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Microsoft Quietly Launches Major SkyDrive Upgrade

Buried in a press release about Office 365, Microsoft noted that its semi-related Windows Live SkyDrive service has also been updated with "simpler app-centric sharing for Office, powerful file management and easier uploads with HTML5." A quick look at the Inside Windows Live blog provides a lot more detail. In fact, this is a fairly major upgrade.

"Share any Office document in one click," the release notes. "Work together more easily with any contact — across email services and connected networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Powerful tools to manage and organize files quickly. Drag and drop multiple files to upload across browsers on PC and Mac."

That's a lot of stuff in a short amount of space. Fortunately, Microsoft's Omar Shahine provides a bit of context in a blog post to the Inside Windows Live blog.

"Today, we're excited to release an upgrade to to address key feedback," he writes. You should expect to see the new SkyDrive release in the next few hours. Follow SkyDrive on Twitter so that you can be one of the first people to know when it's live."

Here's what's changing:

Simple app-centric sharing, particularly for Office docs

Today, to share a document in an Office application like SkyDrive, you need to do so from the SkyDrive web interface; there's no easy way to do it without leaving Word. Sharing occurs at the folder level and is fairly non-granular, with SkyDrive folders being private or shared.

Now, with this update, SkyDrive document sharing will be more app-centric.

"We rebuilt fundamental pieces of SkyDrive to simplify sharing and make it more app-centric, particularly for Office," Shahine writes. "For example, let's say you're working in Word Web App on a document in one of your private folders. Now you can Share from within the app and complete your task, without having to think about the structure of folders or subfolders. This is possible since SkyDrive now lets you share or permission individual files within a folder. This works for Office documents, photos, or any other type of file."

It's also a lot easier to share documents with people and you can do so via email, via Facebook or LinkedIn, or via a web URL.

Powerful file management

Microsoft has added a number of "instant" SkyDrive capabilities, allowing you to create or rename folders inline (without having to view the folder's properties first), and move, delete, and download multiple files in bulk. You can also right-click on documents and photos to take certain actions (Open, Download, View original, and so on) immediately. And when you create a new Office document from the little Office app icons in SkyDrive, you can now give it a name before launching into the appropriate web app.

HTML5 uploads and CSS3 transitions in Internet Explorer 10

Using the HTML 5 File API support that's coming in Internet Explorer 10, you can drag and drop files for uploading without requiring a (Silverlight) plug-in. And in the Windows 8 Developer Preview, which uses IE 10, support for CSS3 animations now works when resizing an album.

Photo improvements

Photo slideshows have been dramatically improved in this release and now work much more quickly than before. The previously hidden photo captions are now viewable directly below each picture as well. Users of  Internet Explorer 10 and Mobile Safari can use their fingers to interact with photos using multi-touch capabilities.

Improved file type support

While SkyDrive has always worked well with Office document types and photos, it now supports other popular file types like PDF and RAW photos. If you upload a PDF file to SkyDrive now, you can view it directly from within the browser, using whatever plug-in you've configured, without having to download it first.

Performance improvements

Finally, Microsoft has tweaked SkyDrive performance yet again, with improvements across the board. Sign-in is 50 percent faster, the company notes, and viewing and editing Office documents is considerably faster.

Yikes! That's a lot of stuff. And Shahine says more is coming in the near future.

Video: SkyDrive updates sharing and file management

Microsoft has also posted a video of a few of the major changes from this update.

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