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Microsoft Boosts Office Online Integration with Outside Cloud Services

Users of Microsoft's Office Online service can now co-author files in real time even if those files are stored in third-party cloud storage services like Box, Citrix ShareFile, Dropbox and Egnyte.

Microsoft Office Corporate Vice President Kirk Koenigsbauer announced the new capability in a blog post Wednesday. The real-time co-authoring feature debuted in 2013, back when Office Online was still called "Office Web Apps." Until now, the feature worked only for files stored in either SharePoint or Microsoft OneDrive.

Microsoft has been steadily increasing the ways that third-party service providers integrate with Office Online since it launched its Cloud Storage Partner Program (CSPP) early last year. In addition to adding the real-time co-authoring capability to its CSPPs, Microsoft also said Wednesday that it is extending its Office for iOS integration to all partners in the CSPP.

The company is also adding integration between its Outlook.com e-mail service and Box and Dropbox. Dropbox users can already co-author Office files from Android and iOS devices. As part of Wednesday's announcement, Microsoft is incrementally extending that capability to the rest of the CSPP, though just for iOS.

"This integration lets users designate these partner cloud services as 'places' in Office, just as they can with Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox," Koenigsbauer said. "Users can now browse for PowerPoint, Word and Excel files on their favorite cloud service right from within an Office app. They can open, edit or create in these apps with confidence that their files will be updated right in the cloud. Users can also open Office files from their cloud storage app in Office, then save any changes directly back to the cloud."

Edward Shi, an associate product manager at Box, said in a blog post that users who select its service as the default can access all of their Box files from Office and edit them using Microsoft's native cloud apps.

"Further, when starting directly in Box's iOS app, you can open Office to edit your files and those changes automatically saved back to Box," Shi noted. "Or create a fresh Word, PowerPoint or Excel document, assign tasks to specific colleagues and save to Box. The ability to create, open, edit and save Office content in the Box for iOS app enables customers to efficiently create and collaborate on content from anywhere."

Koenigsbauer said that Android support would follow later in the year. Over the next few weeks, he stated that Microsoft will let Outlook.com users attach files stored in Box and Dropbox to their messages.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.