9 tips for working with SkyDrive on Windows PCs

9 tips for working with SkyDrive on Windows PCs

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We’ve received many comments and tweets about how people use SkyDrive everyday to access, create, and share across devices. In this post, Lia Yu, a product marketer on our team, shares a few of our favorite tips.       

- Anand Babu, Group Product Marketer, SkyDrive

When you install the free SkyDrive app on your computer, you can access your photos and files from almost anywhere, store them, and securely share them. And with the arrival of Windows 8 Release Preview, SkyDrive is automatically available right on the Start screen and any of your Windows 8 apps can connect directly to SkyDrive. We’ve had SkyDrive on our Windows PCs for some time now and wanted to share some of our favorite tips on ways to use it.

1. Access SkyDrive easily from any Windows 8 app

In addition to browsing and managing your files directly using the SkyDrive app, you can also use other Windows 8 apps to choose a file or save files to SkyDrive.

For instance, to choose a lock screen or a picture password, you can select from photos on your SkyDrive, right from the file browser. Just choose SkyDrive from the dropdown list of file locations and select a picture.

PC settings with the lock screen selection screen

Photos app showing pictures from SkyDrive

Or, if you’re using an app like SketchBook, the sketches you create can be saved directly to SkyDrive, right from the app. Again, just choose SkyDrive in the dropdown list of file locations.

 SketchBook app with the save button being used to save to SkyDrive

Choosing a save location in SketchBook

2. Fetch Photos from another device

For those of you already using Windows 8 Release Preview, you can quickly “fetch” a photo from another PC, right in the Photos app. The ability to fetch a photo is enabled the same way as fetching a file from SkyDrive.com. All you need is the SkyDrive app installed on the PC you want to fetch photos from and an internet connection. The Photos app in Windows 8 Release Preview will automatically populate the PCs you have enabled fetch for, so you can easily begin browsing the photos on all those devices.

Photos app showing photos in different locations, including a home PC

3. Organize your files on SkyDrive

If you’ve used SkyDrive for a while, you may have created a lot of folders that aren’t very well organized. You might consider taking this opportunity to organize your SkyDrive, which is especially easy now that you can more drag and drop within the SkyDrive folder on your Windows PC. And even if you’ve shared some of these files and folders, with the SkyDrive sharing update last year, you can almost always do this without “breaking” the sharing access for others.

There are a few things to keep in mind as you do this. Apps like Office and devices like your Windows Phone are designed to work with “special” folders in your SkyDrive. These folders include Documents, Pictures, Public, Mobile uploads, Blog images, SkyDrive camera roll, Twitter uploads, and BitLocker. If you delete or rename these folders, SkyDrive will automatically recreate them to ensure these apps or devices can keep working. Of course you can still move around folders or files that are within these special folders.

4. Add SkyDrive to your Windows libraries for easier access

SkyDrive is designed to be simple yet powerful. With a single SkyDrive folder, there are many options to personalize the experience. If you want to view your SkyDrive files alongside your other Documents and Pictures, add the Documents or Pictures subfolders in your SkyDrive to the respective libraries in Windows 7 (or Windows 8).

This can be particularly convenient if you use apps like Photo Gallery or Office that show files from certain libraries by default. It’s also another reason to keep your SkyDrive organized.

5. Make SkyDrive your “primary” drive

If you want to go cloud-first and treat SkyDrive as your primary location for personal files, then set the default save location in your libraries to your SkyDrive folders. You can even go all the way and remove any other local folders from your libraries.

SkyDrive in Windows libraries

6. Redirect your Desktop to SkyDrive

Often we leave “work in progress” files on our desktop. When moving between PCs, it can be easy to forget these important files. Solve this by redirecting the desktop on your PCs to a folder on SkyDrive. Right click on Desktop in your user folder and select properties. Then change the location for the Desktop to the folder of your choice on SkyDrive.

Desktop synced with SkyDrive

7. Add OneNote notebooks to SkyDrive

If you already use OneNote with SkyDrive, you may notice that your notebooks show up in your SkyDrive folder as shortcuts – not actual files. This is because of the unique way that OneNote works with SkyDrive to enable special features such as co-authoring.

