Microsoft StaffHub is here!

Manage schedules

Microsoft StaffHub makes it easy for managers to create, update and manage shift schedules for their team, streamlining what has been a labor-intensive process.

Employees have access to all their shift information, including the ability to easily swap shifts with others right from the Microsoft StaffHub mobile app. No more having to go into the breakroom at work to look at the bulletin board.

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Managers create, update and manage shift schedules for the team.

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Employees view their upcoming shifts at a glance on their mobile device and can request to swap a shift with someone else.

The app home screen provides a summary of upcoming shifts as well as any important notes. Employees can also see who else is scheduled for the day, which is useful if they want to know who they’ll be working with or if they want to swap shifts.

When schedule conflicts come up, Microsoft StaffHub makes it easy to swap a shift or offer a shift to someone else. Requests are always routed to the manager for approval, and updates and notifications are automatically sent to the team.

Share information

With Microsoft StaffHub, managers can quickly distribute important information to their team, such as policy documents, news bulletins or videos. Managers also have a fast and reliable way to send quick messages to team members. For example, to let an employee know “there is a spill on the floor” or “the regional GM is arriving in 20 minutes,” simply tap the employee’s name and type a message. Employees can also send messages directly to each other or to the entire workgroup.

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Managers select the content they want to distribute to their team.

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Employees can view the files on the mobile app.

Connect to other apps and resources

Companies often use multiple systems and tools to help manage their workforce, and we want to make it easy for Microsoft StaffHub to connect to these existing systems. We’re pleased to announce that StaffHub will support connections to Kronos, a leading provider of workforce management and human capital management cloud solutions. Initially, this integration will enable managers to import individual and team schedule information from Kronos’s Workforce Central platform directly into Microsoft StaffHub. This functionality will initially be in private preview to a small group of Office 365 and Kronos customers. Stay tuned for more!

Microsoft StaffHub also supports the ability for admins to define custom links for workers to view in the mobile app, which can point to important resources or sites, such as HR systems for reporting time off, or to custom applications, built with tools such as Microsoft PowerApps. Managers can also export team schedule information to a .csv file for use in other systems.

Next steps

Microsoft StaffHub is enabled today for Office 365 customers with a K1, E1, E3 or E5 plan. Team managers can sign in at staffhub.ms, and employees can download the app on iOS or Android.

For a deeper look at Microsoft StaffHub, check out this video:

Office 365 subscribers get Office Mobile for Android phones

Today, we are launching Office Mobile for Android phones in the United States at no additional charge for Office 365 subscribers. This means that Office 365 subscribers can now work on their Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents from virtually anywhere–using their Windows Phone, iPhone or Android phones.1

Office Mobile for Android phones can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. To use the app, you need a qualifying Office 365 subscription, including Office 365 Home Premium or Office 365 ProPlus (you can find the complete list of qualifying subscriptions here). Office Mobile for Android phones is initially available in the United States, with more countries coming on board over the next several weeks.

So what’s great about Office Mobile for Android phones?

A true Office experience

Office Mobile is the official companion to Microsoft Office. Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents look great on your phone, thanks to support for charts, animations, SmartArt Graphics, and shapes. When you make edits or add comments to a document, the formatting and layout remain intact. When you return to your PC or Mac, your document looks like it should.

Easy access

Office Mobile is designed for people on the go.  We made it easy to access your Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents in the cloud on SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro.  When you’re on your phone, you’ll see the list of documents you recently opened on your computer in the Recent Documents panel–no searching needed. And of course, you can view and edit documents you receive in email.

Designed for the phone

Office Mobile has been optimized for the small screen of your phone so you can get things done efficiently.  When reviewing Word documents, the Resume Reading feature takes you to the exact point in the document where you left off on your PC so you don’t waste time searching. The new Slide Navigator lets you browse through PowerPoint presentations fast while Speaker Notes help you practice on the run.

Sharing built-in

Edit documents and share them right from your phone. You can review comments in Word and Excel documents on your phone and add your own.  When you’re done, you can save the file back to SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro or just send it as an email attachment.

Go ahead and download Office Mobile from the Google Play store.

If you want to try Office Mobile for Android phones, but don’t have an Office 365 subscription, you can sign up for a free 30 day Office 365 trial at http://www.office.com/. And of course, if you’re already using a Windows Phone, then Office Mobile is already installed on your phone.

