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A few months ago, we shared a few challenges that customers have with today’s personal cloud storage services. College students in particular have unique needs that today’s services do not satisfy. While we continue to improve SkyDrive to meet their needs, today’s SkyDrive can already help students work together more efficiently. To spread the word, we’re showcasing what students can do with SkyDrive and Office, and we’re sponsoring a $50K Collaboration Challenge for students at 10 universities across the U.S. who are participating in business plan competitions.
This blog post includes a few power tips and FAQs to help you get the most out of SkyDrive and Office for full-powered collaboration.
Let’s say you're working on a business plan competition (or another group project) with a few other people. Your teammates are across campus, across town or even across the country. Some use PCs. Some use Macs. You want to put your best foot forward with a compelling pitch deck, smart business plan, and sound financial analysis. How can you easily work together and create something great?
You could use web-based apps like Google Docs. While they may work well for simple tasks, they may not have the features you need to create professional documents. You can also have formatting issues when you move between these apps and Office. You could also use a “file cloud” like Dropbox, but these tools aren’t really designed for collaboration, and they don’t let you work simultaneously with others on a document.
Faced with these choices, many people decide to work independently and email files back and forth. This makes it hard to know if you’re working on the latest version of a document, and sometimes you can run into attachment limits. It also can take a lot of time to piece together different Word documents or PowerPoint presentations from multiple email messages.
With SkyDrive, you have a better option. You can store all your files in one place, so everyone can access the latest version. You can also use free Office Web Apps for basic editing from any browser.
But what most people don’t know is that SkyDrive and Office Web Apps integrate with the Office apps installed on your PC or Mac so you can work together on documents in the cloud right from your desktop apps. With the right setup, you can work together on a Word doc or PowerPoint presentation with your teammates at the same time.
Working this way, your team gets the powerful authoring and formatting tools that you’re used to in Microsoft Office, while also being able to take advantage of cloud-based collaboration. Everyone can work from the latest version and even work on the doc at the same time. You won’t have to convert your document into a different format that could lead to formatting problems.
Also with tools like OneNote Web App and PowerPoint embedding, SkyDrive can save your team time by being the one place to brainstorm, create, collaborate and publish.
Here are 7 tips for full-powered collaboration in the cloud—across PCs and Macs. Please also see the FAQs at the end of the blog post.
If you have a PC, you can pin SkyDrive to your Windows 7 taskbar using Internet Explorer 9 for quick access to files and sharing options.
If you have a Mac, you have a few different options. Apps like Fluid or Automator bring SkyDrive to your Dock along with a nice SkyDrive icon (download one here). However, using these can interfere with the plugin that SkyDrive needs to open Office apps on your Mac (see the FAQ below). We recommend a simpler approach:
There are two ways to create a shared space for your team on SkyDrive. You can create a SkyDrive group or you can share a SkyDrive folder with team members.
With the latest sharing updates, sharing a folder is a better option for many projects, particularly ones that are short-lived. Now you can go from creation, to collaboration, to publishing—keeping your files in one place without extra versions.
To get the most out of the experience:
SkyDrive works with OneNote so you can organize notes and brainstorm in a virtual notebook that’s shared with your entire team. Instead of sifting through old email threads, everyone can get up to speed on the project history in one place.
To start, create a new notebook using OneNote Web App in your shared folder. Then, everyone on your team can easily access it from that folder.
OneNote Web App works great across Mac and PC, and you can easily access it along with the rest of your shared files from your SkyDrive bookmark. If you have OneNote 2010 on your PC, sync your notebook locally to work offline and use additional features like screenshot capture, inking and more. You can also access your notes on a Windows Phone, iPhone, or iPad.
Once your team is up and running, you may find that you’re working on a couple of documents frequently, such as your pitch deck or financial model.
With Windows 7 and Office 2010, if you’ve opened these documents from SkyDrive at least once, you can then pin them to your taskbar just by right-clicking Word, Excel or PowerPoint. Then you can edit and automatically save changes back to the cloud.
Also, within Word, Excel or Word 2010, you can use the File/Recent menu for even more pinning options. You can pin additional files, as well as the entire shared folder.
If you have a Mac, you can access any SkyDrive document that you’ve opened recently from the File/Open Recent menu of the Office app that you’re using.
And if you’re offline, you may still be able to access your SkyDrive docs. On your PC, run Microsoft Office 2010 Upload Center from the start menu or from the tray. You can view recently uploaded files that have been cached for offline use. On the Mac, access Upload Center through the Finder.