If you want to add OneNote notebooks currently stored only on your PC to SkyDrive, open OneNote 2010, click File, then Share, then scroll to Share On. Select Web, then in Web Location, choose SkyDrive. After that, you can view or edit notebooks on the web. Also if you are on a PC (or Mac) without OneNote 2010, you can access your notebook by clicking the respective shortcut in your SkyDrive folder as access your OneNote notebooks from the web.

8. Work together on Office docs

If you plan to work together with someone else on a document using Word 2010 or 2011, PowerPoint 2010 or 2011, or Office Web Apps, open the file directly from SkyDrive.com, not from your SkyDrive folder. This lets you and your friends work on the “live” version of the document so that you can work simultaneously without creating versioning issues.

9. Get easier access to shared folders and sharing options

In the preview release of SkyDrive for Windows (and Mac), you can view your personal files in Explorer (or Finder). To view files shared with you or files in your groups, visit SkyDrive.com or use the SkyDrive app for Windows 8. For quick access to SkyDrive.com, pin it to your taskbar using IE.

You can also customize your taskbar to always show the SkyDrive system tray icon. Then you can right-click SkyDrive in the system tray and select “Go to SkyDrive.com”.

SkyDrive shortcut in the system tray

With SkyDrive in the system tray, you can also easily check whether syncing is complete. A green line will slide across the bottom of the icon if SkyDrive is still syncing and disappear when it’s done.

SkyDrive icon with the green line to indicate syncing

So that’s a pretty quick roundup of some of our favorite tips on SkyDrive. We find SkyDrive incredibly useful, and we’re sure some of you do too. We’re guessing that some of you have some tips of your own. Feel free to share feedback and your own tips in the comments. Thanks!

18 Comments
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  • Amazing article ......................................!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Say that you have files in the SkyDrive folder on your computer and they - these uncorrupted files - have been synced to Microsoft SkyDrive online.

    If these files in your SkyDrive folder (on your computer's hard drive) become corrupted in the future, will the "new" and corrupted files be synced to the online Microsoft SkyDrive, thus replacing the user's online backup with corrupted files?

    Considering that hard disks do fail, I'd be very interested in seeing Microsoft address this concern.

  • redlion
    3 Posts

    Second point I would like to mention that I forgot in the previous post was that the default behaviour of the skydrive website is that all uploads are resized by default, but I would like my friends to upload all photos in their origanal size!! Now I have to explain to them that they should demark the checkbox and this is to much information I have to supply them to share the files! Please remove this option!! Or set the default as upload in origanal file size!!

    Third point, it would be nice if within the Windows skydrive version there was an option that all shared maps from others would be visible in the skydrive map as a short cut named as the guy who shared with you and the name of the map so that we can use Windows Explorer behaviour with the shared files??

    Thanks!!

  • redlion
    3 Posts

    I have a map shared with my friends and everyone has uploaded the pictures and movies from our holliday, the size of the map is now 3GB on skydrive. When someone tries to download the whole map as an .zip you get a timeout some where on the way!! There is no way for the others to download all photos with just one click because the map is on mine skydrive so I'm the only one who can connect to the map with the windows version of skydrive and download the whole map! So I still have to burn them on a DVD to supplie my friends with all pictures, this is very frustrating!!! Could you please fix this??

  • I am using SkyDrive and even upgraded my storage but found two roadblocks - it limits the size of photos to 2 MB and you can't copy protect files. The photo limitation puts SkyDrive in the amateur hour - most photos from iPhones and certainly digital cameras are 3-7 mb. Is there a solution for that?

    As for copy protecting files, again SkyDrive is not secure if we can't protect our files. Is this an interim issue?

    Cheers, SP

  • Poi
    1 Posts

    I am a photographer. I love SkyDrive as I have a photo dump directory that I export all my photos into. SkyDrive just automatically backs them up and uploads them to the cloud. I don't even have to do a lot of work to get them up there as well. AND! It uploads my photos of any size and shape without compressing it.

  • @xpclient/@etacarinae:  Really?  Windows XP is a 10 year old OS, and is EOL.  Upgrade to Windows 7, and your life will be so much better.

    I completely agree with @abm's comments.  The SkyDrive app for Windows 7 needs to be greatly enhanced.  I have yet to play around with the Windows 8 SkyDrive app.  But if the Windows Phone 7 SkyDrive app allows me to set security and share documents, so should the Windows 7 companion app.  I shouldn't have to go to http://skydrive.live.com just to share a document, if it's already sync'd to SkyDrive.

