Microsoft SkyDrive

Glenn Fleishman
17 November, 2012
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Microsoft SkyDrive

Microsoft, com/en-au/skydrive


Web creation and editing of Office docs; 7GB storage free; superb web app


Lacks icon-based display in Finder; no contextual menu for actions; sharing provides access only via web

Free (7GB); US$10/year (20GB); US$25 (50GB); US$50 (100GB)


SkyDrive seemed destined to be another Microsoft also-ran product. Although introduced long before the current wave of cloud- based synchronisation and storage services, SkyDrive had a number of frustrating limits, and comprised two separately named services (central and peer-to-peer file transfer) under one hood.

Then Microsoft did something marvellous, unveiling a thorough revamping of SkyDrive into an explicable and competitive service. (Microsoft lists the version that we reviewed as version 16.4.)

On the basics, SkyDrive compares to Dropbox and Google Drive. The service provides desktop sync software for Windows and Mac OS X (10.7 Lion only), as well as mobile access software for Windows Phone and iOS.

A web app also provides access to your storage, too, with drag-and-drop uploads in the browser. Uploads and syncs on the desktop happen speedily and without any tedious management.

However, SkyDrive offers no Finder integration beyond a system menu item, and that’s a problem for Mac users, especially compared to Dropbox and Google Drive. You don’t realise how much you rely on icon cues and contextual menu options until they’re gone.

The minimal preferences don’t let you choose to sync only selected folders either, a feature of both main competitors. Nor does it have Dropbox’s option to pause synchronisation or throttle bandwidth usage.

The web app is very Windows-y, but it has a number of subtle touches and useful features that stand out in their own right and also outpace competing services. If you spend a lot of time using the web app, you will find it more useful than Dropbox or Google Drive’s for previewing files, at the very least.

SkyDrive’s sharing parameters are abundant. You may share a link via email, Facebook or Twitter. You can also generate a link or make a file publicly searchable.

The one thing that’s missing from this is our primary use of Dropbox: a way to share a folder with colleagues that’s then synced with their desktop folders. In Dropbox and Google, sharing items adds them to the other parties’ main storage.

Microsoft makes shared files available in the SkyDrive web app via a Shared link, but otherwise, shared items can be edited or viewed only via the web, although they may be downloaded.

Also, in testing, we were unable to get a shared file or folder to appear in another account’s Shared list, even though the link worked and was available for editing for that account when used directly.

The web app previews documents rather nicely, and has a good leg up on other services. Double-click a preview and the image fills the browser, and provides navigation to other images in the same folder.

You can also directly edit files in the browser for Excel, Word, OneNote and PowerPoint formats, as well as create new files of those types. This is a fantastic option for those who either don’t own any or all of these apps or work with people who lack them.

Microsoft now includes 7GB of storage for free accounts, and the fees for more storage are relatively inexpensive.

Macworld Australia’s buying advice.

An argument for using Microsoft’s more mediocre products was once that it made sense if you worked mostly or largely with people running Windows. That argument isn’t viable any more, as SkyDrive’s competitors perform as well under Windows as they do under Mac OS X.

SkyDrive both works well taken by itself and compares well to others. Still, it’s hard to find a single compelling reason to pick it outside of its superb use of the web.

One Comment

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  1. Pete says:

    Dunno what you were doing wrong – but it all worked perfectly for me once I installed it. Could do with better iPhone integraton – prefer MobileMe, but the web / desktop integration was next to perfect.

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