If you and your teammates use Word 2010 for PC, Word 2011 for Mac, or Word Web App, you can work together on the same Word document on SkyDrive at the same time. If your team’s style is to “divide and conquer”, co-authoring will help your team see the paper as it comes together, so each person can make sure that their piece fits with what the rest of the team is doing. You can even see everyone who is working on a doc at a given time.
To get the most out of the experience, use Track Changes for edit rounds. Track Changes lets you review any change your teammates make to the document. If you turn on Track Changes, keep in mind that you won’t be able to edit the document using Word Web App until you accept all of the changes.
SkyDrive works with PowerPoint 2010 for PC and PowerPoint 2011 for Mac so you can work together on the same PowerPoint at the same time. This can be a huge time saver compared to emailing around individual slides, and it lets you keep your formatting consistent. To take advantage of this:
For Office documents that you edit online or on your PC, SkyDrive keeps track of different versions automatically, storing the last 25 versions online. These additional versions do not count towards your storage limit on SkyDrive.
Versions are really helpful because they can recover your file from a bad change, and they also let you go back in time and see how far your project has come!
Click on any Office document to view its version history, and then choose to restore or delete any version. If you decide to restore a previous version, SkyDrive will not overwrite your current file. Instead, it will take a snapshot of your current file and save it as another version.
Do I need a Hotmail account to use SkyDrive?
No. If you use Gmail or another account, you can easily sign up for an account at SkyDrive.com using your existing email address. Once you sign up, you can add contacts from Gmail or Facebook for easier sharing.
Why can’t I open docs from SkyDrive.com using Office apps on my PC or Mac?
We’re working hard to make sure SkyDrive and Office Web Apps are built using HTML5 and modern web standards to work across browsers.
But to be able to open cloud-based files with Word, Excel, or PowerPoint on your PC or Mac, SkyDrive requires a browser plugin that’s currently available for Internet Explorer and Firefox on the PC or Safari and Firefox on the Mac. If you use these browsers and still have issues opening docs, here’s a quick way to troubleshoot the problem:
NOTE: You need Office 2003, 2007 or 2010 on the PC or Office 2008 or Office 2011 on the Mac to open files from SkyDrive.
I can’t upload more than one file at a time to SkyDrive. What’s wrong?
You should be able to. If you have Silverlight installed and use IE or Safari for Mac, you can upload up to 200 files at the same time. If you use Firefox or Chrome, you can drag and drop multiple files from your desktop to the folder of your choice.
We hope these tips are helpful for any type of group work. And for students participating in a business plan competition, we encourage your team to try SkyDrive, check out these helpful tips / templates from Guy Kawasaki, and enter our $50K Collaboration Challenge.
We’re constantly working to improve the SkyDrive experience. We’d love to hear from you, whether you have additional tips, suggestions or just want to share with us something that you’ve created using SkyDrive.
Hope that SkyDrive will have its own app for iPad too.
Live Mesh Beta what you are asking for right. Microsoft essentially split LMB in two with Windows Live Mesh for desktop synching and Windows Live SkyDrive for cloud-ONLY synchronized storage. This is still a self-inflicted fracture that Microsoft is continuing to ignore.
Will we be able to buy extra storage soon on SkyDrive? I ran out a while ago and it's becoming a real problem.
PLEASE build a command button to create a desktop SkyDrive folder into the SkyDrive web site.
I have the Office Suite 2010 and being able to open and save files to SkyDrive in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint dosen't help me because I am using Access and Infopath. Search Bing using "SkyDrive desktop folder" and you get "1-10 of 595,000 resultsresults" (google returns "About 884,000 results (0.26 seconds)") so there are a lot of us out there trying to find some way to simply use SkyDrive as a desktop folder.
PLEASE do something to make a desktop connecton to SkyDrive. We need to be able to access multiple SkyDrive folders from the desktop. I have a SkyDrive under my email and my wife has a SkyDrive under her email.
From my experiences with using the Office Live web apps, the product looks great and works well for the most part except for the fact that it's missing one major feature and that's the auto save function which Google Docs has. Microsoft should also consider making the Skydrive app and other Office apps available for all major mobile operating systems such as Android and BlackBerry not just iOS and Windows Phone 7.
My Live.com Excel spreadsheets open in the Skydrive App very, very tiny and I have to expand the screen to be able to read the spreadsheet. The same spreadsheet in Skydrive in iPhone's native Safari browser is has much larger type and I can read immediately on opening. I don't like the new App.