Creating the most beautiful and powerful way to view, share, and search your photos with HTML5

Bringing more photo capabilities to the web

 

We’ve had native support for RAW camera files in SkyDrive for quite some time – letting photographers use SkyDrive to store and share the best quality photos they can. But while there are powerful cameras that can capture RAW images, we’re also seeing the cameras in phones becoming more capable at taking incredible images too. The Nokia Lumia 1020 with its amazing 41 megapixel camerademonstrates just how amazing the cameras in phones can be. The screens for viewing photos are getting better too – especially high DPI screens like the ClearType Full HD and Retina displays. So now, SkyDrive.com supports these high DPI displays by measuring the DPI scale of your device. When your screen supports it, we show higher resolution photos and thumbnails. So you see more of your real photo instead of a thumbnail that gets up-scaled (note: not all browsers support high DPI yet).

 

We also decided to look at other photo file types and give some of our old friends an update as well. If you’ve ever seen an animated GIF (pronounced “jif”) on the Interwebs (and probably laughed), you were probably disappointed to find out that when you saved and shared that same animated GIF on SkyDrive, it wasn’t animated. Well now you can view your favorite animated GIFs in all their glory!

 

Sorting and management

 

What seems like a small and simple thing—photo rotation—is often done automatically by your device, which sometimes doesn’t get it quite right. So now, you can rotate photos on SkyDrive.com as well. This Mickey Mouse pancake photo wasn’t rotated correctly, but with one click of the Rotate button, it’s looking much better.

 

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A few months ago, we introduced the All photos view, and we’ve gotten great feedback on it. People seem to enjoy the fact that you can see all the photos you have anywhere in your SkyDrive, but would also love to see this view for a specific album.

 

So, now you can filter the photos in this view to a specific folder in your SkyDrive via the filter control below:

 

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Sharing is now easier and you have more control

 

As more people have put their files in SkyDrive and shared many of them with friends and family, they’ve been asking us for more flexibility in the kinds of ways they could share. Until now, you could only share two types of things in SkyDrive:

  1. An entire folder and all its contents
  2. Individual files inside a folder

 

This mostly worked fine, until a couple of things started to change.

 

First, we’ve been seeing more and more mobile phone photos coming to SkyDrive via automatic upload and the camera roll feature on Windows Phones and Windows 8 tablets and PCs. And second, people are capturing more and more of their everyday photos with their phones—photos of birthday parties, pictures of their kids, and snapshots of things they see and want to buy or research later. But our existing sharing controls required that you move your photos into folders to share them, or only share them one at a time. And that just made it harder than it should be.

 

Also, since releasing our All Photos view, you could easily organize the photos by date, but you still couldn’t share a selection of those photos as an album.

 

Well today, we’re happy to introduce a new capability on SkyDrive.com: the ability to share individual groups of files from anywhere in your SkyDrive. You can share two photos from your camera roll, or a hundred. You can share a file in one folder along with another file from a different folder. And you can share different things with different people.

 

For example, here are some camera roll photos that I took this winter. I can just click the date heading (Saturday 2, 12:07 pm), and then click the Sharing command to share just the pictures from that date:

 

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From here, I can get a link or share via email, like anything else on SkyDrive.

 

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The recipient gets an email that looks like this:

 

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And when they click to view the photos, it looks like an album:

 

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The new Shared view

 

Many of you have asked for better ways to track all the things you’ve shared. Previously it was cumbersome to un-share something or keep track of all the things different people have access to. To solve this problem, we’re introducing the new Shared view.

 

The new Shared view shows you all the stuff you’ve shared, and what’s been shared with you. Your own stuff is at the top of the list, sorted by what you’ve most recently shared. This is followed by a list of people who’ve shared something with you, sorted by who shared things most recently.

 

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Anyone can edit, no matter how you share

 

A few months ago we introduced the ability to share links to Office documents, allowing people to edit them without signing in. Today we’re pleased to extend that same feature to when you share any SkyDrive file via email. Now when you check “Recipients can edit” we really do mean any recipient, no sign-in required.

 

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One last special treat for our developer friends

 

Today I’d like to share a new technology in SkyDrive for power users and enthusiasts, allowing you to edit many different kinds of text files in the browser. Even though SkyDrive.com has a web-based version of Word available for free, sometimes you just need simpler tool to edit things like todo.txt.

 

SkyDrive now has native support for viewing and editing many different kinds of text files. This includes JavaScript, CSS, HTML, and many code files. It includes support for syntax highlighting, find, and word completion suggestions. You can also share these files with your friends, and they can edit them. And you can “diff” changes, so you can see conflicts between edits. This is a convenient feature for developers; however, for a complete end-to-end development solution, you can still get that with Microsoft Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server.

 

Here is a screenshot of my todo.txt file:

 

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You can even see how SkyDrive suggested the remainder of my last item (5. Review) as I typed!

