Microsoft improves SkyDrive's sharing and file management

Promising some much needed improvements to SkyDrive, Microsoft has already beefed up its online file storage service with easier sharing, stronger file management, and other enhancements.

Microsoft has beefed up SkyDrive with better file management and other improvements.
Microsoft has beefed up SkyDrive with better file management and other improvements. Screenshot by Lance Whitney

Microsoft SkyDrive users will find some much-needed enhancements the next time they log onto the cloud-based storage site.

As part of an ongoing effort to improve SkyDrive, Microsoft yesterday revealed a series of tweaks designed to make the site more efficient and user-friendly. Described in a blog posted yesterday and seen in the video below, the changes focus mostly on sharing and file management.

Admitting that sharing folders and files on SkyDrive has been difficult and unreliable in the past, Microsoft has simplified the ability to share. Instead of setting up specific folders for sharing, you can now share individual files. Right-clicking on a file opens a popup menu where you can select the Share command. You can also share a file from a menu that appears when you open that file in your browser.

For example, clicking on a Word document opens it in your browser via Microsoft's Word Web App. From there, a Share command appears as one of the menu options. This process also works for images, PDFs, and a variety of other file types.

Sharing a file lets you send its link to other people. But SkyDrive also now lets you share or upload files to Facebook and LinkedIn where you can reach a variety of friends and contacts in one shot.

By default, all your SkyDrive files are private unless you specifically elect to share them.

Managing your SkyDrive files is also now much easier. You can name a new or existing folder inline, meaning that a text box appears for you to enter the name, just like in Windows Explorer. And by displaying your content in a Details view, you can select multiple files and then move, delete, or download them all together.

Best of all, you can now right-click on any file and choose from a variety of commands, such as Open, Download, Move, Copy, and Delete. If you right-click on a Microsoft Office document, you can also opt to open the file in either its Office Web App version or in its local version. For example, you can view an Excel spreadsheet either in the browser through the Excel Web App or in your local copy of Excel.

Microsoft has kicked in several other enhancements, including support for more file types and a cleaner slideshow view for your photos.

The changes in SkyDrive are helpful and much needed, and I applaud Microsoft for its efforts. But one major improvement I'm still waiting for is better support for synced folders and files. One of the ways I use SkyDrive is to synchronize certain documents and files from my PCs to the cloud. Through Windows Live Mesh, specific folders and files are automatically backed up to SkyDrive on a regular basis.

But for some reason, Microsoft treats synced files differently than files you upload directly into SkyDrive. You can't manage your synced files online. Clicking on a synced file gives you only two options--either download it or open it through its associated application. And none of the enhancements rolled out yesterday affect synced folders or files.

Even moving back and forth between your uploaded files and your synced files is extremely clumsy. I know Microsoft has other tricks up its sleeve for SkyDrive. I just hope that a more user-friendly approach to synced folders is one of them.

 

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