Office Mobile, SkyDrive and saving documents


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Office Mobile for iPhone is locked into SkyDrive with few other choices.

For most people, the new Office Mobile for iPhone is locked into SkyDrive as the sole location for saving files. It’s a 21st Century version of Henry Ford’s famous quote “you can save a document anywhere as long as it’s on a Microsoft server”.

Not only are you locked to SkyDrive, but you’re limited to the Skydrive account attached to your Office 365 subscription. Bad luck if you have multiple SkyDrive accounts – perhaps one for work and another for home.

You can’t save to the iPhone itself let alone non-Microsoft services like Dropbox. The only choices for saving a file are your linked SkyDrive account, a SharePoint site (if available) or emailing the document.


How it’s supposed to work

After activating Office Mobile for iPhone by login to your Office 365 subscription, the linked SkyDrive account should appear automatically under the ‘Open’ page.

Office for iPhone - Open dialog image from Office Mobile, SkyDrive and saving documents at Office-Watch.com

But it’s not always that simple. The above screen shot is from one of our test devices with the Office 365 linked Skydrive automatically added.

On another device with the same Office 365 account there’s a problem that Microsoft, to date, can’t help with. After activation, nothing appears on the Open page except the ‘Add a Place’ button. But even the ‘Add a Place’ option won’t connect to SkyDrive. What’s most worrying is Microsoft’s response. When we asked the company about the problem they replied with just a link to their FAQ for Office Mobile for iPhone which has no admission of any problem with the app let alone a solution.

So at this stage on that device we can save documents to SkyDrive and open those documents but can’t access any documents already on SkyDrive or see the shared Recent Document list. Looking around the net, some people can access SkyDrive as promised but yet other people are having problems with slow or poor synchronization or a failure to automatically connect to SkyDrive. In summary, Microsoft seems to be having trouble reliably connecting Office Mobile to its own cloud storage!


Other options

There is a non-SkyDrive option for saving documents but only Microsoft Sharepoint. From Open | Add a Place there are three choices.

Office for iPhone - Add a place image from Office Mobile, SkyDrive and saving documents at Office-Watch.com

You can add a SharePoint site, either one hosted on the Office 365 service or elsewhere.


Only one Skydrive

It’s not clear why there’s a ‘SkyDrive’ option on this page because you can only access the Skydrive account linked to the Office 365 subscription. If you try to add a second Skydrive account you get this

Office for iPhone - Cant add another Skydrive account image from Office Mobile, SkyDrive and saving documents at Office-Watch.com

The only way to use another SkyDrive account is to ‘reset Office’ which means activating Office Mobile for iPhone to another Office 365 subscription.


Recent Documents

If you can get your SkyDrive account fully working on Office Mobile for iPhone then it will show your Recent Documents. Not just documents you’ve opened on that device with Office Mobile, but any documents you’ve opened on that SkyDrive account.

Office for iPhone - Recent Documents image from Office Mobile, SkyDrive and saving documents at Office-Watch.com

Notice at the bottom there’s a link to a document opened a fortnight ago, long before Office Mobile for iPhone became available.

That means you can open a SkyDrive saved document from Office on PC, Mac or Office Web Apps then easily find that document on Office Mobile from the shared Recent Document list.


Online or Offline

The Recent Documents list tells you where the document is saved. ‘On Skydrive’ means it’s in the cloud. ‘Downloaded from SkyDrive’ means a copy is saved on the device which you can access when offline.

Office for iPhone - downloaded from Skydrive image from Office Mobile, SkyDrive and saving documents at Office-Watch.com

Click on the right button to email the document or delete it from the device.

It seems the only way to save a document to the device is to open it with Office Mobile for iPhone. There’s no way within the app to select multiple documents or entire folders for offline access/synchronization.

Nor is there any automatic or background synchronization of a document that’s changed online. The document is only updated from SkyDrive when you open the document, which delays opening the document and isn’t available if the device is offline.


Saving to other locations

We could not find any way to save a document to the iPhone’s local storage. Nor can you add a document to the device with iTunes via Device | Apps | File Sharing because Office Mobile for iPhone isn’t one of the apps listed there.

You can’t add a place to a shared folder in another Skydrive account. The workaround is to open the document in a browser then ‘Open with …’ to Office Mobile for iPhone. However there’s no way to save the document back to the shared folder.

It’s possible to ‘Add a Place’ to a folder of your Skydrive storage for faster access.

Documents received by email can be opened in Office Mobile for iPhone. Send a document via email using the ‘Share’ option.

A document in Dropbox or other cloud storage can be opened via the ‘Open in …’ menu in iOS which shows a list of the compatible apps for that file type. However you can’t save back to the same cloud storage – any document you save goes to SkyDrive regardless of its original source.

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