 

I also have a few dozen registry keys and cmd files that I’ve collected over the years that I apply when I set up a new PC. Now I can view all of those right in SkyDrive! Here is one of my favorites, a cmd file that deletes all the sample images and videos on a PC:

 

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The Garage Series: Office 365 versus the wild – enabling collaboration across the stack

Episode 5 out of a 6 part special filmed in New Orleans, host Jeremy Chapman is joined by collaboration expert Mark Kashman as they take a look at the expansion of collaboration scenarios with the new Office from Site Mailboxes in SharePoint Online, advances in SharePoint Online for collaboration outside the corporate firewall, to Lync with multi-party HD video and the social sharing of content and ideas through Yammer. Jeremy also teams up with local survivalist, Jeff Galpin, as he ventures out into the Louisiana Bayou to see if he can truly stay productive from anywhere as he tests Office 365 versus the wild armed with a 4G Windows Phone and his Ultrabook.

Jeremy: So on our last New Orleans show special we took a look at the newly-minted FastTrack process for getting started with Office 365. On this show I’m joined by our resident collaboration expert Mark Kashman to take a look at the expansion of collaboration and sharing experiences with the new Office. You’ll recall that we gave you a first look at real-time coauthoring for Office Web Apps across Windows, iOS and Android in show 2 of our specials from New Orleans. With the new Office 365, Collaboration experiences are now significantly more advanced from desktop, the Web and beyond.

Mark: People who are used to collaboration scenarios from previous Office versions will largely relate that to content management and sharing with technologies such as SharePoint. How we think of collaboration now has greatly expanded with the proliferation of devices, pervasive social experiences and what we can now do from an online services perspective with the Cloud that allows content and their services to roam with the user where and when they need it.

Jeremy: Yes, that’s why today we wanted to really take a broader view of collaboration experiences across the Office 365 stack to demonstrate the breadth of collaboration scenarios supported both within and outside your organization.

Mark: Yes, for example we’ve made it significantly easier to share Office documents beyond the corporate firewall with external users; secure, boundary-less sharing of content managed in-place by you . And Site Mailboxes add a great way to get project-related email in line with team sites.

Site Mailbox integrated with Outlook desktop app

Jeremy:  Yes, Site Mailboxes are great for centrally storing content to help with version control and to really bring the power of SharePoint & Exchange together. The integration with Outlook gives you a powerful tool to drag and drop attachments directly into a SharePoint document library  so you can work against the same file – as opposed to the old approach of forwarding in email to many people, then having to manually consolidate everyone’s feedback. When you combine this with the co-authoring we’ve had in Office since 2010, it really lights up collaboration scenarios.

Mark: Beyond that, combine Lync with all of this, and you add multi-party online meeting with audio and HD video. Crystal clear meetings with the team. At the same time, you can co-author using the same file with everyone on the Lync meeting.

Multi-party HD Video Meeting in Lync while Co-Authoring in Word

Jeremy: And there are a couple new things we can do in terms of collaboration – post news and content to Yammer and we can share single files outside of the organization using SharePoint. We actually took all of these pieces and put them together to show how I could take an external Request for Proposal and use all of the collaboration elements we just talked about across the Office stack, then share our results back with our requestor.

Mark: You will need to watch the show to see everything in action. And the beauty is that all of this is easy to set up using Office 365 and Yammer. Within about 30 minutes, you could have everything running to try out everything across the Microsoft collaboration spectrum – from email, file sharing and online meetings to voice and social. You and Keith Laborde talked about this last show as you described the FastTrack experience for getting Office 365 up and running quickly, compare this to five years ago when you had to build out lots of servers to do the equivalent

Jeremy: Speaking of 30 minutes, I also put Office 365 to the test this week when I ventured out to the Bayou with local survivalist, Jeff Galpin, to see if I could be productive from anywhere with or without an Internet connection.  I gave myself 30 minutes to complete 7 tasks, including installing Office 365 ProPlus from the Web. We had some nice encounters with nature along the way, but you will have to check out the show to see if we got everything done.

Getting work done in the Bayou

Password hash sync simplifies user management for Office 365

Recently, a new version of DirSync was released that includes synchronization of user password hashes. This avoids the need for users having separate passwords for on-premises login and cloud based login. Prior to this, having the same password required deployment of identity federation servers which is a more significant implementation project. The password hash which is synchronized to the cloud is a one way mathematical computation based on the users password which is not reversible to discover the users plaintext password. Synchronizing the password hash means the user can log into Office 365 using their on-premises password.

This blog post describes directory synchronization and password hash synchronization in the context of Office 365.

