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Microsoft OneDrive tips and tricks to make the cloud work for you

In the ever-evolving workplace, the expectations of having instant access to reports, projects and files cease to plateau. The concept of only being able to view your documents that live on your office computer from the computer itself is all but gone. Our information is as portable as we are.

Remote access to your work means that you can be productive and collaborative from anywhere. Your local storage remains uncluttered, enabling you to not have to worry about files you may access less frequently. Depending on your daily driver you may not want to invest in another storage card option, or perhaps you're simply unable to expand.

There are quite a few popular and powerful cloud storage service providers in the world, including Dropbox, Google Drive and Box. Microsoft's OneDrive, formerly SkyDrive (formerly Live Folders, Essentials and other iterations), is a well received and widely accepted cloud-sync option that's not to be overlooked. Natural and complete integration with Office is by far one of it's most powerful advantages over other solutions. If you're considering trusting OneDrive to help you manage your projects on the go, or you already use it, take a look at these tips and tricks. They just may help you "become one" with OneDrive.

Manage sharing

Sharing through OneDrive

Anything you store in OneDrive is private until you decide to share it. One of the easiest and most creative ways to do so is using OneDrive.com. After signing in with your Microsoft account, you get access to all of your items. You simply have to choose the items and select the share icon. You have the option to choose a link to post or send an email invitation to specific individuals or distribution groups. Either method gives you the ability to choose a "view only" option (where your work can be viewed, copied or downloaded) or an "edit option" (allowing people to edit, forward, rename or delete your work or even add their own). It's a rather convenient way to share files without the need to simply email attachments, and you can rescind permissions at any time.

How to share an item using OneDrive.com

  1. Locate the file or folder in question.
  2. Right click on the folder and select Share or hover over the folder icon to make the checkmark circle appear.
  3. Select Share from the tool tray.
  4. In the pop-up window, select whether or not you want to allow the recipient to make edits to your work.
  5. Select Get a link to generate a shortened URL that can be copied.
  6. Select Email to send directly to the recipient by adding the email address and an optional message.

IFTTT and Microsoft Flow for effortless automation

IFTTT OneDrive options

Who doesn't want to get the most amount of work done while making the least amount of effort?

That may sound lazy, but it's more about simplifying the small tasks so that you can maximize your time and effectiveness for the more challenging items. One of the more popular web-based services that allows for online automation is IFTTT (an acronym for If This Then That). The service sports "applets" that allow various services to connect and perform functions nearly effortlessly. Users have been known to use IFTTT to upload images to social media automatically after taking them, or request their smart home setup to turn on the lights when the sun sets. With IFTTT, you can choose to automatically save images and screenshots, back up mail attachments or upload images posted to social media to your OneDrive.

Alternatively, you can use Microsoft Flow to save attachments from Outlook, copy files from other cloud-storage services, send files to an email address or connect to other services such as Wunderlist and Facebook. While these services manage behavior around managing your files, you can then focus on putting the files to work for you.

Using IFTTT with OneDrive

  1. Log into your IFTTT account.
  2. Search for OneDrive.
  3. Click the option to Connect.
  4. Provide your OneDrive credentials .
  5. Review and accept IFTTT access requirements.
  6. Browse through the available list of applets. (For example, you could choose to save email attachments to OneDrive.)
  7. Select an applet and tap to turn on.
  8. Provide the credentials to your email account.

Flow OneDrive options

Alternatively, you could also use Microsoft Flow to save attachments from Outlook, copy files from other cloud-storage services, send files to an email address or connect to other services.

Using Microsoft Flow with OneDrive

  1. Access Flow and enter your account credentials.
  2. In the search bar, type in OneDrive or click on the OneDrive icon.
  3. Browse through the list of Flow templates to find one. (For example, you could choose a template for saving attachments from Outlook.com.)
  4. Select the template and provide any required login information for both your email account and for OneDrive.
  5. A popup will appear with permission-to-access requests. Read it and click Yes to accept.
  6. To activate the template, click on Create Flow.

With both Flow and IFTTT, the process is automated with little or no management required.

Offline access

OneDrive sync with PC

While being able to connect wirelessly to your items is convenient, you're not always in an area where you can do so. How can you still access your presentation without a cellular connection? With OneDrive for Windows 10, you can easily sync all or specific files or folders between your PC and your cloud storage folders. The settings menu of OneDrive makes it easy to check which folders you want to access offline. It's a feature that could save you when you're about to jump into a meeting with a client.

Using offline access on OneDrive for Windows 10 or Windows 7

All files in a local OneDrive folder are essentially always available offline. Users can choose which folders they want to sync between the cloud and the local version of OneDrive.

  1. In the system tray, right-click on the OneDrive Icon and select settings.
  2. To select the folders you want to sync, click Choose Folders.
  3. In the next screen, you can either maintain the Sync all files and folders in my OneDrive option or select or deselect folders in a list.
  4. Click OK to finish.

