Microsoft’s cloud storage offering - SkyDrive - has been around since 2007, so many of our readers are likely familiar with the service. Up until now, SkyDrive applications have all worked by creating a local folder on your computer and syncing SkyDrive files whenever they show up. Windows 8 changes this up a little with its Windows 8 SkyDrive app. This app provides a touch optimized interface for the SkyDrive folder but keeps the files on the web. Your stuff isn’t synced to your local drive unless you need it, so this new app is not only more stylish, but it saves on system resources.
NOTE: If you are not familiar with the SkyDrive service, we recommend that you first read this article: Simple Questions: What is (Windows Live) SkyDrive?.
Getting Started With the SkyDrive App
Since the SkyDrive app comes bundled with Windows 8, you won’t need to worry about finding, downloading, installing or configuring anything. When you sign in to Windows 8 with your Microsoft account, the app syncs with your account’s SkyDrive and it’s ready to go. If you’re using a local account, you’ll just have to enter your Microsoft account information your first time using the app. To get started, you’ll need to get to the Start screen. Once there, look for the SkyDrive tile. Give it a click or a tap to open the app.
Before you get started filling your drive with files, you’ll get a pretty basic display. The first time you launch the app you’ll be invited to view a video about the service. Go for it, if you like, otherwise just click or tap "Close." To the right you’ll see the three basic folders every SkyDrive user starts out with. Read on to learn more about using this app.
Navigation through the drive is simple. Tap or click on a folder to view its contents, swipe the screen or use the scroll bar to view files off screen and click or tap a file to open it. Larger files take a few seconds to load as they have to be downloaded to a temporary location prior to opening.
Working with the SkyDrive App Menu
In order to get around in the SkyDrive app, you’ll need to know about the basic menus. The first menu, which we’ll call the basic app menu, can be accessed by right-clicking on void space in the app window or by swiping up from the bottom of your touch screen.
The first button - "Refresh" - is self-explanatory. Click on it and the app will refresh to show new files in your SkyDrive app that you may have added with another device.
The second button, "New Folder," is also pretty self-explanatory. Click or tap this button and enter a folder name to create a new folder in your current location on your SkyDrive.
The "Upload" button is used to add new files to your SkyDrive at the current location. If you want to load files to a specific folder, first open it. Then, click the button to open a Files view.
Navigate through your computer’s file-system using this view to select files. You can click on files to select them, click on folders to open them, and click "Go Up" to raise up to the parent directory of your current view. Click on each file you want to select and click "Upload."
You’ll get a notification in the top-right corner of the screen alerting you that your files are uploading.
When the notification clears, your files are fully synced with SkyDrive.
Change How You View Files in the SkyDrive App
The next button in line on the SkyDrive app menu changes the way the app displays your files and folders. The default view, "Thumbnails," provides large tiles for each file and folder reminiscent of the Start screen.
The alternate view, "Details," provide smaller links to files and folders, but gives more information. Rather than just showing a large preview of the the image or file, you get the full file name, file size and the date it was last saved.
The last button on the menu allows you to select all of the files and folders on screen. This allows for faster deletion and movement of large groups of files.
Working with the SkyDrive File Menu
To access the file menu in SkyDrive, you’ll need to right-click or long-press a file.
Clicking on the first button on the menu will de-select any files or folders that you currently have selected.
How to Download Files from the SkyDrive App
Clicking or tapping "Download" from the file menu opens up the familiar Files view. Browse through your file system and select the folder you want to store your file to. Click or tap "Choose this folder" to download the selected files from your SkyDrive and save them locally to your computer’s hard drive.
How to Manage Files in the SkyDrive App (Delete, Rename, Move)
Click or tap "Manage" from the file menu to open a pop-up list of actions you can perform on the selected files.
Select "Rename" from the list to rename the selected file or folder. Click or tap "Delete" to send the file or folder to your SkyDrive recycle bin.
Click "Move" to store the selected file in a different place on your SkyDrive. After clicking "Move," you can navigate through your SkyDrive to find a new location for the file. Using the menu buttons on the bottom of the screen you can create a new folder to store the files, cancel the move or click "Move here" to complete the move.
How to Change Default Applications to Open SkyDrive Files
The final button on the menu, "Open With," gives you the ability to choose the app that your selected file will be opened with. You can either select an application for a single use, or change the default app to open that file type with.
Beware that this changes the defaults for that file on your Windows 8 computer or device. It changes the default app/program used for accessing such files.
How To Restore Deleted Files to your SkyDrive
Deleting a file or folder from the SkyDrive app removes it from the app view, but it doesn’t permanently delete it. If you accidentally delete a file or folder, it can be retrieved from the SkyDrive recycle bin. Now don’t go switching over to your Desktop, this isn’t the same recycle bin your local files are sent to.
To open the recycle bin, access the charms, select "Settings" and select "Options." Click or tap "View Recycle Bin."
Your default web browser will open and take you to the SkyDrive site. Enter your Microsoft account credentials to log in. Your recycle bin shows thumbnails for all the files you’ve recently deleted from your SkyDrive. Right-click or long-press a file to restore or permanently delete it.
As you can see, this new SkyDrive app provides a whole new way to interface with the popular cloud storage service. While it provides the same access to your files that older SkyDrive apps offered, you aren’t forced to waste hard drive space and network traffic to download files unless you specifically want them. While this is a great benefit there are trade-offs. You no longer have the ease of dragging or dropping files into your SkyDrive folder and you have to wait while files download before you can work with them. If you miss these features, you can still use the standard SkyDrive desktop application in Windows 8, provided you aren’t using Windows 8 RT.