Microsoft's new SkyDrive features set up the cloud file storage tool to compete well in the cloud storage market. To start, in the upcoming release of Office 2013, the default save location for Office documents will point to SkyDrive.
The new SkyDrive features provide many of the advantages you would expect from a cloud storage service, such as the ability to upload and sync files and access those files through a variety of devices. SkyDrive also provides Office Web Apps, which include cloud-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Users can access these apps through their browsers in order to edit and share Office documents. They can also use their desktop Office applications to work on these documents and collaborate with other users. Because the documents are saved to SkyDrive, users can access them from multiple devices from anywhere they have an Internet connection. But the new SkyDrive features are what make the service more valuable than ever -- and consequently makes the upcoming versions of Office more valuable.
File sharing easier with SkyDrive features
Users have come to expect a lot from their cloud-based services. They want to work in environments they're already used to and be able to share files in as few steps as possible without leaving the applications they're working in. To this end, Microsoft has rebuilt many of the fundamental SkyDrive features in order to simplify file sharing.
Users can now share and grant permissions for an individual file with only a few clicks of the mouse, and they don't have to exit the applications in which they're working. A document's author has the ability to share the file through a direct link, while specifying whether the recipient is allowed to modify the file or simply read it. The file can also be made public so anyone can view it. Through SkyDrive, users can collaborate with any of their contacts, no matter what the recipients' email service is or how their network is configured.
It's also much easier for users to post their documents to social media sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Plus, SkyDrive now supports PDF and RAW file, as well as files that use the Open Document Format (ODF), which Office, OpenOffice and WordPerfect support. In addition, SkyDrive has improved how photo slideshows are displayed and how users access files from their browsers and local drives.
SkyDrive features enhanced file management
File management has also been greatly improved in SkyDrive. Users can now perform more functions inline, such as move or copy files as well as create and rename folders. They can also bulk transfer files and add captions to and manage images. The improved SkyDrive features also make it easier and faster to move or delete multiple files and folders. For those with HTML 5-enabled browsers, SkyDrive allows drag-and-drop of one or more files into a directory.
Users can see how much of their available storage they've used, and SkyDrive features a URL shortening service. More resources are preloaded during the sign-in process making working in SkyDrive faster, and actual logon is faster as well. Microsoft has also released a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) for SkyDrive that let developers create Web services and client apps that can utilize the cloud storage.
Multi-platform synchronization in SkyDrive
To meet the needs of various types of workers, SkyDrive now supports more devices. Microsoft has released a client SkyDrive app for iOS devices, available through the Apple Store, and one for Windows Phone devices, available through the Windows Phone Marketplace. Both let users browse, view and organize files. That means the file you create through Internet Explorer can be viewed and shared from an iPhone.
In addition, the Windows Phone operating system can now be directly integrated with SkyDrive via the Office hub. Users can review documents from their phones, make changes to those documents, or even create new documents, and then save all those change to SkyDrive. And if they have to stop what they're working on, they can pick up right where they left off -- from their phones or from other connected devices, such as their desktop computers.
SkyDrive has also released desktop apps for Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Mac OS X. From any of these devices, you can access the same SkyDrive directory and work on the same documents. The SkyDrive apps keep the files synchronized across the various platforms while letting users work offline.
With all the new SkyDrive features, sharing, managing and synchronizing files is much easier. Cloud storage takes file sharing and collaboration to a whole new level, and the products and services that take advantage of this trend could prove invaluable to channel partners with customers looking for more efficiency and collaboration tools.
About the author
Robert Sheldon is a technical consultant and freelance technology writer. He's authored numerous books, articles and training material related to Windows, databases, business intelligence and other areas of technology. He's also published the novel Dancing the River Lightly and the step-by-step guide Ebook Now, and has recently begun working on the 5-Spot ebook travel series.
This was first published in October 2012