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Tips and tricks for using SkyDrive on Windows Phone

In our latest how-to guide, we show you how to make the most of your Windows Phone and SkyDrive cloud storage

SkyDrive for Windows Phone

We've touched on the basics with Microsoft's SkyDrive services and the SkyDrive App for your Windows Phone. But how does all that translate into every day use?

The obvious every day use for SkyDrive and your Windows Phone is to free up storage space and make content easily available. Why bog down your Windows Phone with documents, pictures, and music files when you can store them in the Cloud and access them at your leisure? But did you know that several quality apps utilize SkyDrive? Of course you did... and we'll try to cover a few along the way as we look at every day uses for your SkyDrive account.

Keep in mind that there are several ways to upload files to your SkyDrive account.  There is the internal feature that you can find under the share options in your Pictures Hub, the upload feature in the SkyDrive App, and upload features through various third party apps.

 

Documents

Windows Phone Documents

SkyDrive will let you keep your documents in the Cloud and access them from your Windows Phone while on the run. Whether it's a Word Document, Powerpoint, Excel, OneNote, or .PDF file you can store these documents in the Cloud and download them to your Windows Phone as you need them.

Edit, compose, save and upload these documents on your PC (keyboard has more elbow room) and upload it to your SkyDrive Account via the SkyDrive Desktop app. The document is now easily accessible from your Windows Phone.

Now what if you run across a document you need to copy and use for, say, a research project? Or a recipe from your Great Grandmother? Or an article in the local paper that you want to preserve?

HandyScan for Windows Phone

HandyScan will upload any document scanned to your SkyDrive account. Instead of wasting time and money finding a zerox machine, use HandyScan to copy the material you're researching or need and upload it to SkyDrive for future use. When you get home, you can access the scanned documents from your desktop computer. It would have been nice to have had this when I was doing all my college research papers.

 

Music

SkyDrive Music

One of the more prominent complaints we hear on new Windows Phones is that there isn't enough on-board memory for Windows Phone users' music collection. With SkyDrive, you can store your music files in the Cloud and, with Windows Phones updated to Mango, stream the files to your phone.

Yes...the interface sucks. You can only play one song at a time and you can't download the music files to your Windows Phone. Enter the third party apps.

SkyMusic for Windows Phone

Apps such as Sky Music, Sky Player and Cloud Music taps into your SkyDrive account to play music files stored in the Cloud. While you still can't download the music files to your Windows Phone, you can create playlists, artist/album folders, and other song lists to play tunes continuously.

 

Photos

Windows Phone Pictures Hub

As with music files, SkyDrive is a nice resource to free up storage space. As with the music files, there is room for improvement. For starters, SkyDrive resizes images uploaded from your Windows Phone when you upload images from the Pictures Hub. I should say significantly resizes your images.

From the HTC Titan II a 4640x3480 image is reduced to 719x539 when uploaded to SkyDrive directly from the Windows Phone (using the share option in the Pictures Hub).  I also found that the compression and resizing changed the perspective slightly.  Notice the crayon images that were uploaded and resized don't share the same angle as the copy that was downloaded straight from the Windows Phone via Zune.  Most of the time the change is so slight you won't notice it but other times it's a little more noticeable.

Photo Upload Comparisons

Photo Upload Comparison

This resolution change may not be a big issue if your images will be viewed from your Windows Phone or a computer screen. It will be a big issue is you want to print the reduced images. The resizing is basically an issue of bandwidth when using the internal upload feature. To minimize the amount of data used to transfer images from your Windows Phone to your SkyDrive account, someone decided to place the reduction in place.

 Luckily, there are a couple of work arounds.

The easiest way is to upload images through the SkyDrive App.  The recent v2.1 update has changed how image uploads are done through the app.  Images are no longer resized and are renamed with the date of upload followed by the number of the upload for the day.  For example, your second image on 5/12/2012 will be named WP_20120512 2.  

You can download your photos to your desktop computer through Zune and then sync your image folder to SkyDrive with the SkyDrive Desktop App. It may be the long way around but the images will be uploaded at full resolution.

SkyManager for Windows Phone

Another option is to use the third party app SkyManager. SkyManager (free version and paid version) is a decent little SkyDrive app that will let you upload to a maximum resolution of 2048x2048. It's not perfect and with the updates to the SkyDrive app, may SkyManager will be able to upload photos at full resolution with its next update.

As our Windows Phone cameras improve and become capable of capturing higher resolution images, Microsoft really needs to reconsider how dramatic SkyDrive reduces images that are uploaded from the phone.  Fortunately, the SkyDrive app is slowly keeping pace with this progress.  Now we just need the internal uploads to catch up.

 

A few more everyday uses for SkyDrive.

