Microsoft’s online file storage service, Windows Live SkyDrive, has been a teeth-gnashing flail ever since its introduction.
It looks like a bunch of file folders sitting on a hard drive — but you can’t drag and drop files and folders into one another or right click them to copy and paste or do any of the other things you’ve been able to do in the Windows file system for more than a decade.
There’s some kind of tie into Office Web Apps, but it’s weird and inconsistent — you can upload files directly from a menu item in Office 2010 apps, but not from earlier versions of Office. You can do some things from the browser, while other features require you to open a desktop Office app.
There’s a sync service that keeps files from your desktop synced to the cloud version — it’s called Mesh and it replaced Live Sync (which replaced FolderShare), but it only works with 5GB of your 25GB free storage.
Got all that?
Probably not, but never mind: today Microsoft announced a big update to SkyDrive that moves some parts from Silverlight (Microsoft’s proprietary Flash competitor) to HTML5, and promises better performance, neater photo scrolling, and other improvements.
This seemed like a good opportunity to upload a bunch of files from one work computer (the Windows 7 PC running IE9) to make them available on the other (the Macbook Pro running Snow Leopard).
Apparently you’re supposed to be able to drag and drop files from your desktop into the new SkyDrive, which is great — you don’t have to upload them five at a time, which was like some kind of joke from the old dial-up days.
Except it didn’t work:
That’s not a helpful error message. Multiple retries led to the same result.
Selecting “upload from my computer” finally got a bunch of work files into SkyDrive. Hooray.
So what about creating subfolders to organise all this stuff?
This still seems to be impossible. There’s no drag and drop, no right click, no menu option called “Move” on the right hand menu screen…
Fine. How about editing an Excel spreadsheet? Has that gotten any better?
You can still open Excel files in the browser, but if you click on a cell to edit it, nothing happens. You have to select a menu item called “Edit in Browser.” (Because why would anybody want that to just, you know, work, like the regular version of Excel?)
But wait — “to edit in the browser, a copy of the file will be created in a supported format,” apparently. Is that bad? It sounds bad — you don’t want two versions of the same file with different information.
If you don’t want that, you have to open it in Excel.
Which threw up a dialog box asking for an email address and password.
That’s like seeing “GAME OVER. WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY AGAIN?”
Just to reiterate — this is using all the latest versions of all-Microsoft products. I’m not trying anything crazy like using a Mac or Firefox.
Just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating from the unseasonable heat in San Francisco, I clicked on over to Dropbox — which I’ve never used — and tried doing some of the same things there.
Bulk upload from the browser? No problem — select multiple files and you can upload them all at once. It just works. You can double click to open files and if it’s a simple file (like a .txt file) it just opens right there. If it requires an Office app, it asks if you want to save a local copy when you open it, and again when you close the app.
You can create new folders right from the top of the toolbar. You can drag and drop files into folders, and folders into folders. It all just works.
Now I’m a Dropbox customer. I guess I have Microsoft to thank for showing me the potential of the cloud.
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