What is OneDrive?

OneDrive is a Cloud storage solution from Microsoft. There are two ways to get access to the service:

  • Sign up for a free Microsoft account. You get 5GB of space on Microsoft’s OneDrive servers. If this isn’t enough space for you, there is option to upgrade to 50GB for $24 (£24) per year.
  • Sign up for an Office 365 account. This will cost you around $70 (£60) a year for the Personal Edition or $100 (£80) a year for the Home Edition. As well as a licence / licences for the full MS Office desktop suite – 1 licence if you buy the Personal Edition, 5 licences if you buy the Home edition, you get 1TB of OneDrive space – and if you are prepared to set up 4 additional email addresses and attach them to your Home Edition account, you’ll actually have 5TB of space in total

How do you access OneDrive?

All you need to access OneDrive is a web browser. Simply login at http://onedrive.com using your Microsoft account credentials and start uploading your files by dragging and dropping from your Desktop/Finder (Mac) or Windows Explorer straight into the browser.

A few of things to be aware of…

  • On a Mac, Safari doesn’t support upload of folders but Chrome does.
  • On both Windows and Mac, you can’t upload a file larger than 10GB.
  • You can’t upload files with certain characters in the name. In some cases these characters are perfectly OK in Windows and Mac OS X. Two that spring to mind are ? and / which are legal on OSX.

The OneDrive Sync Client

This is a free app that you can download and install on your computer (Mac or PC). During installation, you login to your OneDrive account and specify a folder on either your local hard drive or an external drive connected to your computer. This folder is known as the “OneDrive sync folder”.

Any files you save to this folder (by using Save/Save As inside an application) or copy/move to this folder (using Windows Explorer/Finder) are automatically uploaded to your cloud based storage space on MS servers.

Once uploaded, a copy of the file remains in the OneDrive sync folder. If you update a file in your sync folder, it automatically updates the version in The Cloud and vice versa. If you delete or rename a file from the sync folder it gets deleted from/renamed in The Cloud.

If you already have files or folders in your Cloud-based OneDrive account at the time you install the sync client on your computer, you’ll get the option to copy these files/folders to your local sync folder. You can choose which folders are sync’ed (this is known as selective synching) and is useful if you are short of space on local drive or you simply just don’t want a local copy of every Cloud-based folder.

OneDrive on iOS

The OneDrive iOS app allows you to open files that are stored in your Cloud-based OneDrive account files using your iPad or iPhone. Video, audio, photos and PDF’s can be opened directly in the OneDrive app. MS Office files stored in OneDrive are opened in the appropriate app (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) if installed. For other file types, you can choose which app to open it in.

The app includes file management tools so that allow you to delete and rename a file and move it to another folder. You can also share a file with someone via the app, by sending them a link via email or text message. The file remains in YOUR OneDrive account and they have either read-only or edit access to it – you choose which.

The app also includes an Offline mode which means that when your device has no Internet access, any file that has been marked as being available offline can be opened (but not edited).

Office Extension for Chrome (PC and Mac)

This free extension adds icon to Chrome toolbar. The first time that you click the icon you are prompted to sign in to OneDrive. Subsequently, when you click the icon you can choose to open a file from your OneDrive account – OneDrive is opened in a new browser tab as if you’d navigated there manually.

You can also choose to open a file from your local computer. If you do this, the file is uploaded to a folder in OneDrive called “Office Online Extension”.

You can also create a new Word, Excel or PowerPoint file which is saved to OneDrive.

Embedding Documents in a Web Page

If you have a video, a photo, a PDF or an Office document stored in OneDrive that you want to share with others, one option is to embed it in a web page or blog post. In OneDrive select the file, click embed, copy the embed code and paste it into your web page or blog post. Visitors to the page/blog will see the document/photo/video embedded in the page and are given read only access to it. Any changes to the document are reflected immediately in the webpage.

Sharing Documents

Sometimes you need to give someone else (or a group of people) access to a document or folder. The old way of doing this (for a document) was to email it out but then you have version control issues. Using OneDrive’s share feature, the document/folder is stored in your OneDrive account and you choose to give read only or edit access to individuals.

Another way to share is to generate a link. Select the document or folder. Click Share. Click Get a Link and select read only or edit. OneDrive generates a random link which you can then paste anywhere – an email, IM, a blog post, social media. In fact if you want to post the link on social media, there is built in support for FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Remember that if you set the link to “can edit” anyone who has the link can edit the document.

Co-Authoring

OneDrive supports co-authoring for Office documents. This means that multiple people can edit a document at the same time

For PowerPoint and Word, although it is possible to have co-authoring where users are using the desktop version of the software, it works best if all co-authors are using Office Online, the browser-based version of Word and PowerPoint which is available for free to anyone who has a Microsoft account or an Office 365 account.

For Excel, all co-authors must be using Excel Online. If any one person uses the desktop version of Excel, the file gets locked and co-authoring is unavailable.

Skype Integration

A new feature launched in March 2016 was the ability to access Skype from within OneDrive. When you open an Office document in a browser (i.e. Office Online) you will see a Skype icon at the top of the screen. Clicking the icon allows you to make an audio or video call or IM to any number or any contact. This is really handy if you are editing a document with others – it makes it really easy to communicate with your co-collaborators. The chat history remains connected to the document so is there when the document is next opened.