Microsoft SkyDrive - Nifty and useful


Updated: May 4, 2013

You may assume I might be automatically inclined to dislike Microsoft products, being a Linux geek and all. But that's not true. Me likes Windows 7. I think Internet Explorer 9 is a fairly good browser. EMET is one of the best solutions to hit the market. The thing is, not all Microsoft products are good, and some are plain bad, but I'm fair and square.

All right, with this almost religious objectivity in mind, I approach this review, which revolves around Microsoft SkyDrive, a free cloud solution for all. In other words, sign up for a Microsoft account of some sort, like Hotmail, Live, Bing and whatnot, and you get 7GB of free storage space for your data. Sync them between devices as you please, take them anywhere you go. Interesting, on paper, but what about the reality?

Teaser

The magical mystery, er, cloud tour begins!

Your SkyDrive experience begins the moment you sign in. There's no need to download the client-side software to your machine, although it has its perks. But you can use the very simple, clean and visually pleasing HTML5 web interface to manage your account and data. For most people, this will mean drag & dropping items into relevant folders and such.

Main page

Main view, with data in folders

P.S. The screenshots have NOT been taken on Faildows 8, but on Windows 7 using some plebeian hackery. Come looky, looky, five dollar soldier boy. Ahem. Anyhow, you have lots of options here. You can sort your files, browse them using Documents, Pictures and Public as the chief separation categories, you can view your recent files, and your associated SkyDrive devices. Cushty.

Shared pics

Create files

One of the very neat options is the ability to create online documents - Word, Excel and alike, all without having Microsoft Office installed. This is quite nice, and a decent competition feature to Google Docs or whatever they are called now. Rather than cashing out huge sums for Office on all your devices, some of which might not be powerful enough to run full versions of the program, you get a Web interface with all the options and tools and features you need.

Create files

Options

Speaking of the customization set, SkyDrive is simple, but quite powerful. Most importantly, going back to creating online files, it lets you choose default file formats for your online documents. And lo and behold, no witchery and monopoly here, you have the choice to save your files as either Office Open XML Format or OpenDocument Format.

File formats

Apps & devices

SkyDrive is available for a wide range of devices, and let's face it, you will not be using a cloud solution for sharing files between your different computers if the software does not support them all. Indeed, SkyDrive runs on Windows Phone, Android, iPhone, iPad, Mac, and the standard Windows desktop. But not Linux.

SkyDrive apps & devices

Desktop client

Here's a very interesting part - desktop client software. If you choose to install this one, it gives you additional granularity and control over your cloud data. Compared to the online interface, the client is a tiny bit clunky, but it's quite useful overall.

Windows setup

The first time you run it, you will be asked to configure a SkyDrive folder, which will be periodically synced with your online account. I must admit this step was rather confusing, because the wizard then asked me if I wanted to share ALL my files. Now, the top line mentions SkyDrive items, but the explanation is written in a somewhat confusing language. And then, it only refers to downloads and not uploads, so you need not worry about your pr0n being sent to the Intertubes where the Big Brother can watch it and such.

Setup sharing folder

Confusing sharing options

Finally, you can actively fetch files between devices, as long as they are online and not firewalled. This is handy if you've forgotten to sync some files somewhere, and yet, you might need them.

Fetch files

Once everything is in place, you will see your SkyDrive folder doing its magic, displaying little icons next to the file names to let you know they are being updated, up to date, or not at all. And then, there's also the desktop message to let you know about the software and what it might be doing.

SkyDrive folder

Desktop message

Conclusion

SkyDrive is a very decent application slash solution. It is simple, reliable and quite useful, with 7GB of free storage for all. You get a pleasing visual experience, an intuitive interface, the desktop client works well, plus you can create online documents. In fact, I think the last option is the most powerful and important feature, and sets SkyDrive apart from many other cloud solutions. You end up with a high-fidelity online version of Microsoft Office, which is always up to date, costs nothing, and you need not worry about security and such. The other details seems to work just fine, too.

The usual cloud doubts and conundrums apply. But if you can get past these, SkyDrive is a very decent solution that integrates well into your desktop. If you happen to be using Linux, and not Android, and I want to put emphasis on this distinction, then you're better off with Google. Then again, you can try using the Web interface and see what gives, although some things may behave strangely. Haven't tested, but I surely will. To sum it up, for those who believe in the cloud, then SkyDrive is an interesting choice, with some rather killer features. And you can use ODF, so no evil is done. Nice. 9/10.

Cheers.

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