    Also, I'd like the ability to control the upload bandwidth, and track what files are being synced from the Win7 app.  I'd also like to specify which directory on my system to sync with.  Yes, Libraries are cool, but a lot of users have their own file structure (I know a lot of users who use Windows 7, but store their files in a root folder on their C drive, not user C:\Users\[username]\Documents.)

  • But there seems to be something going wrong with Hotmail.  My primary email address stopped working (though I could access it directly from my Lumia 900).  I finally got to the point of removing the email account and trying to add it back in, but now it says "you've already added this account", telling me to wait while the servers are scrubbed.  It's been a full 24 hours and I STILL can't add the account.  I created my Live ID using this address.  All other addresses are working fine, and I had set one of the other addresses as my default.  I need to find a solution to this.  It's bad enough that the Windows 8 Release Preview doesn't properly support using a POP3 account as the Live Id (my Mail app randomly cannot see the account, although the Calendar app does).

  • I've found SkyDrive incredibly incredibly useful so far. More so with the tips. I have a laptop, desktop machine (server/media center) and iPhone - all of which I use with SkyDrive with. I used to use a mash-up of Live Mesh, iCloud and SkyDrive to try and get the best of all worlds, but am gradually moving more and more towards SkyDrive. From researching/experimenting, the biggest things missing from SkyDrive for me are:

    1) Local / LAN syncing. If I add files to my laptop, they end up being uploaded and re-downloaded over the web to end up on my desktop machine. If I add a large number of photos (ie, having just got back from a holiday), I'll often add them manually to my desktop and laptop with SkyDrive temporarily disabled - which isn't ideal.

    2) Deltas-only file uploading. Experimented with this yesterday. If I alter the metadata on a large photo for example, the whole file is uploaded, rather than just the change.

    3) A recycling bin. I've noticed through experimenting that when files are deleted on SkyDrive, they move to the local recycling bins on my laptop/desktop. Would also be useful for there to be a recycling bin in the online interface, so files can be recovered without re-uploading.

    4) The ability to add any directory to SkyDrive (perhaps have it operate in the same way as the Documents/Photos/etc libraries in Windows 7?). I've worked around this by using symbolic links from the SkyDrive directory, which seems to work nicely for now.

    5) Internet Explorer favourites syncing. Worked around this by creating a symbolic link from the SkyDrive directory to the Favourites directory. Only problem then, is that my iPhone favourites aren't kept up-to-date.

  • @xpclient How bizarre it is that Google's software can support older versions of Windows, but Microsoft cannot? $$$$

  • abm
    268 Posts

    Thanks for sharing the tips 'n tricks.

    I have two suggestions:

    1. Sharing feature - answers.microsoft.com/.../9c22caca-75b1-4c01-bb00-9cb6947b7315

    The desktop SkyDrive app needs a sharing feature with the following specs:

    •Maintain contact-book locally: (ready-to-traverse) Windows Live contacts list with groups. If new contact is added (or existing one is modified or deleted) via Messenger, Web, Phone or any other service; the change should be reflected immediately.

    •When the user right-click any file or folder in SkyDrive and hover on Share with, it should show an option SkyDrive (in addition to Homegroup, Specific people etc.). Clicking on Share with > SkyDrive should bring the SkyDrive share dialog.

    Now this SkyDrive share dialog should:

    •show the list of groups, contacts and email-addresses (not in the user's contact's list) with whom the resource is already shared.

    •provide ability to perform fuzzy search in Windows Live contact list & then select group(s), contact(s) or enter email address manually.

    •have a checkbox for Un-share with all people and devices. (it will keep asset locally and simply remove from cloud)

    •have radio-button for either Share with everyone or Share with: (the aforementioned stuff).

    •have Get a Link button and Post on facebook, twitter etc. (same as SkyDrive web's share dialog).

    2. Hidden files - answers.microsoft.com/.../40696d1e-9ee0-47fd-ab01-6bf3a26357d1

    On my Windows 7 box running SkyDrive app, I have marked some hidden files.

    When the sync completed, I confirmed and the hidden flag was still on. When I downloaded the folder in other computer, the hidden attribute gone missing from those files, which shouldn't be the case.

    Please consider these in the future development.

    Thanks for listening!

