that thinking it’s been bundled in with an Office 365 subscription… close but not quite. What you need is the Office 365 Enterprise Preview
Having filled in the form and got my login I’m now much more impressed 😀
The service has had a makeover to bring it in line with the new Outlook.com \ SkyDrive \ Windows 8 visual style and looks a lot better for it. Commonly used services are easy to access across the top and you’re prompted to download Office 2013 from the welcome page.
Jumping into email is pretty much as you’d expect, kind of a cross between classic OWA and the new Outlook.com. Have to admit I prefer the Outlook.com email compose screen but that’s just personal preference.
As you can see in the 2nd OWA screenshot my Sharepoint space has provisioned while writing the post so time to take a look at what we’ve got…
Once your Sharepoint provisions you now get a News Feed appear when you first log in, definitely helps create a more user-centric feel rather than the rather departmental vibe I get from the current 365 interface. There’s the usual profile and picture options to fill in as you’d expect.
Now for the good bit, SkyDrive Pro!
As per the start of the article I found Office 365 document creation rather painful from a UI perspective, luckily MS have realised this and made it nice and simple to upload and create documents. Either drag and drop existing documents from your desktop or click the easily visible New Document button
There’s also some element of drag and drop in terms of moving files into folders but this seems a bit iffy at the moment as I can’t see a simple way to drag between folders. I think the Files view needs an icon based management view a la Windows Explorer to be truly user friendly…
There’s also the usual Sharing options, plus you can add Notes and Tags to a file. Editing in the Web Apps works well as you’d expect, they also seem a bit snappier to load up which is a bonus. Also just spotted a Sync button, which seems to tap into your local Sharepoint Workspace app. Haven’t tried this yet but will report back if \ when I do.
Much, much better from Microsoft with this Office 365 Preview in terms of ease of user and functionality. Once it’s released I’ll start looking seriously at deploying it for our students… now if only I could have that Moodle plugin I’d be a very happy tech 😉