Windows 8 deep dive: Get to know your SkyDrive app
Key options and settings
No matter which device you use to access SkyDrive, you’ll see the same familiar lineup of blue rectangular tiles after you log in with your Microsoft account. The options and settings available to you depend on which version of SkyDrive you're accessing, but for the purposes of this article we're going to highlight how you use the Windows 8 app on a tablet, smartphone, or PC.
Using the Windows 8 SkyDrive app is pretty intuitive: Tapping a file will open it, and tapping a folder lets you dive right into it. Swiping up from the bottom of the screen (or simply right-clicking if you're rocking a traditional mouse and keyboard) on the main SkyDrive page brings up a bar with options to organize your SkyDrive by uploading new files, creating new folders, swapping between a tile-based or detailed view of your SkyDrive files, or selecting everything at once. To upload files to SkyDrive via the Windows 8 app, just swipe up from the bottom and tap Upload, then use the file browser that opens to find the file(s) you want to upload, tap them and hit the Add to SkyDrive button.
You can share your files and folders with other apps and the Internet at large by tapping the Share charm, and you can use the Search charm to search for files and folders within your SkyDrive. You won't find much of interest in the SkyDrive Settings menu, just a visual representation of how much available storage you're currently using and an option to upgrade your storage plan by tapping the Manage storage button.
SkyDrive tips and tricks
SkyDrive has a Recycle Bin that works just like the recycle bin on your Windows desktop, and files you send there don’t count toward your SkyDrive storage limit, so you can use it as a temporary holding area for files if you accidentally go over your storage limit. Be careful when doing this, as Microsoft guarantees preservation of files in the Recycle Bin for only three days after you discard them. Files may remain in your SkyDrive recycle bin for up to 30 days, but Microsoft will erase them sooner if the recycle bin grows larger than 10 percent of your maximum SkyDrive space.
Also, as of this writing, the Office Web apps are available only if you access SkyDrive via the website. If the notion of collaborating in real-time on documents with remote coworkers sounds appealing, make sure you open the document in question from the SkyDrive website and not from the SkyDrive Windows 8 app so you can see what changes your collaborators are making as they make them. We hope Microsoft will update the SkyDrive apps, but, in the meantime, you can always access the SkyDrive website via the Chrome mobile browser if you want to edit Office documents on your iPad or Android phone.
Alternatives to SkyDrive
As mentioned earlier, there are a number of excellent cloud storage services to choose from if SkyDrive doesn't suit you. Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive are all excellent alternatives, but only Box has a Windows 8 app at this time (Microsoft confirmed during the Build 2012 keynote that a Dropbox app for Windows 8 is coming soon).
Fellow editor and PC enthusiast Alex Cocilova recently published an overview of 11 winning alternatives to Microsoft's Windows 8 apps, and he called out All My Storage as an excellent alternative to SkyDrive, because it lets you link your accounts on Dropbox, Box, and SkyDrive and see all your disparate cloud data in a single unified app. You can download an ad-supported version for free in the Windows Store, but I recommend shelling out $3 for the full version if you need a Windows 8 app that lets you manage your cloud storage without locking yourself within the Windows ecosystem.