Welcome to the New SkyDrive (Finally!)
Subject: General Tech | August 21, 2012 - 11:38 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, skydrive, microsoft, cloud storage
Earlier this month, Microsoft gave its webmail service an overhaul and rebranding from Hotmail to Outlook.com. In our preview of the service, I noted that while Outlook.com is integrated with SkyDrive, the company's cloud storage web interface was still using the same old UI. Fortunately, the company has taken the need for an updated interface for SkyDrive to heart and has given SkyDrive the same Modern-UI facelift as Outlook.com. Welcome to the new SkyDrive.
Skydrive is now broken up into two main panels with an action bar along the top. It looks very similar to Outlook.com in that respect. The left panel contains a search box as well as links to your Skydrive folders, shared items, groups, and connected computers (with the SkyDrive app installed). The right panel is where the folders and files are displayed.
The "Recent docs" link in the left panel does just what the name implies: opens a list of the most recently accessed documents. The "Shared" link displays a list of all the files and folders that are being shared with you. The "Groups" link opens a page in the right panel where you can create and manage sharing groups. You can create a group of people in your family with which you share out photos in certain folders, for example. Basically, it just makes it easier to share with multiple people.
Along the top is a bar with links. In the top-left corner is a Skydrive button that brings up the same Metro/Modern UI tiles that link to other Microsoft services.
Along that same blue action bar are links to create, upload, share, and manipulate your SkyDrive data. The "Create" link allows you create a new folder or document. Using Microsoft's web apps (in the future it may integrate with the remote-accessible versions of Office 2013 but for now it's the same old Office Web Apps), you can further create new Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote documents.
You can further use the upload button to not only add files but multiple files at a time (finally!). Unfortunately, it is still not possible to select and upload folders but the ability to select multiple files for uploading is a step in the right direction. Technically, it has been possible to upload multiple files before now, but it required you to use Internet Explorer. In order to upload entire folders, you will need to use the SkyDrive application. The "Share" button is fairly self-explanatory and works the same as it always has. You can send files in an email, post to Facebook, or get a link that you can then send to anyone you want to have access to the file(s) or folder. Finally, the Folder Actions button provides a drop-down menu that provides the following options for the selected items: download, embed, order prints, delete, move, and view properties.
In all, the action buttons have been simplified and are large enough that they should be easy to see and hit on mobile devices with touchscreens. It is much easier to navigate around as well. When you log into the SkyDrive site, it defaults to the "Files" tab and presents you with a collection of thumbnails listing folders and files. If the file is a photo or if it is a folder that contains photos, the icon will be a "live tile" that displays an icon of the photo or the photos it contains respectively (it cycles through multiple photos in a mini-slideshow). On the other hand, if there are no photos inside the folder, the icon will simply be a solid color with the file/folder name in text in the bottom-left corner of the rectangular tile. To the right of the name is a number that represents the number of files or sub-folders inside.
In my SkyDrive folder list, the tiles appear to be a bit messy as not all folders are live tiles. And when they are not live–and just a large solid colored rectangle– it results in a lot of wasted space (and relatively small text). Alternatively, there is also a more traditional details list view that presents files similar to Windows Explorer (and the traditional SkyDrive interface).
You can view photos within the SkyDrive web interface and open documents with the Office Web Apps service, but for any other files you will have to download them in order to open and view them. Just like the Outlook.com interface, you can enable the messaging sidebar to talk with your friends on the various social networks. In the bottom-left corner, Microsoft shows the amount of storage space you have remaining in your SkyDrive. If you click on "Manage Storage" beneath the remaining storage number, you get a new Metro options menu. Here you can opt into the new office web apps, disable people tagging, upgrade storage, and set the default file format to either Microsoft Office Open XML or OpenDocument Format which is nice to see.
Overall, the new SkyDrive interface is a nice improvement offering a cleaner interface and simplified navigation. It now fits in nicely when transitioning between SkyDrive.com, Outlook.com, and the People and Calendar apps. When navigating around the SkyDrive site, it feels much more responsive than it used to, and the ability to add multiple files without needing to use Internet Explorer is a feature I've been waiting for (for a long time). Not being able to add folders is a bummer, and in that respect using the SkyDrive Windows app is still easier, but in general the new SkyDrive will make accessing my files from a remote computer using the website a more enjoyable experience!
Have you tried out the overhauled SkyDrive web interface yet?