Saturday, June 16, 2012

9 tips for working with SkyDrive on Windows PCs


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!

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