  • Orange
    3 Posts

    Hi. I'm using SkyDrive app since it's launch and I quite like it. Few issues tho: 1) once my SD app somehow crashed, it didn't synchronise with the cloud at all, restarting PC or logging out from the app and logging again didn't help, I had to reinstall the whole thing 2) I can't get direct links to SD files from Windows Explorer window, I have to go to SD website to do that 3) Download links to files which SD website generates are ridiculously long 4) Direct links to images on SD don't end with .jpg/.png etc. extensions, which is annoying when trying to post an image on some forums directly from SD.

  • xpclient
    50 Posts

    I find Google Drive much better because it supports Windows XP.

  • danielgr
    73 Posts

    I pretty much agree with jader3rd, except for the fact that at least me, I saw it coming long ago... Now, I just keep hoping that they'll change their position, and that skydrive (social) updates will keep propagating through Windows Live as they did before, keep hoping this is just a mid-term issue that they need more time to handle before the arrival of W8 and WP8. Indeed, that ability was one of the main reasons I bought a WP7, since I've got most of my family to share their personal experiences through SkyDrive's privacy (few of us use facebook, and those who use it is for "non-family-non-intimate" stuff).

    Then Microsoft turn off the social feeds silently, my family kept uploading their files believing everyone knew, except that we did not, and here we are back to the time when one was forced to send an e-mail to people to let them know about everything. Except for the fact that, there are some people you'd like to share things "if they happen to see them", and not necessarily though a "direct contact". That possibility is now dead within skydrive, and it's a pity. It's a pity that Windows Live online services integration was made out of the necessity that other social networks (facebook, etc.) were so much popular than Microsoft's own, and has ended up by absolutely killing itself. I really can't see no reason why I can use Live integration to get Facebook, tweeter, flicker, and whatnot updates, yet not Skydrive ones.

    As I said, I just keep hoping this is going to change...

  • jader3rd
    24 Posts

    This morning I was wondering about if SkyDrive has felt like it's finally found it's identity. Two years ago I'd say that SkyDrive was focused on file sharing; if I uploaded a new document to a folder that was shared with an individual, that individual would see that I added something to our common folder in their "What's New in my Network" stream.

    SkyDrive then decided to really focus on pictures, and introduced a great photo-centric look. Again, if I uploaded an album, everyone would see in their social stream that I had uploaded an album, and if people added comments to the pictures, I could see that in my Social stream.

    But then SkyDrive took itself out of the "What's new in my Network" stream. Totally killed to social/sharing experience it had going for it. Then it removed the ability to send a link to a single file, you could only send links to a full album (although that's fixed now).

    In this latest Windows Live Essentials update, all albums uploaded through WLPG are by default private, and there's no way in the create-new-album workflow to share out the album being created/uploaded. You have to change the permissions after the album is uploaded, an unnecessary step that wasn't there before.

    I think what happened was that the SkyDrive team felt like it might be stepping into Facebooks teritory and for some odd reason that really scared them. So instead of competing with Picasa, imgur, and Flickr (which it was in position to do), SkyDrive pivots hard and decides to become a DropBox competitor. I have to admit, I didn't see that coming.

    So I have to wonder, in a year from now is SkyDrive going to be scared of competing with DropBox and try to change its identity again?

    Speaking of Libraries, I hope that SkyDrive figures out a way to play nicely with the Public Documents\Pictures folders in Libraries. Because until it does, I'll continue to manually manage my SkyDrive seperate from my local files.

  • I went one further and actually made hard folder links between my well developed (read: to hard to change) folder set up. It works amazingly.

  • Drew
    19 Posts

    I've been using SkyDrive on Windows 7 and have all of my Libraries default to a corresponding folder in SkyDrive (SkyDrive/Documents for the Documents Library, SkyDrive/Pictures for Pictures, etc.).

    Not only is it automatically backing up all of my files,  because I am using the library I don't have to manually navigate to SkyDrive, just click on the appropriate Library.  They are also available when I use a browser to access them while at work!

    Or pictures are set to import to my Pictures library, which in turn is a folder under SkyDrive/Pictures and I can share them with friends and family right from there.

    Of course I couldn't be so free if I wasn't one of those able to get the full 25GB of space (I've already used over 7 GB)!

  • Alex S
    2 Posts

    I like this article, Anand! :)