Microsoft has released an update to the SkyDrive app that brings the much requested selective synchronization functionality to the service. Selective synchronization gives users the ability to sync only selected folders on their computer to SkyDrive. Now before you start celebrating, let me explain – selective synchronization in SkyDrive is not what you might be expecting. Microsoft’s implementation is different and whether or not you can benefit from this new feature will depend entirely on how you use it.
First thing first – no, you cannot select random folders on your hard drive to sync with SkyDrive. Huh? So what’s this selective synchronization all about? Well, Microsoft seems to have a different understanding of selective synchronization.
Under the new SkyDrive app for desktop and other platforms, you still need to create a special SkyDrive folder on your hard drive, and SkyDrive will upload no files other than those located inside the SkyDrive folder. What you get now is the ability to choose which folders or files inside your SkyDrive folder become available on your other devices.
Say you want to keep all your photos and documents on the desktop PC backed up to SkyDrive but want only your photos to be accessible from your laptop. You can do that now by choosing only the photos folder for sync even if your desktop is syncing the full set. So whatever files you put inside the SkyDrive folder, all get uploaded to the cloud, but only files inside the chosen folders get synced to your other machines. In other words, SkyDrive is now a cloud backup service and file syncing service but with the possibility of keeping either one separate from the other, to some extent.
The primary advantage of this feature is that it makes sharing with your friends and family easy. You can have all your important office documents and vacation pictures on the same SkyDrive folder and share only the pictures with your family while keeping your important documents exclusively to yourself. Previously you would have to move your pictures to the public folder which meant anybody could access those photos if they knew the URL.
While some users will surely benefit from this update, for the rest SkyDrive is still a one-folder-only synchronization service.
It appears that improving sharing is the main objective of this upgrade. SkyDrive includes some additional ways by which sharing folders, documents, and photos is made easier. Whenever you’re ready to share a file or folder, you can just right-click it in Explorer and select Share. Your default browser will open right to SkyDrive.com and you can share your folder or file right from there. You can also view the file itself right on SkyDrive.com, which works great for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files with the Office Web Apps.
The new SkyDrive app is available for Windows desktop, Windows Phone, iPhone and iPad and Android. Download it from http://apps.live.com/skydrive