User Identity in the Cloud

For a moment let me take you back to a time before cloud computing and SAAS applications. Back when software predominantly ran on PCs connected to networks with Active Directory as the identity provider. When you ran software on a PC in this environment you are= already logged onto the PC. When the software needs to look up your name or do some other kind of personalization it just asks the PC who you are using API calls. There isn’t any additional login required to run new applications as all applications share the same identity provider (Active Directory).

SAAS applications are a little different. They are not installed on the local machine and they do not get access to the local Active Directory domain controller. Because of this, SAAS applications often use disjoint identity providers. As a result users will have to maintain separate usernames and passwords across multiple cloud based applications. Single Sign-On (SSO) is the common answer to resolving this. SSO is defined as the ability for two disjoint identity providers (IDP) to trust one another so that as a user, you log in once against your IDP, and then when you try to access resources secured by the second IDP, you don’t need to login again. This trust relationship is called federation. SSO is implemented using federation and provides the same benefit to users as when all software used to run on your PC and it inherently knew who is logged in.

Directory synchronization does not provide SSO because a user logged in on-premises will still have to log in separately to Office 365. But synchronization does provide that the username will be the same, and now with password hash synchronization also that the password will be the same. Since directory synchronization is much simpler to configure than SSO the benefit of having password hash synchronization makes this a great choice for many customer scenarios.

This diagram shows the three main identity provider options you can choose for Office 365.

Office 365 Cloud Identity

The simplest way that Office 365 provides for user authentication is with a Cloud Identity. This is provided for where your organization wants a new user directory with new usernames and passwords. This may be the case for a new organization, or a small organization that doesn’t have an existing dedicated on-premises directory. Using the Cloud Identity model means that users are not associated with any on-premises identity provider. They are instead fully managed in the cloud and the users will manage their own passwords in the cloud. Under the covers Office 365 will actually create a new instance of the user in Azure AD. Azure AD has always been the user directory behind Office 365. Just like your on-premises Active Directory stores user accounts for Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and your custom LOB Apps, Azure AD stores the information for Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online and any custom applications you build in the cloud. All administration of Azure AD for Office 365 customers can be done through the standard Office 365 admin portal. Although Azure AD has been used for some time by Office 365, it was also made available for other web based applications in July 2012.

Directory Synchronization

Directory Synchronization is used when you have an existing on-premises Windows Active Directory infrastructure and you want those same users to have access to Office 365. After installing the DirSync tool on a member server in your domain it will periodically synchronize user profiles to Office 365 where synchronization is based on the user objects Source Anchor attribute. Directory synchronization avoids any need to manually create users into the cloud directory. Furthermore, it avoids the need to create yet another username and password. With the advent of password hash synchronization, it eliminates the need for users to manage passwords in two places. Note that if password hash synchronization is not enabled each user would be required to create a new password in the cloud. Office 365 admin center showing the users and groups page where you can configure Directory Synchronization.

 

Deploying DirSync is pretty straight forward. From the Office 365 admin center, select “Active Directory synchronization” to go through the six step process. The process is detailed in in the Office 365 admin center and includes the following steps:

1. Prepare for directory synchronization
2. Verify domains
3. Activate Active Directory synchronization
4. Install and configure the Directory Sync tool
5. Verify directory synchronization
6. Activate synchronized users

There is a little preparatory work and then you download and install the DirSync tool on a Windows Server that has connectivity to your Active Directory domain controllers. The actual download link for DirSync is contained within the six step process in the Office 365 admin portal. DirSync installs with a simple wizard installer and then is ready to go. It will run periodically on the server that it is installed on and synchronize user accounts (and other directory data) for you to Azure AD. It will synchronize user objects every three hours and password changes will be synchronized every two minutes. An Office 365 tenant can have a mix of cloud identities described above and synchronized identities from Active Directory on-premises.

With a few exceptions, all of the data is synchronized one way only from on-premises to the cloud. This means that a user identity is either managed in the cloud or it is managed on-premises but not both. Users who are managed on-premises can only be edited on-premises and this includes the ability of the user to change their password. A synchronized user would either need to go to their office, or connect over a VPN to their corporate network in order to change their password.

You can select which users are synchronized to Office 365 but you cannot select specific user attributes from the user profile as all are required.

The new password hash sync feature takes the one way hash result of your user passwords, applies additional security processing and synchronizes the result to Azure AD. The actual plaintext password is never sent to Azure AD. Prior to this release, the DirSync tool would not synchronize password hashes and users would need to enter a separate password for Office 365 to their on premises use. This new password hash sync feature is not the same as Microsoft Password Change Notification Service – Password Hash Sync is newer and more secure.

This screenshot shows the new screen added to the DirSync installation wizard to enable password hash synchronization.