  • When surfing the web on your desktop computer, ever run across an image that would make a neat Windows Phone lockscreen wallpaper? Save it to a SkyDrive folder in your SkyDrive Desktop app that automatically syncs with your Windows Phone. Before you know it, you will have a healthy wallpaper library on your Windows Phone.
  • Speaking of which, with the SkyDrive Desktop app you have the capability to automatically sync folders from your computer to your Windows Phone.  Just move the folder to the SkyDrive Folder in Windows Explorer and any changes to that folder will sync with your SkyDrive account and will be readily available from your Windows Phone.
  • Videos are a strange animal with regards to SkyDrive. Videos captured by your Windows Phone can be uploaded to SkyDrive (doesn't appear to be resized) from the internal share feature but they can't be uploaded through the SkyDrive app. Videos stored on your SkyDrive may or may not be streamed back to your Windows Phone. On the one hand, I was able to stream a music video rather nicely to my Windows Phone. On the other hand, a smaller video wouldn't stream. Still a few kinks to iron out in this area and for now, Youtube may be the best way to store videos off-device and have them accessible when on the go.

So while SkyDrive does have room for improvement we think it's heading in the right direction. However, as our Windows Phones grow so should its connection to SkyDrive. Streaming videos, uploading images at full resolution and even scanning documents directly from SkyDrive should be what's around the corner.

As is, SkyDrive, the SkyDrive apps and the third party apps that tap into SkyDrive help free up storage space, make documents and files easily accessible and makes life on the go a little easier.

We've touched on a few broad areas where SkyDrive is used in every day use. Sound off in the comments if you've found a use for SkyDrive that we may have overlooked.

You can download the SkyDrive Desktop App here from the Skydrive website. You can also find the SkyDrive Windows Phone app here at the Marketplace.

QR: SkyDrive App

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Comments

There are 38 comments. Sign in to comment

xmarklive says:

Where's my neatly saved cloud music folder....i don't see it

kenosando says:

Have you found a way to get the public link for a file in the Windows desktop program, like you can with Dropbox? I tried to do that for the first time today, and had to go to skydrive.live.com and get the public link.

btbam91 says:

As far as I know, that's not possible, unfortunately.

link68759 says:

Sorta possible without the SkyDrive app. You can mount SkyDrive as a network drive in explorer, and then the file location IS the link. You still need to set the permissions so it is shared from the site, but you can easily do this to an entire folder and remember that it is the shared folder.

ChrisLynch says:

That's currently a limitation of the Desktop App, and not the service.  Today, you need to go to skydrive.live.com to get a Public Link.  Go to the System Tray, Right-Click on the Skydrive icon, and select Feedback.  Provide your feedback to the Skydrive team, and with more people complaining about a missing feature, the more likely it will be prioritized higher for implementation.  Customer feedback is EXTREMELY important.

Po_MD says:

You can do it with twitter so I suppose you could try pasting a link to the file by right clicking and copying it from SkyDrive.

I knew the picture hub uploads don't make that big of a difference. Got lots of members of the #firstworldproblem crew here

link68759 says:

It's false that you can't download songs... Cloud music can store songs locally from SkyDrive, however it doesn't add them to the music hub, you can only access the songs in-app (and the app can't play songs in the music hub).

peacock93 says:

My one big problem with all of this isn't the Skydrive side of it but my AT&T side of it. With only 2gig of data per month I really can't be streaming everything to and from the cloud. I wish AT&T would partner up with Netflix, Hulu, Microsoft and whoever else so that when using those services it doesn't go against my data usage.

lippidp says:

Yes. Why the push for SkyDrive anyway? Just give us more freaking space on the phone and a way to easily transfer files from computer to phone and all these stupid SkyDrive limitations go away.

Screw the cloud and all of its problems. I do appreciate the article, however, to help us overcome the current storage problem we're currently faced with. Expandable storage is so needed in WP. I've had it since 2003 for chrissakes, but now it's gone. Very frustrating.

polychromenz says:

Yes and if you don't have cell coverage, no music :-( try going camping.

tallgeese says:

You should be telling stories and talking to your camping buddies.

venetasoft says:

Major problem with SkyDrive as regards apps development is that Live controls from wp sdk have some problems both on progress event and large file uploads....Hope new url shortner, gif and direct file url api will be introduced soon :)

ZuNuKoo says:

Hey you're that person. I knew I recognized the name. I like your apps. Keep up the good work. Turbo Camera is great. Also congrats on the win. Installed Security toolkit, had each app individual but having them all in one is great.

abond32 says:

Same as usual with Microsoft. Half ass everything

shmuntz says:

He's not troll, you idiot. He speaks the truth. MS made half assed effort to integrate SkyDrive into WP and it's visible and frustrating everywhere. Good luck uploading your pics easily without resizing, good luck streaming or downloading music into your Zune hub, good luck trying to upload your 720p video to YouTube or even to SkyDrive without fucking resizing. This shit is so lame I'm gonna try Galaxy Note as my next smartphone, I'm so tired dealing with idiotic totally unnecessary and unjustified limitations of SkyDrive on WP that I'm actually willing to give crapdroid a try, and on a better screen than my Titan's to boot. We'll see how crappy crapdroid really is, at least I won't have removable storage limitations, screen will be nicer and maybe Google's cloud integration is made not through some lamer's anus as it is in WP now.

jandieg.b says:

Great article! Have to add that for those who have/use multiple SkyDrive accounts you can manage them all with the latest version of SkyManager.


