Cloud storage is great for documents and pictures you want to use from different computers and tablets, but having to wait to download the files you want to work on gets annoying, so the cloud services now have software to sync your files back and forth. Whether you’re using SkyDrive, Google Drive or Dropbox, here are our top tips for getting the most from cloud sync by making those apps do more of what you want, plus some extra services.
Pick the folders you sync. SkyDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox all create their own folder and the files in that sync to and from the cloud. Files in your usual hierarchy of folders don’t sync at all. There are a few ways to deal with this.
Move all your folders into the new cloud service folder. If you want everything to sync to the cloud and you have enough cloud storage space and enough disk space on all the machines you link to that cloud service, this is a simple way of doing it. Most cloud sync tools put their folder location into the Favorites pane in Explorer, so it’s easy to get to.
Add the folders inside the sync folder to Libraries. Introduced in Windows Vista, Libraries are a handy way of grouping together folders in different places without moving them. If you have an images folder buried where your blogging tool expects it, and another in the hierarchy that suits the tool you use for your Web site and another one where your scanner saves files, you can add them all to the Picture library so it’s easy to find. Add the SkyDrive camera roll to your Pictures library and you see your images in the same place, without moving them. Set the default save location for the library to put new pictures in a cloud folder.
Add folders inside your cloud sync folders to a Library to see them with your usual files.
Change the location of special folders so they’re inside sync folders. If youdon’t want everything in the cloud, how about just the important folder hierarchies like My Documents, My Pictures or handy folders like Downloads or even the Desktop (where lots of people still save files they’re working on)? Redirect those folders into the cloud sync folder for your service. Right-click on the folder you want from the list under your user folder in Explorer; choose Properties and then the Location tab. Click the Move button and pick the cloud sync folder.
Redirect your desktop to Google Drive and you’ll have the same icons on each PC that syncs and your desktop files in the cloud.
Map your SkyDrive rather than syncing. If you’re always online, and you don’t want to fill up your PC with the files you have in the cloud, you can still get quick access to them - in Explorer where you get drag and drop and previews and familiar copy commands, rather than a Web browser with its own interface. Open Explorer to My Computer and right-click on a blank area of the window so you can choose Add a network location, then click through to Choose a custom network location. When you see the dialog for entering the network address, open SkyDrive in your browser and pick any item in your SkyDrive files. Choose Share, then Get a link then View only. Copy the URL and paste it into a text file because you have to edit it.
The URL will look something like https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resid=2281167ADE5E897CE!56792&authkey=145subab291. Copy just the numbers and letters between the first = sign and the exclamation point (here that’s 2281167ADE5E897CE) and paste that into the network location dialog. Type https://d.docs.live.net/ in front of it: that looks like https://d.docs.live.net/2281167ADE5E897CE - but don’t use that link because it won’t work for you!).
Extract the identifier that lets you map your SkyDrive as a network location and you can open it in Explorer.
Click through the rest of the wizard and give the location a name. Just remember, you have to be connected to open your SkyDrive and this doesn’t sync the files to your PC.