 

There is only one configuration option to add password hash sync to the DirSync tool. This is done during the configuration wizard and is a checkbox where you choose to sync password hashes in addition to the users profile attributes. If enabled, password hash sync applies to all synchronized users.

Directory Federation

Directory federation means that Azure AD (and therefore Office 365) is federated with another directory – it trusts that other directory to handle user authentication requests. Simply put, this means that all login attempts are managed by the federated directory, and Office 365 does not see the password. The login form where you enter your password is actually part of the federated identity provider. Office 365 is known as the Relying Party (RP) in this case because it relies on the federated directory for authentication checks. Once the user authentication is successful, proof is provided by the federated directory in the form of a digital signature is provided to Office 365 that the user is authenticated. Federation on Office 365 is commonly done with on-premises Windows Active Directory using Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS). ADFS is implemented with additional servers that are deployed both inside the corporate directory and in the organization’s Internet-facing network or demilitarized zone. Directory synchronization is a required pre-requisite for directory federation since federation relies on Azure AD knowing that the user exists in the on-premises directory in the first place. Federation is used exclusively for authentication and authorization flows. Address book functionality, such as lookups when a user is looking for a recipient to send an email to, do not use federation.

Federation is also configured by walking through a step-by-step guide in the Office 365 admin portal.

Avoiding Federation Now That Password Hash Sync Is Available

A key driver for federation deployments with ADFS used to be that it enables users to use a single password across on-premises and cloud sessions. However, federation deployments take some effort due to the additional servers and network implementation. The on-premises servers also have to be Internet accessible through any corporate firewalls in a secure way, and they also have to be highly available since logins are not possible if they or their Internet connectivity are offline. Because password hash sync is a feature of directory synchronization, it is initiated from the on-premises server and doesn’t incur many of the infrastructure requirements and costs of federation. It only requires a single server and whilst that server requires outgoing access to the Internet in order to connect to Azure AD there is no requirement for inbound connections, custom firewall openings or highly available configurations.

There are still some reasons why some customers will still prefer ADFS and directory federation over DirSync and password hash synchronization. These include:

  • ADFS can be configured such that users who are already logged on to a domain joined and connected machine do not require any password re-entry to sign in at Office 365. This gives you true single sign-on since re-entry of the password is not required. With DirSync and password hash synchronization a user must still re-enter their password, although it will be the same password as they use on-premises.
  • ADFS allows for client access filtering, which restricts access to Exchange Online to users based on their IP address.
  • ADFS will honor Active Directory configured login time restrictions for users.
  • ADFS can include web pages for users to change their passwords while they are outside the corporate network.
  • With ADFS the authentication decision is always made on-premises and no password hashes are synchronized to the cloud. This may be obvious but can be sometimes a security policy requirement.
  • With ADFS an administrator can immediate block a user to remove access where-as DirSync synchronizes these changes every three hours. Only password changes are synchronized by DirSync every two minutes.
  • ADFS permits use of on-premises deployed multi-factor authentication products. Note that Azure AD supports multi-factor authentication but many third party multi-factor authentication products require on-premises integration.
  • Where Microsoft Forefront Identity Manger (FIM) is required for some other FIM capability. FIM directory synchronization does not include password hash synchronization so ADFS will still be required for SSO login.
  • Some on-premises to cloud hybrid scenarios require ADFS such as hybrid search.

If you need any of these then Active Directory Federation Services is still the best option.

 

Other Directory Integration Options with Office 365

Microsoft Forefront Identity Manager

Forefront Identity Manager is a more comprehensive identity management solution from Microsoft. It can also be used to synchronize user profiles from Active Directory to Azure AD for use by Office 365 when the customer has more than one Active Directory forest, or has a non-Active Directory service on-premises. This uses the FIM Connector for Office 365 which currently does not include support for password hash synchronization.

For identity federation purposes ADFS can still be used in a configuration with Forefront Identity Manager and this enables users to have a single password across the corporate network and Office 365. This provides for single sign on.

Both DirSync and Forefront Identity Manager require Microsoft Active Directory.

Third-party WS-* Based Identity Providers

WS-* includes WS-Federation for passive authentication from Office 365 web properties and also WS-Trust for active authentication from Office rich client applications accessing Office 365. Active authentication is required by rich client applications to access Office 365 and for Office 365 ProPlus licensing. Office 365 ProPlus is included with some Office 365 SKUs and it includes Office rich client applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Lync. The connectivity required for licensing these products is active authentication and relies on WS-Trust.

Microsoft has a program called Works with Office 365 – Identity which qualifies third party WS-* based identity providers for use with Office 365. You may have an existing identity provider that is part of the Works with Office 365 – Identity program. Some of these providers support both WS-Federation and WS-Trust and some only support WS-Federation for only passive web based authentication.

Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 Service Pack 2 available

Today, we released Service Pack 2 (SP2) for the Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 set of products.  SP2 provides key updates and fixes across our servers, services and applications including security, stability, and performance enhancements and provides better compatibility with Windows 8, Internet Explorer 10, Office 2013, and SharePoint 2013.

OneNote for Android updated, fixes loading issues for most devices

Today we released an update to OneNote for Android which addresses an issue that some customers experienced where the app would not load correctly. This only happened on devices which had a NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor which is used in select Android devices. When we first heard from you about this problem we blocked those devices and now with this update the app should be available on most devices.

We appreciate all of your feedback.  We are reading the comments in Google Play as well as the in-app feedback button. Shipping frequent updates based on your feedback is important for us to continue to improve our experience, so please keep it coming and if you have any issues please let us know!

Have all your SkyDrive files with you – without using all your storage or bandwidth

This is an exciting time to be in the cloud-storage business. Industry trends suggest that even though devices have larger storage capacities (growing 25% per year), people’s data and files are growing significantly faster (around 50% per year).

 

This is especially true for mobile devices. Windows is used by a billion people across the world and with SkyDrive, our goal is to design cloud storage at the same scale so people can have their files with them on any of their devices.

With Windows 8.1, we’ve taken a big step towards that goal. SkyDrive is deeply integrated into Windows. Opening and saving files to SkyDrive is now as easy as saving to your hard drive, but with SkyDrive, your files are also available to you on your phone, tablet, desktop PC, and via SkyDrive.com. In addition to the basics, we’ve come up with some creative and unique ways to address the needs of the increasing number of people who have tons of files but relatively small device hard drives.

 

All your files with you

Because people’s data storage needs will continue to grow faster than storage capacity on their mobile devices, we asked ourselves how we could provide you with access to all your SkyDrive files without actually downloading them, using precious local disk space and Internet bandwidth. Our answer is what we often refer to as “placeholder files.” Placeholder files look and feel like normal folders and files. You can tap or click a folder and see all the folders and files inside it. You can tap or click a file and it will open, you can edit it and close it. You can move, delete, copy, or rename placeholder files just like you would any folder or file. But we only download the full file when you access it. What we have in its place is a placeholder file containing a thumbnail image along with some basic properties and file content. This means that the placeholder file is significantly smaller in size that the file in SkyDrive, but when you need to use it, we’ll download the full file for you.

 

For example, in the image below, I have a Pictures folder in SkyDrive that’s 5.6GB in size but it’s only taking up 185MB on the local disk.

 

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For photos, flipping through lots of pictures in one go is a common scenario. We wanted to give you fast scrolling of photos without taking up a lot of local disk space. So we’re doing something even more special there. When you flip through photos, we download large thumbnail images instead of the actual files. And we pre-fetch thumbnails to enable fast scrolling. It’s only when you want to edit a photo that we download the full file to the local disk.

 

Combined, placeholder files and smart thumbnails allow you to see and interact with your entire SkyDrive without taking up much local disk space and only using your Internet connection when needed. Early data in the weeks since Windows 8.1 Preview was released suggests that this architecture is delivering on the goals we set out with and SkyDrive files are taking up less than 5% of the local disk space that they would have taken in the old system.

 

So to put a fine point on that, using placeholder files, someone who has 100GB of files in SkyDrive that have been built up across many devices and years, can now have all of those files available on their new Windows 8.1 device and will be using less than 5GB of storage for all those files on their local hard drive.

 

Providing access to all your files on devices of every size and shape helps ensure that you don’t have to make tough decisions about what subset of your SkyDrive files you want available, and provides complete cloud access that isn’t offered by anyone else.

 

Offline access

One of the biggest investments we’ve made for Windows 8.1 is a seamless experience across connectivity states. So, if you’re on the go and want the documents you’re working on to be there when you lose Internet connectivity, and you want all your edits to make their way back up to SkyDrive when you get connected, we do just that without any need for manual configuration and setup.

 

With the SkyDrive app, you’ll be able to mark any folders or files you want for offline access. Edits on this device or another device will be synchronized so that you’re always working with the latest file. This is an explicit, easy-to-understand way to have guaranteed offline access to the files you most care about.

 

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When you’re offline, it’s easy to tell which files are available for offline access.

 

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In order to make things even more convenient, we always mark files for offline access if you’ve opened or edited them on this device before. We do that because most people tend to open the same files they recently opened, but the files they open often vary across different devices – so we remember those files and make this unique to the device you’re using. And of course, you can also choose to mark any individual file or folder for offline access – and of course, if you’re working on a device with a lot of local storage, you can choose to have your entire SkyDrive available for offline access.

