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Windows 8 deep-dive: Get to know your SkyDrive app

Alex Wawro | Nov. 14, 2012
Most cloud storage services already offer apps for accessing their servers from every major platform, but Microsoft is taking the model one step further by weaving its cloud storage service directly into Windows 8—if not every major component of the new Windows universe, including Windows Phone 8 and the new Office Web app.

Where SkyDrive falls short

Between the Windows 8 app, the traditional desktop app (which is really more of a plugin for File Explorer), and the SkyDrive Web interface, its very easy to get confused about how you should best access SkyDrive on a Windows 8 PC. The dual nature of Windows 8 is partly to blame, but Microsoft needs to make it easier to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the different ways in which desktop users can access SkyDrive.

For example, the Windows 8 app is great for browsing photos or other media stored on your SkyDrive, but you cant move those files around within your SkyDrive or share them with others very easily, because youre limited by the apps linked in the Share charm. If you want to share a direct link to an image or edit a document online, you must boot up your browser and access the SkyDrive website, where you can generate links and move files between different folders in your SkyDrive.

You cant upload any files larger than 300MB via the SkyDrive website though, so if you want to upload large files, you need to download and install the SkyDrive desktop app, which creates a SkyDrive folder in your File Explorer that syncs itself with your SkyDrive. You can drag and drop files or folders directly into the SkyDrive folder to upload them quickly, and this way you can also bypass the SkyDrive website file-upload limit of 300MB so that you can upload files up to 2GB in size. The SkyDrive desktop app works with Mac OS X Lion, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and even Windows 8, so it's theoretically possible to have both the Windows 8 SkyDrive app and  the SkyDrive desktop app installed and running on your PC simultaneously. This won't cause any problems (if anything, it affords you more power to control how your PC shares files with SkyDrive), but it's way more confusing than it needs to be.

SkyDrive is also a little too closed for comfort. For example, you can use it as an impromptu image-hosting service by logging in to the SkyDrive website and generating a direct link to the image you want to show your friends. But when you share that link, your friends will have to log in to their SkyDrive accounts before they can access the image youre trying to share, unless you put the image in your Shared folder and share it from there.

You can actually make any folder public by opening SkyDrive in your browser, right-clicking on the folder you want to make public and selecting Properties > Share > Get a link > Public and clicking the Make public button. This allows anyone to view files in that folder without having to first log in to SkyDrive, which makes it easier for you to use SkyDrive as a personal file host.


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