Microsoft Sync, Windows Live Mesh, SkyDrive—Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage and syncing service has undergone several name and function changes since first appearing on the scene 15 years ago(Opens in a new window). But in those years, the service has become a highly functional, reliable, well-oiled component in the Windows engine.
In honor of the anniversary, Microsoft is announcing yet another step in OneDrive’s evolution: a redesigned home screen for the service on the web, OneDrive Home.
The service has gone from Mesh, which involved complex folder-to-folder mapping of all your file folders on all your devices (similar to what SugarSync still does), to a neater system resembling that used by Dropbox, in which the synced folders all live under a single local master folder that’s synced to the cloud. Apps for most major platforms are provided—in addition to Windows 10 and 11, you can install capable apps for OneDrive on Android, macOS, iOS, and even Chrome OS.
Why Use OneDrive?
If you want to use by far the best office productivity suite, you can have all your work automatically synced with OneDrive, which also makes collaborative editing possible. So, when I start writing an article on my PC, if I save to OneDrive, I can head over to the living room couch and open Word on my smartphone to add text and edit the article. Changes show up right away as the most recently worked-on document. For office situations, the collaboration possibilities match what you get in Google Docs, but with a far better editing interface.
Photos are another strength of OneDrive. With a $6.99-a-month Office subscription, you get a full terabyte of OneDrive storage, enough to store a couple hundred thousand digital photos. The web view of your photos is almost as good as services completely dedicated to photos; you can see a map for geotagged photos (as most smartphone shots are) and search based on who and what’s in the photo. Like other photo-only services, it can even show you highlights from previous years, months, and weeks.
OneDrive automatically saves screenshots you snap on Windows. (Credit: PCMag)
You can share, rate, tag, and have contacts comment on photos stored on OneDrive. There’s also the option to edit the lighting, color, add markup, and apply filters with a built-in photo editor.
One of my absolute favorite photo-related OneDrive features is its ability to automatically save screenshots you snap on Windows with the Print-Screen key. In the shot above, you can see some screenshots of receipts for an expense report saved that way.
Backup is another huge reason to use OneDrive: It can automatically back up anything in your Documents, Desktop, and Pictures folders, along with any subfolders underneath. That means when you move to a different PC, you have access to all your important files.
What’s the New Feature Coming to OneDrive?
For the 15th anniversary, Microsoft is updating the web interface with a new OneDrive Home. According to the Microsoft blog post announcing the update, “Soon, OneDrive will surface your most relevant files and list your most recent files along with any activity updates, so you can see everything at a glance and quickly prioritize where to start working.”
So, your recent work files will be on top at the start of your workday, and you can sort them by file type, such as .docx, .pptx, .xlsx, and .pdf, with buttons along the top.
The new interface will also feature an Activity column, “showcasing all the shares, @mentions, comments, and assigned tasks from collaborators.”
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You’ll also be able to pin “document libraries” to a new Quick access section on the left. I’d hope you can simply pin a file and folder here.
Another new feature for home users is OneDrive Photo Story. This resembles the stories feature that has made its way into every social network you can think of. Microsoft’s version has the advantage of being ad-free, tracking-free, and private among your contacts.
For business users, the update makes the interfaces consistent among OneDrive, SharePoint, and Microsoft Teams. Microsoft’s blog says the new OneDrive Home experience will be available “in the coming months” for work and school users. That begs the question of what individual users will see. The Stories feature is already available in Australia and is rolling out to the US and other regions “later in 2022.”
Editors’ Note: SugarSync is owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag’s parent company.
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