 

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Opening, saving, and searching files

Any Windows Store app can use the Windows file picker to let you open, edit, and save any kind of file. In Windows 8.1, SkyDrive is built into the file picker – so every Windows Store app can save files directly to SkyDrive without any extra work. And the files will quietly get uploaded in the background so you don’t have to wait around. For example, if someone shares pictures with you in an email, you can save them to SkyDrive from the Mail app.

 

And you don’t have to worry if you happen to be offline when you save the file. We’ll just save it locally and upload it to SkyDrive when you do get connected.

 

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If you were working in a desktop app, you get the same functionality using the Windows common file dialog – opening and saving to SkyDrive is as easy as saving to your PC.

 

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And of course, SkyDrive shows up in the desktop File Explorer for all Windows 8.1 users (as long as you’ve signed in to Windows with a Microsoft account). You can drag folders and files from your PC or any other attached device to SkyDrive. If you turn off your device before everything gets uploaded, we’ll just resume uploading the next time you’re online.

 

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Many people use search to quickly access their files. So we’ve made search work just as you’d expect – SkyDrive files show up in search results just like your local files. For example, if you have a document in your SkyDrive, we extract a few lines of text from the document and provide that to the search indexer on your device so that it can return search results that are more relevant to you. It goes without saying that search works across your entire SkyDrive (including placeholder files). In the example below, “Alyssa’s birthday bash” and “Mom’s birthday cake” are both documents in SkyDrive that exist as placeholder files on the local device and are searchable whether you’re online or offline.

 

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Musto Limited experiences smooth sailing with Office 365

Retailers are using Office 365 to improve employee communications and collaboration, enabling them to move faster to share best practices, roll out promotions and launch new products. Most recently, we welcomed UK Sportswear retailer Musto Limited to improve the ability of its large mobile workforce to work with manufacturers all around the world.

Office 365 logoMusto thrives on the trust it has built with their customers – reliability is crucial, so having an email system that allows their global workforce to quickly communicate across channels was essential. To help employees improve their response time and productivity, telecom operator Vodafone helped migrate the company to Office 365, providing them with the stability and reliability they were looking to implement.

In addition to reliable email, Office 365 made it possible to easily implement additional applications with calendaring, collaboration, and web conferencing solutions. Moreover it offers world-class security, IT-level phone support, geo-redundancy, disaster recovery, and business-class privacy controls and standards.

New to Office 365 in March—co-authoring in Excel and more

Office 365 provides the broadest and deepest toolkit for collaboration between individuals, teams and entire organizations. Updates this month make the experience even better with co-authoring in Excel, the general availability of Microsoft Teams and more. We’ll also be announcing the latest roadmap for SharePoint and OneDrive at the SharePoint Virtual Summit on May 16th. Read on for the details.

Co-authoring is coming to Excel

We’re taking a significant step in completing the co-authoring story across Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Today, we’re enabling co-authoring in Excel on Windows desktops for Office Insiders Fast. This allows you to know who else is working with you in a spreadsheet, see where they’re working and view changes automatically within seconds. We’ll continue using feedback from Insiders to improve the experience before making it available more broadly. Co-authoring is already available in Excel Online, Excel on Android, Windows Mobile and iOS (for Office Insiders). We’re also working on co-authoring in Excel for the Mac—stay tuned for more!

Co-authoring is being shown in Excel. A dropdown in the top right explains that Alex is also working in the spreadsheet, and which cell he is in. A red box surrounds the cell Alex is in, with a red flag over it showing his name. Alex’s red indicator moves to another cell, and then a change which Alex made to the cell and a graph can be seen showing up a moment later.

Co-authoring in Excel on Windows desktops allows you to see where others are editing at the same time as you in a spreadsheet.

We’re also bringing AutoSave to Word, Excel and PowerPoint on Windows desktops, for files stored in SharePoint Online, OneDrive and OneDrive for Business. With AutoSave, you can stop worrying about hitting the Save button, whether you’re working alone or with others.

Availability: Co-authoring in Excel on Windows desktops is rolling out for Office 365 subscribers in Office Insider Fast. Co-authoring in Excel on iOS is currently available for Office Insiders, as well as for all customers in Excel Mobile on Windows, Excel on Android and Excel Online. AutoSave is rolling out to Word, Excel and PowerPoint on Windows desktops, for Office 365 subscribers in Office Insider Fast.

