Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Trying Office 365 on Mac, iPad, and Android

I am evaluating alternative cloud services and the 1 terabyte of OneDrive storage certainly attracted my attention. I have been using Dropbox for many years and have usually been happy with it. While I was very disappointed that Dropbox added Condoleezza Rice to their board of directors (I don't like her strong support of our invasion of Iraq and her views on privacy vs. unencumbered government surveillance) that alone is not enough to make me stop using Dropbox. Still it is good to have options and I very much like the direction that Microsoft's new CEO Satya Nadella is taking the company. Don't get me wrong, I don't view Microsoft, Apple, and Google as being perfect either in regards to user privacy. A simple fact of life is that the US government can apply very strong soft pressure against tech companies in the US, to the detriment of our economy. Anyway, enough politics, here are my initial thoughts on Office 365:

I signed up for the free 30 day trial of Office 365 earlier today and installed all of Office 365 on my MacBook Air and just OneDrive, OneNote, and Microsoft Word on my iPad and Android phone. So far the best feature is that Word documents are actually easy to read and edit on my iPad and Android phone. Sweet.

Satya Nadella's strategy of supporting all devices for Microsoft's productivity tools seems like a great strategy to me. Anyone who doesn't think that cloud based services will continue to dominate the way people use devices has not been paying attention.

Unfortunately, OneDrive has some really rough edges dealing with opening plain text files on my iPad and Android phone. I keep notes as text files and the option for using notes seems to be importing everything into OneNote. Note syncing between my MacBook Air, iPad, and Android phone works well, but I really do prefer plain text files. Strangely, OneNote does not store notes files on OneDrive! On my Mac, they are hidden in ~/Library in a cache folder. PDF files can be conveniently read from OneDrive on iPad, but it is not so convenient on my Android phone.

What about security and privacy?

I use encryption when storing sensitive information on Dropbox and I am modifying my backup zsh scripts to also encrypt sensitive information to OneDrive. Easy to do! As a consultant, customers trust me with some of their proprietary data and information and I always try to keep customer data encrypted on my laptop and cloud backup.

Why not use Google Drive?

Actually, even though I don't sync my Google Drive to my Mac, I do use the web interface and use it for offline backups. Google Drive, like Microsoft's OneDrive, is not as facile as Dropbox. There is also the simple fact that I rely on Google for so many services that I prefer using an alternative cloud drive.

I am in no hurry to complete my evaluation of Office 365. My paid for Dropbox account is prepaid for another seven months. When my free evaluation period of Office 365 is up I plan on paying for the service for a few months while deciding if I want to make it my primary cloud service.

What about Apple?

I really enjoy using both iOS and Android devices, mostly for the fun of the different experience. That said, now that I am basically retired (I still consult several hours a week, work on a tech business idea, and write books, so my friends and family take my "retired" status with some skepticism :-) I might end up just living in Apple's little walled garden, and use their cloud services. Right now, Apple's cloud services are not very impressive but I expect large improvements. In any case, I am in no hurry but sometime in the next year I would like to settle on one primary cloud service, using others as a backup.

Update July 27, 2014: I have been using Office 365 for five days on my OS X laptop, iPad, and Android phone. So far, the only thing that I really dislike is that selective sync does not work on the Mac client: selecting a folder to not sync causes the app to crash. I do like the OneNote application: it works well on my Mac, iPad, and Android phone.

2 comments:

Iian Conley said...

It would be interesting to see what your final thoughts are on using Office on Android. I am thinking of getting a 365 subscription for work to work alongside google docs (just for the sake of offering more choice), but am unsure how it would feel on a chromebook. But Android tablets may sway a decision.

Mark Watson, author and consultant said...

Hello Iian,

I would guess that Google Docs would be better on a Chromebook.

You can try the web interface at onedrive.live.com