SkyDrive Folders, Albums, Files and Photos – making a little bit of sense

SkyDrive – cloud computing for everyone

Windows Live SkyDrive is a work in progress with a lot of recent changes. SkyDrive has changed and evolved, and with that come some unusual and unexpected features. imageEvery user with a Windows Live ID, has access to SkyDrive for storing and sharing of documents, photos, even creating and collaborating documents using Microsoft Web Apps. You can access your SkyDrive from many devices and places, and even the SkyDrive folders and documents of friends who share with you. It does get a little complicated. This article tries to shed some light on some of the more unusual aspects of SkyDrive.

To get to your SkyDrive sign in with your Windows Live ID at imageYou can pin SkyDrive to your taskbar (just drag the little icon in front of the URL to your taskbar, see illustration at right). imageClick on the cloud symbol in the taskbar and a browser window with your SkyDrive opens. It looks almost like Windows Explorer. Don’t expect it to work that way!


When you first get to SkyDrive you see the main, or “root”, area. Here are the “top-level” folders and there may be documents. Folders may also be referred to as “albums” if they are used for storing photos.

Like on your computer, you can have folders inside folders to organize your material to your needs. Unlike on your computer, in SkyDrive folders are not all alike. The top-level, or primary folders are different in a number of ways.

Primary folders

imageEven the primary folders are not all equal. For most you can specify who they are shared with. In the illustration above you can see that some folders (see the “Shared with” column) are shared with “Everyone (public)”, “Friends”, “Just me”, and some other notations. Some folders were set up automatically when the account was created, some are created by other processes, notably Hotmail when sending a “photo email”. For some of these folders you cannot change the sharing setting. For folders you created you can edit the permission settings at any time. When you move the pointer over an entry a “Show information” icon appears on the right side. image When clicked, this opens an information panel for the item.

The information panel presents various commands. The top group, right below the folder name, offers the organizational tasks like Rename, Delete, Download.

The Sharing group shows who the folder is shared with and Edit permissions command (not available for all folders) and other share options.

In the Information group a variety of properties are listed. The most unusual is the last one on the bottom, “Folder type”. There are several folder types. image

The two most important are Documents and Photos. In the upper left area you can select which folder type to display (also in the drop-down menu below SkyDrive in the top menu bar).

Any folder or albums inside a top-level folder will inherit the sharing permissions of the top-level folder. Subfolders cannot have their sharing modified.

When uploading photos from Windows Live Photo Gallery, only top-level folders are made available as destination albums.

Top-level folders cannot be moved or copied into other folders.

Together, the just stated two sentences will cause you “pain and suffering” when you try to reorganize your material.

Files in the SkyDrive root area

imageThe little icons above the contents listing allow you to use Web Apps to create Word, Excel, PowerPoint documents or a OneNote file. You can specify and edit the sharing settings of such documents. You cannot move or copy them to another folder. This will almost certainly cause you more “pain and suffering”.  My advise: Do not create documents in the root area of SkyDrive.

The pretty views

imageOn your computer in Windows Explorer you can display the contents of a folder several ways, “Details”, “Small icons”, etc.  SkyDrive offers two views: Details view (as shown above), or Thumbnails view (see icons in upper right area). The thumbnails view is decidedly the prettier one but does not offer the information panel for items.


Folders containing documents are depicted with folder images. If a folder, any type, has one or more photos inside, these are shown as a constantly changing slide show in place of the folder image. The number of items inside a folder is also shown. Individual files show the type icon as illustrated here.

Album view

The contents of albums can be shown as a details listing or in thumbnail view. Again any sub-albums or sub-folders will show changing slide shows of photos inside.


The thumbnails of the photos in an album are shown in approximately the true aspect ratio of the image. Note the vertical image of the skyscraper and the wide panorama picture in the illustration above.

imageSub-folders and sub-albums

Now the good news. sub-folders or sub-albums can be moved from their existing parent folder to any other. Note the Move command illustrated in the information pane inside an album on the right. The move will take with it all the contents including any sub-folders.

Folder and albums cannot be copied, but they can be downloaded as a compressed ZIP file. The “Download with Photo Gallery” option can download only images but allows selecting them individually.

Photos and documents inside sub-folders can be moved or copied – one at a time – to any other folder. Moving more than just a few would be more “pain and suffering” and it is probably easier to download the folder, then uploading the files to the destination folder.

And more

Some of the procedures for specific chores are described in these posts:

Photos and Albums in the New SkyDrive – uploading
Photos and Albums in the New SkyDrive – organizing
Photos and Albums in the new SkyDrive – sharing and downloading



© 2011 Ludwig Keck


About Ludwig

Lending a helping hand where I can. . . My motto: If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
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