In IE9, I entered https://skydrive.live.com, logged in with my ID and Password and get to my SkyDrive account.
However, the little icon still shows the IE logo. When I pin the tab to my Windows 7 Task bar, I still only get the IE logo and not the SkyDrive logo.
Is there a way to change this?
Is Windows Live suddenly requiring -- with no warning to users -- a mandatory password change for all accounts? I ask because starting today, when I go to the www.hotmail.com URL, I am asked to "provide account information" and change my password before I can go to my Hotmail account. I already have a strong password, and Hotmail sent no advance notification of this change, which makes me highly suspicious it's a phishing scam. If Hotmail has indeed made this change, it has made a terrible PR and customer service blunder by failing to announce it to users and to the media. And if this is indeed a scam or a hack where users are diverted to a rogue URL, then Hotmail needs to get the word out ASAP or risk a different type of customer service and PR blunder. I've looked all over the Internet, all over the alleged Windows Live "help" site -- where there is no way to get an answer without signing in -- and there is zero information -- again, making me suspicious! If someone could please respond to me, that would be great -- happy to provide you the rogue URL if it could be a scam... but also need to know if it's legit, since I'm unwilling to take the risk of divulging my password just because a web page says I should. Thanks!
To clarify, not only enable folder uploading, enable folder synchronization, enabling at any possible point of access any new files added to the folders and changes made to any files contained therein, whether changes are made online in the Office Web Apps or if changes are made on the PC.
(Please read "spivonious"'s comment above before you read the rest of this comment)
[RE: Tip 4: Access SkyDrive docs right from Word, Excel or PowerPoint—online or offline]
Wouldn't it be BEST to cure the disjointed nature of storage between SkyDrive and Mesh instead of encouraging unnecessary, obligatory steps EACH TIME a user wants to open a file stored in SkyDrive (arstechnica.com/.../windows-live-sync-is-frustratingly-bad-it-could-be-awesome.ars)?
Windows Live's cloud storage quality and ease of use has regressed from Live Mesh Beta when all you had to improve it any further was make it so that Office Web Apps could open files synchronized in the cloud via Live Mesh Beta and desktop based Office programs could open the same files with no problem because those files were set to ALREADY synchronize to your PC. None of this opening an Office program, THEN connecting to SkyDrive, THEN locating your file was necessary. There was not of this unnecessary pinning nor was there a requirement that the document be opened "at least once" on the computer you were using just to be able to open the document just because it was within a folder that automatically updates changes to files stored within to the cloud. There was an activity feed for those folders as well so you know when and who changed something that had priveleges to do so. Why that changed makes no sense and why that STILL has not been fixed makes no sense. Like "spivonious" mentions above, folder uploading makes FAR MORE SENSE than single file retrieval for most users. You guys got it right the first time with Live Mesh Beta and didn't listen to your users who did not want Live Mesh Beta done away with and were even willing to PAY for the measly 5GB. Why is the 25GB not accessible and why not just merge the SkyDrive and Mesh properties so that they are one and the same and so that users may maximize use and connection to cloud storage with their locally stored files, even if at an annual cost? You guys are making it easy for your competitors (DropBox, iCloud, etc.). Stop it! There needs to be a real-time solution for constant synchronization of files stored to a user's Live account. Folder-based synchronization like what Live Mesh Beta did and Windows Live Mesh sort of does now is the solution. The SkyDrive-only way is cumbersome.
I use SkyDrive for sharing, saving and synchronizing data with Windows Phone and PC. I have few suggestions related to SkyDrive and overall Windows Live experience, which might provide value to the improvement program of these platforms:
1. Please provide the ability to download SkyDrive files on phone memory (esp from OfficeHub).
2. Let the users delete or rename files/folders and create/delete folders on SkyDrive from phone.
3. We need XPS document support on SkyDrive (view xps as html) and Windows Phone natively.
[Windows Live Messenger]
4. During the chat on live messenger, in "Share content from the web" under "Your Content" we have the SkyDrive section. Besides pictures, it should enlist all the files including documents (docx, pdf etc) and videos saved on my SkyDrive account other than just pictures.
[Windows Live SkyDrive]
5. On SkyDrive website: Unlike copying file from one folder to other folder, copying file from root directory to some folder and vice versa is not allowed! I can upload a file in root folder but I cannot move it or copy it from there. It should be fixed.