Microsoft Teams is now generally available

Earlier this month, we announced that Microsoft Teams—the chat-based workspace in Office 365—is now generally available in 181 markets and in 19 languages. Last week, we also made Teams available in Office 365 Education, free for faculty, staff and students. We’ve introduced over 100 new features and addressed top requests from over 50,000 organizations who have started using Teams since the preview began in November. The updates span all four of the core Teams promises: chat for today’s teams, a hub for teamwork, customizable for every team and security that teams trust. Notably, over 150 integrations with other apps, services and bots are either already available or coming soon. We are thrilled by the enthusiasm for Teams and look forward to seeing how customers build Teams into the way they collaborate every day. We’ll also continue updating Teams—along with our other Office 365 apps and services. Learn more about Microsoft Teams and start using Microsoft Teams today.

Availability: Microsoft Teams is now generally available for commercial and education customers on Windows desktops, Macs, Windows Mobile, iOS and Android, as well as the web.

Microsoft Bookings is rolling out worldwide

Last week, we announced the worldwide rollout of Microsoft Bookings to Office Setup 365 Business Premium subscribers. Bookings makes it easy for small businesses to schedule and manage appointments with their customers, and we’ve introduced several new capabilities based on feedback from last year’s initial release to customers in the U.S. and Canada. Now you can connect your Office 365 calendar to Bookings, add buffer time between appointments, customize your Bookings page, and stay connected on the go with iOS and Android apps. Read more about Microsoft Bookings.

A Microsoft Bookings page accessed on desktop and mobile.

Your Bookings page can be accessed on desktop or mobile.

Availability: Microsoft Bookings is rolling out to Office 365 Business Premium subscribers worldwide. It can be accessed on the web, iOS and Android.

OneNote inking and accessibility updates

We’ve made a number of improvements to OneNote this month, making inking more powerful and available in the browser, as well as helping you create more accessible notes.

  • Ink math assistant improvements—OneNote can now graph handwritten equations and even let you manipulate variables to see the visual effect of changes. It can also teach you the steps to solve systems of equations. This expanded built-in intelligence within OneNote makes it an even more powerful math coach to help you learn in context. Learn more in this blog, and give it a try today!

 The ink math assistant is being shown in OneNote. An equation is selected, the Math button is tapped and the Math pane expands. The Graph in 2D option is selected, and a graph appears. Then the variables in the equation are shown being manipulated with corresponding changes being updated in the graph.

OneNote can now graph handwritten equations, in addition to teaching you how to solve them.

Availability: Ink math assistant graphing and support for systems of equations are now available in OneNote for Windows 10, for all Office 365 subscribers.
  • Accessibility Checker now in OneNote—The Accessibility Checker, now available in OneNote for Windows 10, helps ensure your notes can be consumed without barriers by people with visual impairments. It analyzes your material and provides recommendations alongside your notes, which helps you understand how to fix errors and create more accessible notes over time. Simply select Check Accessibility under the View tab to get started. 

The Accessibility Checker is being shown in OneNote, specifically alerting the user to unclear hyperlink text in the notebook page.

The Accessibility Checker helps you find and fix issues that might make your content difficult for people with visual impairments to consume.

Availability: The Accessibility Checker is now available and easily discoverable for all customers in OneNote for Windows 10. It is also available in several Office applications on Windows desktops, Macs and Office Online.
  • Inking in OneNote Online—We’re bringing inking and the Draw tab to OneNote Online, so you can make your mark with ink or highlighter while taking, reviewing, or editing your notes in the browser.

  The new Draw tab with inking tools is being shown in OneNote Online, with ink annotations added to various parts of an image in a biology notebook page.

OneNote works the way you do, with new inking capabilities in the browser.

Availability: Inking is rolling out for all customers using OneNote Online in Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome.

Visio integrates with Excel and PowerPoint in new ways

Visio, Excel and PowerPoint work better together than ever, helping you seamlessly generate flowcharts automatically from data then share them effortlessly as presentations. Create a flowchart directly from Excel in a few clicks using the new Data Visualizer templates. Then, use the new Slide Snippets pane to select specific diagrams or snippets, title them and export as slides in a new PowerPoint presentation. The Morph transition is even applied automatically to create cinematic transitions between overlapping snippets on different slides. Get started with Visio Data Visualizer templates and creating a PowerPoint presentation from Visio.

The new Data Visualizer templates and Slide Snippets pane are being shown in Visio. A Cross Functional Flowchart is shown being created from an existing Excel workbook. Then the Slide Snippets pane is shown being used to select multiple areas of the Visio flowchart to export as snippets on individual slides in PowerPoint.

Visio, Excel and PowerPoint work better together to help you seamlessly create flowcharts from Excel data and export diagram snippets to share as PowerPoint slides.