Office 2013, SkyDrive Integration Works Reliably for Casual, Pro Writers

REVIEW: Office 2013 and the integrated SkyDrive cloud storage service work seamlessly together. Even the collaboration features work smoothly and effectively for business and casual writers.

Here we go again. Yet another upgrade to Microsoft Office has reached the market. Microsoft Word is on something like the 12th version, depending on how you count it.

The latest version is Office 2013, and while the previous updates for the past 15 years left me wondering if they were even necessary (I remember Word 95 doing everything I need), this new version is a substantial change with many new features, including an optional subscription plan.

Many of the new features have already been reported on, including here at eWEEK. But one feature that I want to do a full look at is the SkyDrive integration, which allows you to save your documents in a private area on a cloud server and share the documents with others for team collaboration.

Professional writers have used Microsoft Word since its early days in the late 1980s. Editorial teams would collaborate in non-real time using the features that you now find under the Review menu, specifically the track changes and comments features.

I’ve been involved in the book publishing industry for some time, and those features are used all the time as editors and writers pass documents around over email. They have always worked well. Businesses have similarly collaborated by passing documents around, although in experience the track changes feature isn't used as much as in the publishing world.

Google Docs, on the other hand, has given us real-time collaboration where two people in different locations can be working on the same document simultaneously. My own experience with this feature is that it's more of a novelty than anything else. On one occasion I worked on a spreadsheet this way with a co-worker, where we discussed what to put it in it while we both viewed the open file at the same time.

However, I have never done this with a word processing document. But the sharing feature in Google Docs has been useful, whereby a single document can be made available for multiple people. In my experience, people would open the documents at different times and not actually work on it simultaneously. I can't speak for everyone, but that's been my experience.

So now Microsoft has build collaboration and sharing features into Office 2013 that are similar to those found in other products such as Google Docs. These sets of features work in conjunction with SkyDrive.

When you create a new document in Word 2013, the document opens up as a blank document as usual. But when you save it, you go to the new Save As screen. This screen looks similar to that of the previous version of Word, except by default it points to your SkyDrive folder and it seems as though Microsoft is strongly encouraging you to save your document there. (There's a setting to change this default, however.)

On the left is a list called "Places," which includes, in my case, "Jeff Cogswell's SkyDrive" and "Computer." Additionally, you'll find a big plus sign and "Add a place." Initially the first one, SkyDrive, is highlighted and on the right is a list of recently used folders inside SkyDrive.

Locally, the SkyDrive exists as just a folder on your hard drive where you can store documents and subfolders, just like any other folder.