6. It would be a great feature if we have option to synchronize the favorite or bookmarked sites and folders (categories) between SkyDrive and IE, so my favorites are always accessible wherever I go via IE built-in support and Bing bar (if using some other browser or platform). Also provide a simple web-based CRUD app (using MVC, with categories and search) which acts like a webapp for SkyDrive and webservice for IE and BingBar to manage, organize and synchronize my favorties.
[Windows Live Hotmail]
7. Besides having files, docs, images and emoticon attachments options, please provide us with a feature to attach emails or the entire conversation from any email folder (Inbox, Sent, CustomFolders...) without leaving the page. Like we have this ability in Office Outlook: drag-drop the selected emails in the compose window and they will be attached to the message. Other than the Outlook client, this feature is not yet incorporated in any web based email solution till date. An implicit way is by opening the desired emails individually one-by-one and copy-paste the content, download all the attachments in system and attach them.
8. While composing the message in Hotmail if you press Spell check, you will get this message at the top "The spelling checker found some words for you to look at. If you write more, check again". Notice that the phrase "check again" is a link, but there is no link to turn off the spell check once its on. Something like "finish checking" or "finish" link would be great to remove the remaining highlights.
9. When we delete the emails using the "sweep feature", the "Also block the future messages" option doesn't work if any of the sender is in the person's contact list. But there is no notification from the system for this. To avoid it to happen, the system should display the appropriate, friendly success and failure messages at the end of the XMLHttpRequest. Lets say:
- Sweep operation completed successfully!
- Apologies, sweep operation was not successful. Please try again later!
- Sweep operation completed successfully, and the future messages from the selected senders would be blocked!
- Sweep operation completed successfully, but the following sender couldn't be blocked because they are in your contact list:
[checkbox] "Guy 1 Name" someGuy1@email.com
[checkbox] "Guy 2 Name" someGuy2@gmail.com
Select to remove the contacts and try again
[Windows Live Photo Gallery]
10. Would be wonderful, if we have magic tool to remove the picture background!
[Windows Live Movie Maker]
11. Please provide us frame level access, so I can extract, delete and replace a frame from movie.
12. Besides WMV there should be other video formats while saving videos. (asf, avi, mpg... and since so forth!)
Thank you and keep improving the Windows Live ecosystem! 8-)
SkyDrive works pretty well for me now; and I have stored a lot of files in it. Due to the importance of the data, I have some suggestion on the security of the service: 1), implementing a true 2-step verification in login step, like Gmail; at least, making this an option; 2), when a Live ID is created with other email addresses like gmail, it is very easy to be deleted if the password is stolen; can you add another protection in addition to the password when deleting an account, such as entering a verification code sent to the recovery email or cell phone? 3), to delete an alias in Hotmail, also add one more step verification like 2). Thank you.
There are only two small reasons I don't completely use skydrive office web apps and unfortunately forced to use Google Docs. 1. the ability to send people an edit link where they can click the link and edit a document or spreadsheet WITHOUT having to login using a windows live ID. Skydrive will even generate the view/edit link however when you click "edit in browser" they make you login. This lack of feature is killing skydrive and can't tell you how many people I personally know would use it if it offered this simple feature Google Docs already has. 2. online forms. It would be in Skydrive's best interested to offer users a simple way to create online forms similar to Google Docs. Online forms used to collect data in a spreadsheet is the main reason I (and many others) use Google Docs. I really hope Windows Live listens because the lack of these two features is keeping many people away. I'll keep checking back. I'd love to switch everything over.
Great post! If I was still a student, this would be a great tool for working on projects.
I did want to leave one suggestion for Skydrive in general: Please enable folder uploading! This is the one feature that is preventing my dad from switching to Skydrive for his cloud file storage. He has photos organized into folders and would love to be able to upload them all in one action instead of manually recreating the folder structure online and selecting 200 files at a time to upload. Windows Live Mesh would work for him, but it has a 5GB limit and isn't kept in the same space as Skydrive. 5GB isn't big enough, but the 25GB of Skydrive would be plenty.
So, to summarize: add folder upload support, merge Mesh and Skydrive, and allow users to purchase more space if needed..
@Anand Babu and @Limitless -
Frankly, I don't understand what either of you are saying. I have Office 2007, and there is no plugin available that will allow my to save my documents to Skydrive. When I try to open a OneNote web document in OneNote 2007, I get an error message saying that I need both OneNote 2010 AND a plugin for IE.
