Tuesday, February 21, 2012

SD Explorer: integrate “Windows Live Skydrive’s” 25 gigs of cloud storage with your desktop

Windows Live SkyDrive is a service that gives you online storage for uploading files and sharing them with other people. It was renamed from Windows Live Folders in August 2007 launched in February 2008, and in December 2008 it got a bump in its storage cap, from 5GB to 25GB. It has been getting minor updates ever since, but wild rumors claim the per-file upload limit will soon be upped to 100MB (it’s currently at 50MB).
SD Explorer is a is a non-Microsoft tool that will integrate SkyDrive’s 50 gig of cloud storage with your desktop. It creates a virtual folder in “My Computer” that logs into the Skydrive services in the back end, but otherwise will let you perform file operations (copying, moving, deleting) from within Windows explorer, just as you would with any folder.
[Editor’s note: this posting was written Freewaregenius contributor Bear Bottoms. Check out his freeware site here].
Notes on Windows Live Skydrive: to use Windows Live Skydrive, you must create a Windows Live ID. If you use Hotmail, Messenger, or Xbox LIVE, you already have a Windows Live ID so use the username and password for that to sign in.
The web interface “add files” section only allows you to add one file at a time in individual fields which is rather clunky, however, there is a ActiveX control which will allow you to drag and drop files into the 25gb Skydrive storage, but it only works with Internet Explorer; you cannot use it with Chrome or FireFox or the like (though it will work in the FireFox/Chrome IE tabs). To install the ActiveX control in the skydrive web interface, click “add files” and near the bottom of the page, click Install the upload tool. This ActiveX control will add a “drag and drop files here” box in the add files section of SkyDrive. You can then open a file manager and drag and drop multiple files from that into the drag and drop box in the SkyDrive add files section. Then Click Upload.
To install the ActiveX control, your operating system must have Microsoft Windows 2000/ XP Service Pack 2/Vista/2003/ 2000 Service Pack 3/Windows 7, and your browser must be Microsoft Internet Explorer 6, or later. You can then upload multiple files at once.
You cannot copy folders to SkyDrive through the web interface, only files. You also can only have 9 nested subfolders in any folder.
SD Explorer (aka SkyDrive Explorer): SD Explore in beta will give you access to SkyDrive in Windows Explorer, in the form of a virtual folder that will nonetheless behave pretty much as any normal folder. It will sign in to SkyDrive on its own without the need for the web interface. It is much faster uploading folders and files than the web interface, and deleting folders and files is almost instantaneous.
While MS SkyDrive has a 9 subfolder structure limit, SD Explorer will enable you to upload complete folder structures with files.
There is a BASE and PRO paid versions (comparison here). I used the free BASE program. Once installed, when you click on My Computer or Windows Explorer, you see an additional icon for SkyDrive Explorer. (See image below).
SDExplorer Screenshot1
When you first run SD Explorer (aka SkyDrive Explorer), you will see the splash screen in the image below (notice you are signing into SkyDrive Explorer and not the web interface):
SDExplorer Screenshot2
Sign in and you will see SD Explorer’s interface (aka SkyDrive Explorer) containing the same folders in your SkyDrive account which you can drag and drop files or folders containing files from another file manager – (see image below).
SDExplorer Screenshot3
More notes on SDExplorer as follows:
  • Main functions: view the structure and contents of folders in SkyDrive, create, copy delete and rename files and folders.
  • Folder structures: can copy folders and subfolders from the storage to the computer keeping their structure.
  • Drag and drop: supported for file and folder operations.
  • Create links: to SkyDrive folders on your computer, and copy the URL of the selected object(s) to the Clipboard
  • Fast: SkyDrive Explorer allows applying some operations for group of objects that is not possible
    in web browser. This increases performance of work with SkyDrive. Examples of multi-operations
    are: renaming objects, deleting group of objects, and copying folders with subfolders and files from SkyDrive
  • Easy: You don’t need to know how to work with the SkyDrive service in web browser. To work
    efficiently with your data in SkyDrive Explorer you just use base operations with files and folders
    in Windows Explorer.
  • Secure: SkyDrive Explorer uses the standard Microsoft library for work with Windows Live Id
    services. Your personal information does not leave this library and even is not passed to
    SkyDrive Explorer engine. Also, the traffic with online storage goes through HTTPS protocol that
    protects data from snoopers.
The verdict: I use Google Docs for my home document creation and management. It allows 1 gb of free storage. It works very well for my document/spreadsheet needs.
I also use Dropbox which allows synchronized folders on all of your computers with 2 gb of free storage. I use this for my portable programs like Essential PIM and run the program(s) via shortcuts to the executable in the dropbox folder. This way, any changes are immediately sync’d to dropbox and accessible from any PC. This eliminates the need to use a USB drive and sync these type programs on all of my computers.
SkyDrive however allows 25 gb of free storage but the upload/download interface is rather slow and clunky. SD Explorer creates a virtual folder on your PC that allows you to interface with your SkyDrive folders the same way you interface with any other folder on your PC, though you do have to log into your SkyDrive account initially, but this can be done when opening the virtual folder and you do not have to use the web interface in a browser. Speeds are only limited by your ISP download/upload allowances. Now you have easy access to 25 gb of free storage. More than enough storage to house all of your pictures and music safely.
The only negative I’ve found is that the 50 mb file size limit precludes this as being a good place to store most video files, which is rather unfortunate.
Version Tested:
Compatibility: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Server 2003, 2008, Windows 7. 32bit and 64bit OS’s supported. You will need a SkyDrive account as well.