It also allows to open ZIP files and share with shortened urls, which is not possible in the official app.
Available here

ChrisK91 says:

You can even set up automated document synchronization with Windows 7 (or 8) and the SkyDrive App. First install the SkyDrive App. Then create a folder "Synchronized Documents" in the newly created SkyDrive Folder you can see in the Explorer under Favorites. Now proceed to add that folder to your Documents Library: Right click on Documents under Libraries. Hit Properties and add a new Location. Select the newly created "Synchronized Documents" Folder. Now select the newly added folder and click the leftmost button. It should say something like "Default location" or "Save location" (I have a german Windows Edition so I can't tell you the exact caption of said button. A green check mark should appear next to the newly added folder. Now you can save everything into this location. You can access it easily via the Documents library. Note that documents will only start to synchronize when the application that created a document is closed.

Generalguy41 says:

That's exactly what I've done with my SkyDrive. I tend to switch around computers a lot so I have my documents, pictures, and videos completely on my SkyDrive and set as save locations. Saves me space and I have it very neatly organized so it's easy to access. The only reason I don't put my music on there is cause it would eat up too much space. However I need a solution cause my 16gb windows phone is just about full...

Nakazul says:

easyRing&Music can play all music in a folder, like a playlist. You can also download your songs to use offline. i have had my mind blow'n with this app. Soundcloud streaming, YouTube audio maker, Ring tune creator, huge ringtone database, music search from various webb sites. You can change background pic...well, i think i told you why this have replaced Zune completely. I wish that it could upload the YouTube audio to SkyDrive, basically more cloud intergration. There is also a simple, but graphical nice SkyDrive music app thats free called Anemoplayer. So there you go, 2 apps to rock your music collection.

mjrtoo says:

qloud, check it out.

textomatic says:

My wife and I use SkyDrive and OneNote to have one grocery list.  Basically, I made a Grocery OneNote file.  Then I went to my SkyDrive website and I check-mark my OneNote and on the right hand side of the screen, under sharing, I added my wife and gave her the ability to edit.   Then I pinned the Gorcery OneNote to our Start Screens and any time we need something for our next trip to the grocery we just edit the Grocery OneNote.  It works out great!  

lippidp says:

Now THIS is a good use of cloud services. The cloud is great for sharing small files. It is unacceptable as a replacement for onboard storage, however.

Tjarren says:

George and the staff of WPCentral, PLEASE stop promoting the Cloud Music app.  It is not a product that works well and the reviews on the Marketplace make that clear. 

irlju#WP says:

You mismatched the captions for the comparison images, you have the auto-upload pegged at full resolution and the SkyDrive app pegged at the compressed one.

B Eubanks says:

While Skydrive and other cloud technologies can be handy for shopping lists and other small tasks, I personally can't afford the data costs to stream and transfer much of my music, photos, and video. It's obvious that the money-making model for companies such as Microsoft and the phone carriers, involves convincing us all that we need to store everything online and eventually pay through the nose to move our data around. 
Once upon a time, one could count on device storage increasing in capacity and decreasing in cost every year. Since the cloud came along, that trend has reversed. My old LG Quantum has a mammoth 16 gb of internal memory.  Never thought that I'd be sitting here now, reading about current Windows Phone releases with 8 and 4 gb of ram.  Why keep increasing the internal ram which the user pays for once when there's more money to be made with the cloud and carrier data plans?!!
Currently, processors get faster, screens get brighter and sharper, but ram is going the way of the dinosaur. Oh well, the machine's too big now. I guess I'll have to play along with everyone else.  Sucks, though.
 
 

lippidp says:

Don't bow down! Expandable storage has been rumored for WP8. Most Android phones have it and Apple has 32 and 64GB models available. Even without expandable storage, if WP ever gained double-digit market share I imagine OEMs would start including more onboard as a way to differentiate.

shirleyboy says:

Can somebody please tell me how to put my music up on SkyDrive ?

Belroe says:

Get the skydrive desktop ap, then copy your music folders into your skydrive folder on your desktop.

radic100 says:

"It would have been nice to have had this when I was doing all my college research papers."
AAAAMEN

GFulcrum says:

All you have to do to make all your videos "streamable" on your WP device is to convert them to the .wmv format before uploading them to SkyDrive.

nez99 says:

Sky Player and Cloud Music and pretty rubbish :( SkyMusic looks like it KICKS ASS. Get it :)

Dean87229 says:

Actually, I use the Cloud Music app all the time. Any problems I have had were quickly addressed and the app works well.