I tried Bing to look for a solution, and all I found was this Microsoft thread saying IT CAN'T BE DONE...
So thanks for leaving us Office 2007 customers behind...
@fqpc, @danielgr - We like SkyDrive groups. But as SkyDrive and OneNote have improved / added support for different platforms, we agree that SkyDrive groups haven’t kept up. We know we have work to do, and it’s on our radar. In the meantime, shared folders work great for many projects.
@tdemerse, @controlz – Thanks for the feedback. We’re listening.
@Ajay M – You are right :) Was aiming for brevity.
@limitless – Which link are you referring to? If you have Office 2003 or 2007, you should already have the right plug-in installed (for IE). It needs to be active though.
If you don’t have the right plug-in, installing Office 2010 trial is currently the only way to get it - across both IE and Firefox. We agree this could be simpler.
I'll work with you on this over email.
If I may grab the attention of a Manager re a problem I am experiencing with Windows Live Hotmail. . .when I sign into WLH, I am getting a yellow notification bar across the top of the page that reads:
"We've updated Hotmail, so please refresh your browser or close it and sign in again. If you are composing a message, make sure you save it as a draft."
I have been receiving this message for the past two days (January 16 - 18). I have refreshed my browser, closed IE and cleared the cache and still the same message.
When I attempt to compose a message, I receive an error message within the HTML Editor that reads:
"Server Error404 - File or directory not found.
The resource you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable."
Not quite sure or understanding why I am receiving these error messages.
I have not seen any new changes to WLH for me to be receiving the yellow notification bar across the top of the page. With regards to the Server Error Message I am receiving within the HTML Editor, I cannot explain why I am receiving this error message.
Open docs from SkyDrive.com:
I can't believe how unclear and incomplete your instructions are for users on Office 2003 and 2007!!!
Everywhere you try to push people to install Office 2010, but (sometimes) also mention that it is possible to open docs from the browser with Office 2003 / 2007, but never really explain how. At least this article helped me to figure out that I need to install a plugin. Also when I try to open a doc from skydrive the error info tells me to install Office 2010 ...
BUT it is actually super simple, just install the plugin from the download center. I had to Bing it! Why is it so hard to post a link???
Just tell the people: you need either Office 2010 (you can try it for free) or install the plugin (you can get it here) for Office 2003 / 2007!
The title says - SkyDrive and Office: 7 tips for full-powered collaboration in the cloud across PCs and Macs.
This should not be PCs and Macs as Macs are also a PC. You should say - PC with Microsoft Windows OS and Apple Mac PC with whatever OS.
Are you accepting that Mac is no longer a PC? Or Are you saying that PC now means Windows OS?
fpqc - I agree about Groups being dead. Shared folders now replace it.
On a different topic, PLEASE can we have the ability to upload whole folders to SkyDrive? Thanks.
@fpqc It's not just the iOS app, Groups are a dead end for everything Microsoft does on mobiles, and that includes WP7 phones, which are unable to access groups be it from the Skydrive App or from the standard Office App. Talk about integration...
Not only that, until the last update it was possible to see when one of your coleagues had modified a shared file on skydrive through social messenger (a social feed that was available not only in the phone's "what's new" thread), but also on every single Windows Live program/website. Now modifications made to files go unnoticed unless you go and check by yourself.
And that's how live goes with skydrive for years now... they give some new great features, remove some previous great features... Is it getting better? I guess it would be unfair to claim the contrary..., but it hurts that it could be so much better than it is...
A drop in folder system similar to Dropbox would help greatly. I don't like that program, but friends seem to be used to it now.
I honestly did not realize multiple people could edit at the same time. That was the only reason for ever using gdocs.
My only problem is the whole "save to sync changes" bit. With gdocs you see the text fly in in near-time. Still better than emailing around 28492 versions of the same doc!
This is a great post for a great product. I really like how the video pokes holes in Google Docs since the Office web apps are far superior. Keep up the great work!
From what I have been experiencing so far, this works great!
I do have a comment on using Groups though. At the beginning of tip #2, you mention that with the new sharing updates, it might be easier to share folders than to use Groups. In fact, Groups seem to have lost all their advantages:
* files in the Group folders are not visible on the SkyDrive iOS app
* the Group's OneNote notebook, which is very useful, is not visible in the OneNote iOS app.
* the Group's feed which was informing others of file updates is now disabled.
So if we were using a Group, should we now get rid of it and move everything to shared folders in personal account?
Otherwise I am pretty impressed with all the great work done by your teams.