It’s been an interesting year for SkyDrive: Microsoft’s once-ignored cloud storage service is now the go-to place online for all Windows users, with deep integration in Windows 8, Windows Phone, Office 2013, and more. Those who move to SkyDrive will want to spend some time organizing folders in their online storage, and examining the ways in which these folders can be configured.
Most important, perhaps, it’s important to understand how this folder configuration will be changing going forward.
To see what I mean, visit SkyDrive on the web and navigate to the one of the folders contained in your storage space. If you expand the Information group in the rightmost pane, you’ll see an option called Folder type.
Click Change and you’ll discover the two folder configuration types that SkyDrive currently supports: Documents and Photos.
SkyDrive will of course try to set the folder type automatically based on what’s contained within. Documents is the default choice for most folders, and if the folder contains only image files, it will be set to Photos. This makes sense, but what about other file types like music and video?
We know this support is coming to SkyDrive because of various leaks over the past several months, the most notable of which was the early 2012 Windows Phone 8 leak courtesy of an internal video starring Joe Belfiore. In that video, Belfiore spoke very specifically about the new content types that would be supported on SkyDrive.
“When I get a Windows 8 PC, I might put my music on SkyDrive, I might store my Office documents on SkyDrive,” he said. “And then when I get my new Windows Phone 8 [handset], those content types will all be magically available. When I browse into the Music experience ... my songs are automatically there [on SkyDrive], and I can just click Play without ever having to sync.”
Thus, SkyDrive will most likely evolve to be about as versatile, from a folder customization standpoint, as is Windows. To see what that looks like today, check out the options you can see for a SkyDrive folder when accessed from Windows (using the currently-in-beta SkyDrive application for Windows, which offers Explorer integration):
(To be clear, these options are not new or unique to SkyDrive: You can see a similar Customize tab in the properties sheet for libraries as well. More to the point, however, these customize options do not map to SkyDrive storage in the cloud; they’re for customizing how the folders will display in Windows only.)
I think it’s fair to say that SkyDrive will one day support some if not all of the folder type options seen in the Explorer interface, and that how you configure these folders will affect how you access the service from the web and, more important, from apps on your Windows 8 PCs and devices and Windows Phone (and other) handsets.
For example, if you look at how SkyDrive integrates with Windows Phone today, you see that any folder marked as being of type Photos will show up automatically in the Pictures hub.
Here, you can see two folders—Pictures and SkyDrive Camera Roll—that are pulled directly from SkyDrive. And those are, of course, the two top-level SkyDrive folders I have that are configured as type Photos.
It’s not a stretch to suggest that the Music + Videos app in Windows Phone 8 will work similarly, but automatically gather any SkyDrive-based folders that are marked as type Music or Video. And that the Xbox Music and Videos apps will work in exactly the same way, either at the RTM of Windows 8 or sometime in the months ahead. I’ll further suggest, since it’s only logically, that an update to the Xbox 360, which should include similar media apps, will also work exactly the same way, providing users with the same exact type of SkyDrive-based media access.
Regardless of the exact details, it makes sense, I think, to start thinking about the makeup of your SkyDrive storage, and how the individual folders will be organized and configured. I noted in 2012: A Cloud Odyssey - From Live Mesh To SkyDrive that I’ve been mapping SkyDrive locations to libraries in Windows 8, and that this strategy ensures that my files are available anywhere at any time. By correctly configuring those libraries—on the web, not in Windows—you can ensure that they’ll show up correctly with the devices and apps of the future as well.