OneDrive and Office Online: New names, even better cloud products

Microsoft's cloud services have gone through some rebranding and feature changes. Scott Lowe takes a look at the new OneDrive and Office Online.


OneDrive and Office Online

The past couple of weeks have revealed some new branding and a few feature changes with two of Microsoft’s cloud-focused products.

SkyDrive is now OneDrive

Thanks to a small trademark issue, Microsoft made the decision a while back to rebrand its SkyDrive cloud storage offering as OneDrive. Microsoft has indicated that the name change better reflects the company’s desire to allow their customers to store their important files in “one” place -- hence OneDrive.

However, along with the name change comes a few new features and changes to the previous service offering. Here are some of the new features that you'll see with OneDrive:

  • 7 GB free. Users new to OneDrive get 7 GB of cloud-based storage just for signing up. To get more, customers simply need to refer friends to the service. Each referred customer results in a 500 MB storage bonus for the referrer, and each customer can refer up to 10 friends -- that's up to 5 GB of additional storage at no charge. For those who choose to use the new photo upload feature (detailed below), another 3 GB is granted. So, at no charge, users can get up to 15 GB of free cloud-based storage from OneDrive. Of course, there are also a number of paid options for users who need 25 GB, 50 GB, or even more storage.  For those who opt into an Office 365 subscription, the OneDrive space allocation is a whopping 100 GB.
  • Android photo upload. This feature allows users to automatically upload photos from an Android device to OneDrive. This is also available for iOS and Windows Phone devices.
  • Cross platform and application. Have an Xbox? You’ve got OneDrive. Have a Windows 8 PC? You have OneDrive. Have a Windows Phone? You have OneDrive. Microsoft has made OneDrive available across Windows, Windows Phone, Office, Xbox, iPhone, iPad, Android phones/tablets, Windows devices, and Macs. On newer systems and in newer versions of Office, OneDrive is the default storage location. This can be good or bad; it’s good in that your files are always stored in the centrally-accessible cloud environment, but bad in that you need an Internet connection to access those files unless you also synchronize them locally.

Of course, OneDrive is but one service among many providing similar features. Its biggest advantage is its complete integration with Windows and Office, plus its compatible with other platforms.

Office Web Apps is now Office Online

Along with the newly rebranded OneDrive comes a rebranded set of Office applications. Formerly known as Office Web Apps, these tools are now called Office Online. With Office Online, you'll find web-based versions of Office apps, each providing a subset of features from the main Office suite. In Figure A, you can see the entrance page for Office Online.  

Figure A


Figure A

Office Online entrance page.

Figure B gives you a look at the newly rebranded Word Online.

Figure B


Figure B

Word Online.

I’ve seen the Office Online apps (formerly Office Web Apps) derided as substandard tools. However, in my experience, I’ve found them to be very good and quite capable of handling typical needs. Of course, if you need advanced features, you’ll need to use a full, local product suite.

The Office Online apps are available via both and The online product suite includes the following apps:

  • Word Online
  • Excel Online
  • OneNote Online
  • PowerPoint Online

The previous Office Web Apps were sometimes kind of hard to find, but Office Online apps are front and center. And, not to be outdone by Google, Microsoft also added real-time collaboration in Office Web Apps last November, so the new apps are more than suitable, even when deep collaboration is a must.

When using one of the Office Online apps, users can quickly access any of the other apps by clicking the down arrow to the right of the app name and opening the app bar (Figure C).

Figure C


Figure C

Office Online application bar.


While no radical changes have been made to these services, their evolution has been interesting to watch. Microsoft’s various cloud plays have been confusing over the years, so it’s nice to see the company finally consolidating their products in a way that begins to make more sense to the user.

What do you think about Microsoft's rebranding efforts? Do you use OneDrive and Office Online in your organization? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.