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Office 2013's SkyDrive Integration Combines Local, Cloud Storage

SkyDrive and Office 2013: two great tastes that taste great together? SkyDrive is the cloud storage service holding Microsoft's "anywhere, everywhere" vision of Windows 8 together, and in a recent post on the Office Next blog, senior Office program managers took the time to explain how the productivity package was built from the ground up to sync with SkyDrive in a seamless, helpful way.

First and foremost, the team designed the system so that SkyDrive-stored files behave no differently to the user on a basic level than offline files: Office files stored in your SkyDrive folder are local copies, available when you're offline and impervious to any network woes.

Ho-hum, we hear you saying; don't Dropbox and other cloud syncing services do that already? Yes, but the intriguing part of Office 2013's SkyDrive functionality is  the way it handles that cloud connection.

Rather than storing files completely online or storing files offline, then syncing them when changes are made -- two implementations that can cause headaches during moments of poor Internet connectivity or collaborative efforts, respectively -- the local files stored in your SkyDrive folder automatically connect to the service when you open them, ensuring you have the most up-to-date version available and can collaborate with others effortlessly without affecting local offline availability.

When you save a file, the alterations are recorded both locally and in the cloud. To minimum upload sizes and ensure a seamless editing experience, Microsoft embedded a "Smart Sync" into Office 2013 that only saves the actual changes to a file: in the example given, if you only change a bullet point in a PowerPoint presentation, only that uploads to the SkyDrive servers, eliminating the need to re-upload the entire file.  

Furthermore, Office 2013 will upload your files to SkyDrive asynchronously to keep the editing going smoothly. If you're on a weak network, the file will save to the cloud the best it can, but you can continue working without a hitch, thanks to the local file save. Buh bye latency issues!

As always, you'll be able to edit your SkyDrive-stored files online as well via the Office 365 or Office Web Apps interfaces.

Does the idea of seamless, no-latency cloud-backed document editing sound too good to be true? Give it a whirl for yourself in the Office 365 Consumer Preview, which already sports the SkyDrive functionality.