Here’s what Windows.com says about one of the new features of Windows 8.1:
Save documents, photos, and other files to SkyDrive automatically so you’ll have them anywhere—even on another device. And they’ll be safe if something happens to your PC.
That’s not hard to understand, right? Those words are all in English. There are subjects and verbs, and everything is spelled correctly. And the concept isn’t complicated. But unless you actually use this feature, you might not get exactly how much of a game changer it is.
Let me give you an example. Say I’m working on a piece of my own writing at home (yes, Microsoft employees are allowed to have personal lives). When I hit Save or Save As, along with the usual array of folders, I see the SkyDrive icon:
When I hit that icon, I immediately see all the folders on my SkyDrive (AKA free online storage from Microsoft). I can then save my doc to any of those folders. It doesn’t even matter if I’m not connected to the Internet. The doc is automatically saved to my PC and synced to my SkyDrive folder as soon as I connect. Then, when I’m at work, on a different PC, I can just go back to my SkyDrive right on my PC and print out the latest version. (Of course I would never actually do this, because what kind of MONSTER would use work resources for personal use? Definitely not me, ever.)
The collaborative possibilities are also impressive. I can make a folder accessible to a particular person, or to a whole group of people, while keeping the rest of my SkyDrive private. A friend who edits stuff for me can look at what I’ve written and make comments and revisions. And both of us always see the latest version. This is also handy for sharing your photos or other large files. Don’t email giant attachments—put them up on SkyDrive and send your friend a link. (More on how to do this.)
To do all this, you do need to sign in to your PC with your Microsoft account (which can be any email address/password combo you choose). But you’ll want to do this anyway, because there are a ton of other advantages.
One other thing. Because I have the SkyDrive app on my Windows Phone, I can get to any of my files that way, too. All the pictures I take on my phone are also automatically saved to my SkyDrive, so even if I drop my Nokia Lumia into a river of lava, I won’t lose even a single picture of my cat. I don’t have a cat.
In short, the boundary between my online storage and any single one of my devices has effectively melted away. It’s just one seamless collection of my stuff that I can get to anywhere. It’s an innovation that’s almost too simple to understand.
Updated November 7, 2014 6:47 pm