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How to use the latest incarnation of Microsoft’s Skydrive.
Skydrive from Microsoft has been around for some time, but now they’ve finally released software to synchronize the cloud storage with your PC and some other devices.
It’s the Microsoft version of Google’s new Drive service. Both offer browser based editing as well as online storage of files.
The free Skydrive offers 7GB of storage (with an extra 18GB for past Skydrive users). Extra storage is available for reasonable annual fees (20GB for $10, 50GB for $25 and 100GB for $50).
You’ll need a Windows Live login to use Skydrive, if you don’t have one already go to Live.com .
The limited remote access features of Skydrive have additional security protection. It’s a good idea to check your Live Account security (click on your name on top right, choose Account then Account Security ‘Manage’ link). Update the phone number and alternate email address.
Like Google Drive, Skydrive comes with browser based ‘Office’ apps to edit and view documents stored online.
Unlike Google Drive, Skydrive is directly compatible with Microsoft Office documents. Click on a Word, Excel, PowerPoint or OneNote document in Skydrive and you’ll be taken to Office Web Apps.
For the moment go here to download the preview Skydrive program.
During the installation there’s an option to share the files on that computer from other computers (after you’ve logged into your Skydrive account).
You can change this setting later under Settings | General | Fetch Files.
Once it’s running, Skydrive will copy to your computer any and all content stored on the cloud.
Skydrive in Windows
The Skydrive folder is added to your Explorer Favorites.
Any files or folders you add to the Skydrive folder will be replicated to online storage and from there to anywhere else you have your Skydrive account linked to.
You can only control sharing access to the files from the web interface.
You can’t nominate existing files or folders to be part of Skydrive. This is different from SugarSync or Microsoft’s own Live Mesh where you can ‘tag’ existing folders (like ‘My Documents”) to be synchronized.
The workaround is to add Skydrive sub-folders to Libraries. For example the Skydrive ‘Photos’ folder can be added to the Pictures library.
On the web
Login to skydrive.live.com to see your files online from any computer.
The display is very comprehensive. It’s better than the Google Drive equivalent because Skydrive shows clearly the sharing status (Just Me, Some people, Everyone). It also shows size of folder contents, something we’ve long wanted to see in Windows Explorer!
Dropbox and other sync services have a ‘Public’ area for each user. This lets you upload files to share with others but without the need for special logins or accounts.
All you have to do is email other people with the link to the file in your public area. Once they have the file, you can delete it.
This is a very handy feature for sharing files without hassling people to create an account they may never use again.
Skydrive also has a default ‘Public’ folder.
The sharing controls are on the bottom right of the page.
The default sharing for a new folder from the root folder is no sharing aka ‘Just me’.
For each folder, look on the Sharing link at bottom right. Clicking on that link reveals some options to share the folder.
Send email, lets you email a link to that folder. Check the boxes if you want recipients of the email to edit the contents and/or require a Windows Live login.
There’s an option to share with people via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
The final tab lets you share with people with links to View only, View and edit or full public access. Copy and paste these links into your own emails or other messages.
There’s a proper Skydrive program for the Mac with similar features to the Windows version. Go to here to get it.
There is no Skydrive app for Android devices and no word from Microsoft as to when or even if they will make one available.
For the moment Microsoft says you can access Skydrive via an Android browser, which is true but deliberately avoids the point. Cloud storage, especially for mobile devices, is only truly useful when it has two-way syncronization.
iPhone and iPad
There’s a free Skydrive app available from the Apple App Store but don’t get too excited.
The app doesn’t seem to sync all the cloud storage to the device. It only accesses files from the cloud when you request them. This makes it useless as local storage for when you are offline or on a slow link.
This situation highlights the problem for Microsoft customers. Microsoft’s main interest is in keeping customers buying their products for the desktop and portable devices. The company only releases non-Windows apps when they feel they have to.
Clearly they don’t think that Android is worth the effort.
For Apple devices they’ve done their old ‘check box’ trick by releasing an app that ‘ticks the box’ but has only limited functionality.
Unless there’s a coup d’é·tat at Microsoft (or the fundamentals of capitalism are rewritten), then ‘device agnostic’ services like Evernote, DropBox and SugarSync will have the advantage in this product area. Those companies aren’t tied to a single operating system, in fact they have a self-interest in spreading their service to as many types of devices as possible. Microsoft, on the other hand, thinks of Skydrive as a way to sell more Windows, Windows Phone and Office.
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