I’m always looking for (third party) applications that make everyday worklife on my Microsoft Windows 7 powered notebook easier. In this article I will put the SkyDrive Explorer application to the test.
“SkyDrive Explorer is a free, easy-to-use, but very powerful extension for Windows Explorer. With SkyDrive Explorer you can make any every-day operations with your documents from Windows Live SkyDrive service using Windows Explorer, as if they were on your computer.”
As you can see SkyDrive Explorer integrates Windows Live SkyDrive in a clever way with Windows Explorer on your notebook or PC. For those of you who are not familiar with the Windows Live SkyDrive service, that provides an incredible 25GB of storage for free, should get up to speed with the following Windows Live SkyDrive definition:
“Windows Live SkyDrive is part of Microsoft’s Windows Live range of online services. SkyDrive is a file storage and sharing service that allows users to upload files to the computing cloud, then access them from a web browser. It uses Windows Live ID to control access to the user’s files, allowing them to keep the files private, share with contacts, or make the files public. Publicly-shared files do not require a Windows Live ID to access.”
Installation SkyDrive Explorer
Now that you have a broad overview of the functional goal of the SkyDrive Explorer application, this section will provide a step-by-step overview of the SkyDrive Explorer installation process. Let’s start with downloading the latest release from the SkyDrive Explorer Free Download Page.
If you double click on the SkyDrive Explorer 1.4 exe-file, the installation wizard is automatically started, which is shown in the screenshot above. In order to continue the installation of SkyDrive Explorer you simply hit the next-button.
In the second step of the setup-process the end-user license agreement (EULA) is shown, and I would advice you to read these agreements now and then in order to get a feeling of the contents. Probably most people don’t read the EULA, so they don’t know with what “rules and regulations” they agree.
The screenshot below shows the EULA step of the installation process and before you can select the next-button you have to check the “I accept te agreement” option.
The screenshot above shows you the next step, which consists of selecting the installation destination folder. I have left the default value in its place, so SkyDrive Explorer will be installed in the “program files” folder.
With all the pre-installation information collected, SkyDrive Explorer is ready to install. In the screenshot above you can start the actual installation by clicking on the install-button. The screenshot below shows the installation progress.
One of the final steps of the SkyDrive Explorer installation is a check if a newer update of SkyDrive Explorer is available. This is a welcome and very clever feature that I really like.
However I haven’t figured out if this is a one-time check before installation, or that this is mechanism like you can see in FileZilla FTP Client. FileZilla FTP checks at each program start is there are updates available, and if yes there is clever auto-upgrade mechanism in place.
I installed the latest version of SkyDrive Explorer and in the review time-frame there isn’t a new version released.
The final step of the installation process consists of hitting the finish button, which is shown in the screenshot above. You might remark the checked default option “view read me txt”, that opens up the readme file upon finishing the installation.
This readme provides a short product description and gives an overview of features and functionality.
Using SkyDrive Explorer in daily practice
The starting point is the SkyDrive Explorer icon, which you can find in the My Computer overview of Windows Explorer. In the screenshot above you can see that SkyDrive Explorer is placed under the heading “other” and for example not under “network locations” like I personally expected.
In order to connect with the Windows Live SkyDrive, I double click on the SkyDrive Explorer icon. A new windows pops-up, which almost looks idential as the Windows Live Messenger sign-in window.
On top of this window you can see the bold text: “Sign in to SkyDrive Explorer“, of course with your own Windows Live ID ! It is as simple as that.
Remarkable is furthermore the line “You are logging into (SkyDrive Explorer) which is not a Microsoft developed application.” I want to underline this because (1) the credits go to the developer and not to Microsoft, (2) feedback should go to the developer and not to Microsoft to get future itterations of this product even better.
A connection with Windows Live SkyDrive is established and you will get an overview of your own Windows Live SkyDrive. The sreenshot above shows you the kind of landing page after you have signed in, which is nothing more than the root of your Windows Live SkyDrive.
Now you can do all familiar operations with files and documents on your Windows Live SkyDrive, in a more native Microsoft Windows experience. I mean you don’t need to access the Windows Live SkyDrive from a webbrowser, since it is integrated with Windows Explorer.
In the screenshot above you can see that I saved a Microsoft Word 2010 document in the documents folder of Windows Live SkyDrive, while I’m copying the “SkyDriveExplorer1.4.exe” installation file from my local harddisk to the Windows Live SkyDrive. I must admit this all works very smooth and without any problems or delay !
SkyDrive Explorer is a great extension for the default Windows Explorer and it can help to make more advantage of the 25GB of free storage of Windows Live SkyDrive. Like I mentioned before the installtion is very simple, and it provides a more efficient more native Microsoft Windows experience to communicate and work with Windows Live SkyDrive.
As a point for improvement in the next version I would highlight some functionality that I personally miss. The Windows Explorer always has a great navigation column on the left of the screen. As you can see in the screenshots of this review, SkyDrive Explorer is not included in the folder-tree under “my computer”, which means you can only access it from the “my computer”screen. In a specific copy-paste scenario the proposed functionality could save a few clicks.
The SkyDrive Explorer development and support team, pointed me to a possible solution in the SkyDrive Explorer FAQ section for outlined scenario above. If I apply the solution under question 1, which is slightly different under Windows 7, the structure and spacing of the folder tree gets messed up in my situation. However the SkyDrive Explorer “drive” is also shown in the navigation pane !!
Overall SkyDrive Explorer is an excellent add-on for the default Windows Explorer, which I can advise to everyone who work with Windows Live SkyDrive or has the intention to make more use of the provided free 25GB of SkyDrive cloud storage. If Windows Live SkyDrive is not your only cloud-storage you might want to check out Gladinet Cloud Desktop which I reviewed back in August 2009.