Locating file versions

Check file version history

As you update documents and save them, the newest version is the only version you have access to. While you should always be up to date with your files, an important piece of information may have been in an earlier version, and it could get lost. What's worse is that a collaborative effort could end in disaster if a colleague overwrites a finished version with an unfinished draft. Thankfully, OneDrive protects every version of a file, allowing users to view and manage each one. This requires you to open up the web interface and then right-click the document to open up options, including the ability to edit or restore older versions.

Using OneDrive file versions

  1. From any OneDrive folder, right-click on the file in question and select Version History
  2. The file will open in another window. On the left side, you will see time and date details on the current version as well as details on older versions.
  3. Click on an older version to view it.
  4. To make it the most recent version, click on Restore.
  5. To save a copy of this version, click on Download.

Avoid Outlook clutter

Saving attachments from Outlook to OneDrive

A bad habit many people have is keeping messages in their inbox simply to hang on to attachments. It's a practice that's more inefficient than they realize. They now hav4 to search Outlook by keywords or by Sender to find the files they want. Think of the time wasted as they try to answer a time-critical question. Why not take advantage of being able to save attachments from Outlook directly to OneDrive? To make it easy for those clinging onto their inboxes, the files are safely tucked away in an email-attachments folder within OneDrive.

Saving attachments from Outlook to OneDrive

  1. Open an email message with an attachment.
  2. Right-click on the attachment or click the drop-down icon to the right of the attachment.
  3. Select Save to OneDrive.
  4. The file will be saved in an email attachments folder in OneDrive.

If you haven't tried out OneDrive before, I suggest you do so and try out some of the tips mentioned above. If you're an avid OneDrive user, why not share your own tips in the comments below?

And check out our Office 101 help hub for more related articles:

  • Microsoft Office 101: Help, how-tos and tutorials
16 Comments
  • I just wish it would show my photos in the app or photos app...... It used to ☹
  • i see photos from onedrive in the photos app on my phone...
  • same here. For more than a week Microsoft are trying to figure out what is the problem but no use until now.    
  • Microsoft stopped supporting One Drive on XBox 360. I am paying for the 100GB of storage but now can't use my XBox to see the uploaded photos. I am hoping someone from MS will read this and allow the 360 to access One Drive again....
  • They probably won't, as they are now pushing the XB1.
  • I wish it would geotag photos like lumia storyteller did. Then you can find all of your pictures based on where they were taken on a map!
  • not sure why you'd want OneDrive to do that ?
  • It's still not good for business unfortunately as after all this time they still haven't fixed the issue where it won sync files with certain characters in the file name. I use Dropbox and it just works, for all file types and syncing is much faster. Would love to switch over but it's just not an option at this stage until they make these improvments.
  • I don't think I would ever discover Microsoft Flow without this article. Thanks Ryan! 😊 And yeah, Microsoft's marketing sucks...
  • My tip. First check how much free storage you can get from onedrive. Then check the most relevant files you would like to keep and share on onedrive. If the sizes dont' match then check if you can financially afford to buy storage. If you can't or won't afford extra storage, then consider not to use onedrive. If you do want to use the remaing free storage, then use it as a buffer to upload and store your holday pictures from your holiday destination over wifi. Be careful though to check that your uploaded photos are not compressed by onedrive, that would be unfortunate when you get back home. My expereince in general is that I usually take about 3-4 Gb of photos and short movies per week. When storage is low on your sd card, you can free up more space by freeing up a batch of the first week and temporarily store in in onedrive till you get home. I've done it a few times, especially when you're off the grid in some areas in the world, a last stop a tourist office or hotel with wifi to do the upload is a great way to solve a storage issue on the road.  
  • I'll add thanks for the tip about Flow; I have already started using it!
  • I just wish Flow could copy my pictures (from like a OneDrive\Pictures\Photos\ directory) to Google Photo Backup.   I know there is a Google Photo Backup the program (have it installed currently) but a Flow would also enable Mobile devices and those that cannot run the application, to upload it to the "free" (if you adjust to their allowed resolution) space on Google Photos. Not to mention, it would reduce the resources used on your local system because it would be done online.
  • MUSIC LOCKER - Probably one of the bigger reasons I'm still with OneDrive. It's nice to have a lot of my J-Rock music on there since most music streaming services don't seem to have any of it. Now I can stream from anywhere on pretty much any device. Photo Backup - Because of MS's cross platform, backing up photos on any device is a breeze. Then I log on to my Mac Mini and have Lightroom do it's thing moving it from the unified camera roll into the subfolders, which are all synced up to OneDrive for back up. So now I have a local backup on my desktop, cloud on OneDrive, then I do some monthly archives. Only thing I want now is versioning support for all file types due to ransome ware scares. Versioning only works on Office documents/files.
  • test
  • Lol one with a public cloud? Here's my tip, screw the public cloud, get your very own cloud on your NAS.
  • Hey! Look! 
    There no Windows 10 App for Flow, just Android & iOS... again https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/