Microsoft recently added some new features to SkyDrive, the company’s free online file storage service, that make it easier to share and manage your files online.

You can now use SkyDrive to easily shareindividual files via email or on social networks, and use Windows-stylefile management capabilities online such as move and copy. Microsofthas also added a new HTML5-based drag-and-drop feature to upload filesto your 25GB of free SkyDrive storage.

SkyDrive’s new improvements are a lead up to Windows 8, expected in 2012, whereSkyDrive will play an important role for services such as multipledevice file sync. The new functionality is also about playing catch upto competing online services such as Dropbox for storage and sharingand Google Docs for document editing.

Here’s a look at the highlights for Microsoft’s new SkyDrivefunctionality.

Sharing Made Easier
SkyDrive sharing used to be a chore since you could only share foldersand not individual documents. This forced you to be careful about howyou organized your data since you didn’t want a private document endingup in a shared folder. The new SkyDrive gets rid of that problemallowing you to share individual files or whole folders without muchhassle.

To share individual documents just select the document from the mainSkyDrive window and select “Share” in the far right panel. This willopen up a pop-up window giving you the option to share your file viae-mail, generate a link to the document or share your document on Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn. Ifyou are currently editing your document online and want to share itclick the “Share” link in the Web app menu bar.

Let’s say you decide to share a document via email with your co-workerBob and you want him to be able to edit the file. At the bottom of thesharing pop-up window you will see two checkboxes: “Recipients canedit” and “Recipients must sign in to view.” Select the options youneed, hit the “Share” button and Bob will then receive an email with alink to the shared file.

If you don’t require Bob to sign-in to view the file he will only beable to view the document online. To edit the file online Bob has to besigned in to his SkyDrive account.

Sharing a document on any of the three social networks posts a link tothe document on your profile for each service. You can also choose toallow your friends to edit your documents so you might want to becareful about sharing documents on social networks.

If you want to create a link to share a document you can select threetypes of sharing permissions: view only (for people you choose), viewand edit, or public. The public option is view only and does not allowthe whole world to edit your file.

If you ever want to remove sharing permissions from a file just select it, and then in the far right panel click on the “X” next to the sharing permission you want to revoke such as Facebook or a person’s email address.

In my tests, sharing was pretty easy, but several attempts to senddocuments to Gmail accounts failed. Microsoft says its new sharingoptions make it easier to share with non-Microsoft Live accounts, butthe company appears to have a few bugs to work out.

Another important point to remember is that if you share file formatssuch as RTF (rich text format), users will only be able to download thefile and won’t be able to view it online. Microsoft’s web apps onlyallow you to edit and view a small set of Microsoft-approved fileformats.

Drag-and-Drop Uploads
Similar to features in Google Docs and Gmail you can now drag-and-dropfiles to upload files to SkyDrive from your PC. Just select your fileand drop it in to the SkyDrive window. You can drop files into a folderor just in your main SkyDrive page.

Once you drop a file into SkyDrive, a pop-up window appears at thebottom of the browser page showing you the upload progress. You cancontinue to browse your other files while your document is uploading.SkyDrive’s new drag-and-drop feature relies on the HTML5 File API, so you will need amodern version of browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Internet Exploreror Safari for this feature to work.

Microsoft allows you to upload all kinds of file types using the newdrag and drop feature including office documents, photos and, in mytests, music.

File Management
SkyDrive also has some new file management capabilities that make iteasier to handle files. Right-clicking on a filename gives you optionsto view or edit the document in your browser, open in a desktop applicationsuch as Word, see the document’s version history, download, rename,delete, generate an HTML 5 embed code for a blog or Web site, or sharethe document. If your file is in a folder, you will also have theoption to move or copy the file to another folder in SkyDrive.

Microsoft also added a new slideshow feature to SkyDrive that thecompany says is faster than the previous version, and support for PDFand RAW file formats.

If you’re looking for an easy way to store and edit files online, giveMicrosoft’s SkyDrive a try.

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