Sunday, March 24, 2013

Some love for Windows 8, Office 365 and SkyDrive

It has been quite some time since I wrote about anything other than System Center on this here blog, but I have to just share the love.

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The husband and I recently upgraded all our home machines, including my beloved HP Mini netbook, to Windows 8 Pro. We also bought one of those family Office 365 subscriptions, which, on top of 5 Office installs, also gave us a bit more SkyDrive storage space (20GB!!) and some Skype minutes (60 minutes a month!).

capture-20130324-083329Now, I’ve been using a combo of SkyDrive and Google Drive for years, sometimes preferring GD over SD because of accessibility – mostly because I used either a Symbian or Android based phone for most of this time and they clearly preferred connecting to the Google services than the Microsoft ones. And, for some time, getting your stuff uploaded to SkyDrive in bulk was a bit of a pain that required a third-party tool like Gladinet.

When I switched to Windows Mobile at the end of last year, suddenly it started making a lot more sense to use SkyDrive, especially considering everything on my mobile was synced automatically back to my SD. Microsoft also released a lovely client for Windows now that integrates seamlessly into Windows Explorer and allows you to sync the folders of your choosing with SD, and a solution was born.

Now add the last ingredient – Office 2013 – and my life just became a lot easier. Finally, all those videos promising data available everywhere is not a dream of the future, but how we live now.

imageWindows 8 on my netbook absolutely rocks. I bought the netbook 2 years ago, just before I headed off to MMS, as I needed a portable machine for using the internet, chatting with my family and downloading pictures from my camera(s) while travelling. I understood that a netbook is not a high-powered machine (especially not a low-cost one like the one I chose), so I didn’t expect much performance wise of the little thing and tolerated the sometimes sluggish response. When the Windows 8 Beta programme started, the netbook was the first machine I upgraded, and instantly the little machine became more responsive.

But we all know how it goes through Beta programmes. I distinctly remember the amazing speed of Windows Vista in the Beta, and how sluggish it actually responded when we went to final release. So, I didn’t get my hopes up, really, when I upgraded the version of Windows on the netbook to the final release of Windows 8. But the speed difference is fantastic. I haven’t been frustrated by slow responses on the little machine, and, in fact, I sometimes forget that it is an entry-level notebook, so much so that I installed one of the copies of Office from our sub onto this little machine. It is also the machine I do most of my blogging from, as an aside.

So, I create a document on either of my laptops, or my netbook, or my phone, and the docs just sync and I can continue working on them on any of the other devices. My photos are synced from my mobile and I can access them easily on my machines without having to fumble with cables as I had to in the past. And it all just works.

As a practical example:

The husband and I recently sold our house, so we are in the process of packing up all our belongings. As I am super-hyper-list-orientated and want to control every single little aspect of life, I have, of course, created a little spreadsheet to capture the boxes onto. This spreadsheet lives on SkyDrive, and as we pack and seal a box, we give it a code and capture it into the spreadsheet. We both have access to it on any of our devices, including our phones.

On the day that the truck arrives to take our belongings to our new home, we will have access to it and will be able to ensure that each box makes it onto the truck. When we get to the other side, we will be able to ensure that each box is delivered, in tact, and we will know which room it should go to. All without having to email each other the file, and have multiple copies of the same file, each with their own bit of the truth.

And, lastly, the content is available anywhere you can access SkyDrive or have a SkyDrive app, including my Xbox Open-mouthed smile

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And, oh boy, is the Xbox SkyDrive app pretty:

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And what makes it the best of all is that all of this requires very little configuration. You basically install the app(s) on each of your devices, sign in with the same Microsoft account on each of them and Bob’s your uncle.

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