From December 2013 to January 2014, Microsoft made a series of changes to their cloud services. To start, they rebranded Office Web as Office Online, and Skydrive as OneDrive. However, the name changes are just the tip of the iceberg. Microsoft also made a host of other changes to better compete with services like Google Docs and Zoho. Here are a few of the most noticeable changes:

1. New Website

The first major change you will notice is the new website. The redesign eliminates any lingering questions about Microsoft’s commitment to providing cloud services. Office Online is the main focus of the site, with icons for the different apps taking up half the screen. Only a tiny button provides access to all other Office options. Microsoft clearly believes the cloud is the future, and wants everyone to know it.

2. New Toolbar

Microsoft seems to have learned a lesson from Google’s unified toolbar. A single app toolbar now unifies all of Microsoft’s web services. This toolbar is accessed by clicking the down arrow at the top left of most Microsoft online services. The toolbar shows the Office Online apps along with the rest of Microsoft’s online offerings. Microsoft has been rolling out this new toolbar in phases, so not everyone has access to it yet. Ultimately, the new toolbar will help introduce Office Online to the masses.

3. New Templates

Wizards and templates have been a mainstay of Microsoft’s desktop product. Now, Microsoft hopes to also differentiate its cloud products with these features. After the recent changes, launching an Office Online app reveals a helpful “get started” bar, instead of throwing users into a blank document. This might not seem like a major change, but for desktop users familiar with the wizard or template selector, this is a huge deal.

Final Thoughts

None of the new changes seriously alter the way Office Online works. For the most part, the changes are cosmetic. Yet, Microsoft hopes the updates will draw more people to their cloud products. They also hope the changes reaffirm that they’re moving to the cloud for good, not simply joining a trend.

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