Recently Dropbox and Microsoft announced a partnership that offers users of the popular cloud service easy interoperability with Office on iOS and Android. As a longtime user of Dropbox this makes the process of accessing my files much easier and will avoid a great deal of duplication when working across platforms.
Earlier in the year Microsoft launched Office for iPad and with this gave users of Apple’s mobile devices versions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint that go a long way to meeting the needs of most people. True the desktop versions of these productivity applications offer more bells and whistles but most features go unused so the mobile offering will cover the needs of most users most of the time. The Office Apps are free and will enable viewing of all Office documents, those with a Microsoft Office 365 subscription can enable editing of their files as part of their plan and without using one of their allowed desktop installs. The downfall for many users was that they were locked into Dropbox for their file storage and now had to move files into OneDrive to be able to edit with Office. This barrier has now been removed and both users and employees of Dropbox can rejoice.
There are two ways to access your Dropbox files depending on how you like to work with your files; both produce the same result. Method one is to begin in the Dropbox app on your device and locate the file you wish to use, from here a few clicks will gives access to the systems options to 'Open in. . .’ along with a direct option to 'Open with Office', select the appropriate Office app and you are editing your file with automatic saves back to Dropbox as you edit. Method two is to give the Office App access to you Dropbox account. Now when you open the Office Apps you have Dropbox as a save location alongside OneDrive and can access any of your files in either location from within the app. However you access your Dropbox account, files will reflect the changes you make and be available for editing across other platforms including web and dedicated applications for Windows and Mac.
Some have claimed that this move signals Microsoft is abandoning OneDrive. This is an odd claim as the company has just announced practically unlimited storage for OneDrive users as part of their Office 365 subscriptions. Almost anyone can access huge chunks of OneDrive storage at no cost so it is clearly a product Microsoft is not directly making money on. What OneDrive and this arrangement with Dropbox ensures is that when a user wants to edit their files on Mobile and from the Cloud, Microsoft has the answer. These moves from Microsoft are more likely to show an awareness from the tech giant of the threat posed by iCloud from Apple and ongoing developments from Google across its Google Drive/Docs ecosystem. What this move also seems to herald is a Microsoft that does not ask for total commitment from its users but is happy to provide the core services required to make a diverse platform work especially when they are providing the parts users are happy to pay for.
For schools this deal offers the familiar environment of Dropbox without the need to move large volumes of files to an alternate system and the convenience of editing Word, Excel and Powerpoint files on mobile devices. For schools not committed to Dropbox, OneDrive offers more storage at a cheaper price (free) with the same degree of cross platform integration. Either way students, teachers and facility should all be able to find an easy to use, flexible option to meet their productivity needs.
by Nigel Coutts