Microsoft SkyDrive: Your ultimate starter's guide

If they don't have a device that has a Skydrive app, they can use a browser to view their SkyDrive storage. Accessing your SkyDrive folders from a Web browser doesn’t require any local files to be installed, which saves you the hassle of setting up the app on a PC over which you don't have full control. Provided you’re using a modern browser, navigate to http://skydrive.live.com/, sign in, and your SkyDrive folders will be accessible right from the browser window. Keep in mind that you’re not only able to download files from your SkyDrive, but to upload files to it as well. Dragging a file (or files) from a PC into one of the SkyDrive folders in the browser window will automatically upload that file so it will be accessible from your other devices—a great way to quickly save photos and documents from a friend's or coworker's PC so you can look them over later at your leisure.

If you can’t install the SkyDrive app or are running an unsupported OS, your SkyDrive folders are also accessible via a secure webpage. Files can be dragged to and from the browser window as if they were available on the local system.

SkyDrive tips and tricks

Once you start using SkyDrive regularly across multiple devices, you'll quickly find a lot of neat things you can do with a remote storage service that ties directly into your operating system, your office software, and your mobile devices. Here are a few of our favorite tips and tricks for using SkyDrive to optimize your workflow; share your personal tips and tricks with our readers in the comments field below.

Sync any folder to your SkyDrive: Setting up folders on your PC that automatically sync with your SkyDrive account is pretty simple thanks to the stand-alone SkyDrive desktop app, but you do have to manually move all the files you want to keep in sync with your account into the SkyDrive folder on your PC. That's kind of a pain if you have all your photos or movies in a separate folder that is already syncing to other services (such as Carbonite's automated backup service, for example) and you don't want to break those links by moving your files into SkyDrive.

Jan Hannemann's simple SkyDrive sync shell extension lets you sync any folder on your PC to your SkyDrive account with a simple right-click.

Thankfully, programmer Jan Hannemann has released a custom shell extension that you can install (at your own risk) to add a sync option to the context menu that pops up whenever you right-click in Windows. To get it, head over to his public SkyDrive folder and download either the 32-bit version or 64-bit version of SkyShellEx (according to whichever version of Windows you're using). Run the script, and you should see an option to "Sync to SkyDrive" whenever you right-click a folder in Windows Explorer.

Edit Word documents from your browser: SkyDrive is designed to let you edit any Word-compatible document right from your browser, and you can use this trick to open and edit documents on any PC that doesn't have Word installed. This trick could save you some money on a Microsoft Office purchase if you do most of your writing at work and only occasionally need to edit or proofread a document at home, but more important, it means you no longer have to worry about trying to open a document that a friend or coworker has attached to an email and finding out that the PC you're using doesn't have a copy of Word installed (this happens more often than you might think in the publishing industry).

Your ability to edit documents in your browser using SkyDrive is limited when compared to the full Word desktop app, but it's usually enough to get the job done.

Simply upload the document in question to your SkyDrive account, then log in to SkyDrive via a PC browser (you can try to open your account using the browser on your mobile device, but the mobile version of the SkyDrive website has significantly fewer features) and open the document in question. Select Edit in Word Web App from the Edit Documents menu, and you ought to be able to start wordsmithing right from the website.

Automatically archive Gmail attachments using SkyDrive: Now that Microsoft has made the SkyDrive API available to third-party developers, a number of your favorite apps and services are going to tie themselves into SkyDrive. One of our favorites is attachments.me, a free Google Chrome extension that makes it easy to download, upload, and send attachments back and forth between your Gmail account and various cloud storage services like Dropbox, Box.net, and now SkyDrive.

Use SkyDrive to automatically archive your Gmail attachments with the free attachments.me Chrome extension.

One of the cooler things you can do with attachments.me is to automatically archive any files attached to email in your Gmail inbox—a simple trick to help boost productivity and optimize your organization. To get started, download the attachments.me extension, and then log into your Gmail account using Chrome. A prompt should appear from attachments.me requesting access to your Gmail account; allow it to do so, then click on the small blue paperclip button that appears in the top-right corner of your Gmail inbox and select Automatic Filing Rules from the drop-down menu. From here you'll be able to customize rules about which attachments get sent to your SkyDrive folder based on such criteria as file type, who sent the email (or who you send the email to), and so forth.

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