Microsoft Office 365 Beta Opens to the Public: Hands-On Tour

Microsoft's Office 365 package for businesses is open for beta testing. Here's a tour of the productivity and communication lineup on the desktop, in a Web browser, and from Windows phones.

The Features Inside Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft has opened its Office 365 services to public beta testing. This cloud suite, which competes with Google Apps for Business, targets small and large businesses, offering productivity and communication tools that integrate across the desktop, Web, and mobile devices.

It includes Office Web Apps productivity tools; Lync for IM, VoIP, and online meetings; Exchange Online for mobile access to e-mail, contacts, and calendars; and SharePoint Online for shared documents and internal sites. Some bundles include the desktop Office Professional Plus. Keep reading to see what the services let you do.

Also see our comparison of Office 365 vs. Google Apps, a tour of Office 365's admin controls, an analysis of how Office 365 can pay for itself, and a critical look at mobile features of Office 365.

Document Matching

Thanks to SharePoint, the document on the left viewed in Word on a PC looks identical to the document in the right pane as viewed online within Internet Explorer.

SharePoint Workspace

You can choose to sync a document within SharePoint Workspace, working on it within the desktop Office instead of from a browser.

Familiar Editing

Editing sites and documents online is meant to seem familiar to users of the desktop Word. You'll see elements of the Ribbon layout from Word 2007 and 2010.

Contact Cards

You can view the contact details of a user working in the same document that you're working in.

In Sync

You can view the same contacts whether in a browser, on a PC, or on a smartphone.

Outside Sharing

You can give an outside user permission to share an internal SharePoint site via an e-mail invitation. The user must sign in with a Windows Live ID.

Outlook Web App

The Outlook Web App looks pretty nearly identical to Outlook on the desktop. You can receive reminders, sort messages by conversation, and look at mail in much the same way.

Chat and Edit

You can carry on an IM conversation with someone while working on a document together from afar.

Get the Lync

You can create an online meeting from directly within Outlook. There's no need to look up meeting codes and pass codes. Participants will receive a URL, which they can click to join the meeting.

Access Update

Here’s how it looks if you’re in a Word document and make changes to data that's connected to an online Access database.

When to Meet

Instead of e-mailing attachments to colleagues, you can share links to documents stored online within Office 365.

Meeting Notes

From a Windows Phone 7 smartphone, you can snap a photo at a meeting and pop it into a shared document in SharePoint.

Video Meeting

With Lync you can upload a PowerPoint slide show, do a whiteboard presentation, and reach other users with video chatting.

Join a Meeting

Here's what joining an online meeting with audio can look like in Lync.

Propose a New Time

From a Windows Phone 7 phone, you’ll see updates to scheduled meetings, with links to maps for directions.

Collaborate on Your Phone

You can update a PowerPoint slide available via SharePoint from a Windows Phone 7 handset.

More About Office 365

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