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Sharing Office Files via SkyDrive

The SkyDrive team recently announced enhancements that make it easier than ever to collaborate with colleagues using the Office Web Apps. This article discusses the improvements that were made to allow you to quickly share files via email, Facebook, and LinkedIn as well as the ability to embed a file in a web page or blog.
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Before the latest updates to SkyDrive, you had to plan ahead and organize your files into Shared folders and Private folders. Now you can share individual files within folders, so you can arrange them logically just as you do the files on your local system. Further, SkyDrive was initially designed to make it easy to collaborate with other Windows Live users, which as it turns out, is not the most common scenario. Sharing and collaborating via Facebook or LinkedIn or other email systems is.

So, the developers went back to the drawing board and redesigned the process to make it easier to share with people across email services and networks. Now, from a single menu, you can share with anyone in your address book, including contacts imported in from Facebook, LinkedIn, and Gmail. Since your SkyDrive invitations are coming from a “legit” email address, they don’t get stuck in a Spam folder. Also, a simple checkbox lets you designate the document as “editable” even if you don’t know your collaborators’ Windows Live ID information.

Sharing Via Web Apps

Most of us really appreciate being able to work within a small group of applications to get our work done. Working in the web apps is no different. Now, you can share a file directly from within the Office Web Apps rather than closing the file, switching to another application, browsing for the file and going through the motions to share it.

For example, to share a document from the Word Web App, click Share on the toolbar (or on the File menu) to open the dialog box (see Figure 1). Type the email address(es) in the To: box. If you like, type a short note for the recipients.

Figure 1 You can share your files directly from the Office Web Apps.

Leave the Recipient Can Edit check box enabled if you want the recipients to be able to edit the file; otherwise, disable the option by removing the check mark. The second check box requires the recipient to sign into their Microsoft account to access the file, which adds an additional level of security. When you are finished, click Send. Invitations will be sent to all of the recipients with a link to the file that you are sharing.

Sharing Through Social Networks

SkyDrive now allows you to connect to several different social networks, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, so you can upload photos and files and share them with your friends. To post your Office files to a social network, click Share on the Web App toolbar (or select it from the File menu), or right-click a file in the SkyDrive list and click Share. Click Post To to switch to that tab (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 You can share files via your social networks in the Post To tab.

Click one of the icons to select one of the built-in services (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), or add a service by clicking Add Services, then Find More Services and follow the instructions to add a new service.

If you like, type a short message. Enable the Recipients Can Edit check box if you want your social network contacts to be able to edit the file you are sharing. When you are finished, click Post. A link to the file or folder will appear on the site, along with a message if you opted to include one.

Sharing With a Link

For some people, the most straightforward way to provide access to a file is simply to get a link that they can post in a message. There are three different links to choose from: View Only, View and Edit, and Public, depending on how much access you want to grant to the file.

If you opt for a View Only link, the recipient will be able to view your files or folders, but they will not be able to edit them. Just be aware than anyone who has the link can view your files/folders, so if a recipient inadvertently shares the link with others, they too will be able to view your files/folders.

The View and Edit link does just what you might think – it allows recipients to both view and edit your files. Even more caution should be used with this type of link, even to the point where you might ask the people that you are sharing with to refrain from forwarding your message to anyone else.

If you select a Public link, you are designating your files or folders as public, so anyone with access to the Internet can view them, even if you don’t share the link. However, they will not be able to edit them. The difference between a View Only and a Public link is that anyone can search for and locate your publicly shared files. Most people use this method to share their files (such as photos) with friends and family. Note that once you designate your files/folders as Public, anyone will be able to locate them.

To create a link, click Share on the Web App toolbar (or select it from the File menu), or right-click a file in the SkyDrive list and click Share. Click Get a Link to switch to that tab (see Figure 3).

Figure 3 You can choose from three different levels of security when you generate a link to a file or folder.

Sharing Via Embedded HTML

If you maintain your own blog, or web site, there is a way to embed a file directly into a web page via embedded HTML code. One advantage to using this method is that the recipients will be able to view the information without first signing into their Microsoft account.

To embed a file in a web page, right-click the file in the SkyDrive list, then select Embed, then click Generate. SkyDrive will create HTML code that you can copy and paste into a web page (see Figure 4).

Figure 4 You can paste the generated HTML code in a web page to share the contents of a file.

Sharing from SkyDrive is Easier Than Ever

Until you say different, everything you post on SkyDrive is private. The only way anyone can gain access to your information is if you share the file/folder with them. Naturally, there are many ways you can opt to share your file, depending on how much access you want to grant. You might just want the recipient to be able to view the file, or you might want to allow them to edit the file.

You may only want to share the file with colleagues via Facebook or LinkedIn, or you may just send it to specific individuals through email. Or, you may simply want to drop a file into a blog entry via HTML code. Regardless of how you choose to share your files, you can do it quickly and smoothly from SkyDrive.

Laura Acklen has authored and co-authored more than 20 Que titles on Windows, and both the Microsoft Office and WordPerfect Office productivity suites. She has ridden the technology wave from the early days of enormous desktop computers and Windows 3.1 to the newest handheld devices and the soon-to-be released Windows 8. You can reach Laura by emailing austintechwriter@gmail.com.

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