Since we launched the Outlook.com preview two weeks ago, we have been truly humbled by the reception. We’ve received hundreds of great comments, participated in thousands of threads on @reddit, @gizmodo, @neowin and are excited to share that, as of today, more than 10 million people have signed up and started using Outlook.com.
Today, we’re updating SkyDrive with a new, more modern web design, refined SkyDrive apps for PCs and Macs, a new SkyDrive app for Android devices, and improved developer offerings. While there’s always more to do to improve our products, these updates bring SkyDrive out of preview and ready for a billion users – in time for the upcoming releases of Windows 8, the new Outlook.com, and the new Office. The rest of this post is authored by Omar Shahine and Mike Torres, group program managers for SkyDrive.
- Chris Jones
Over the past months, we’ve shared our approach to building versatile personal cloud storage that can scale to a billion people. Today, we’re excited to announce the next step towards that vision, and how this brings the SkyDrive desktop apps out of preview:
- SkyDrive.com – New, modern design for desktop and tablet browsers with instant search, contextual toolbar, thumbnail multi-select, drag-and-drop organization, and HTML5 sorting
- SkyDrive for Windows desktop & OS X - Faster uploads for people around the world and tons of bug and performance improvements under the hood
- SkyDrive for Android - A new app that lets you access, upload and share from Android phones
- SkyDrive for developers – Apps built using our SkyDrive API can now store or access any type of file in a person’s SkyDrive, plus there’s a new, easy-to-use file picker API for websites (similar to our file picker for Windows 8 apps)
With these updates and continued improvements to our back-end infrastructure, we’re excited to leave preview and unlock new possibilities for a billion customers with the upcoming releases of Windows 8, the new Office, and tons of devices and apps that connect to SkyDrive.
SkyDrive: unlocking possibilities
Why is versatility in cloud storage so important? We believe that your files are not just bits to be synced—and they’re certainly not to be scanned to serve advertising. Your files represent possibilities. The unfinished term paper that stands between you and graduation. The family vacation pictures that may find their way into a photo book for your grandparents. The brilliant (or not so brilliant) business plan ideas that you jotted down at the coffee shop.
For each person, the possibilities are different. And so is how you capture, organize, access and share across devices and apps. If you’re a student, you might organize homework and notes from each class into subfolders. If you’re a real estate agent, you might keep photo slide shows and documents for each listing together. Or maybe you’d rather just see your recent Office docs or camera roll without worrying about files and folders.
And when it comes to the devices you choose for work (or play), you might be a journalist who’s inspired to write (at home or work) using Word on your Windows PC or Mac. But when you’re out on assignment, you may only have your phone to take notes on, and an Internet café to finish your write-up and share it.
We think personal cloud storage should create new possibilities, not limit them. So no matter who you are, or what you do, we’ve designed the new SkyDrive for you.
New, modern design for SkyDrive.com
As you’ve seen with the preview of Outlook.com, we’re bringing a fresh approach to how we design our web experiences. With the update to SkyDrive.com that’s rolling out over the next 24 hours, we’ve taken the same DNA from the SkyDrive Windows 8 app and brought that to the web. We’ve updated nearly 100% of the SkyDrive UI to provide a fast and fluid web experience on all browsers and devices.
It all starts with the SkyDrive home page, where we now default to a tile-based layout of your folders and files.
However, some of you prefer the details view, and that’s just a click away (details view is also the default view for Recent docs and Shared).
In addition to the new design, we’re introducing a bunch of new features.
You can now quickly search for a file anywhere in your SkyDrive, including the content of Office documents such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
For example, here is a search I did in my SkyDrive for documents and photos of “Olympics.”
Contextual toolbar to make common actions and commands easier
With this update to SkyDrive, we simplified how you interact with your stuff, by moving many of the common commands into the toolbar at the top of the page. For example, creating folders and docs, sharing, and common file operations are more easily available.
Multi-select and drag-and-drop
Now you can select multiple files in thumbnail view, rearrange your photos the way you want, and drag and drop files and folders.
We’ve gotten a lot of feedback on sorting over the past year, and we’re happy to provide quite a few new sorting options.
As many of you know, Windows Phone users can have all the photos they take on their phones automatically sent to the SkyDrive camera roll folder. I have 1411 photos in this folder, and it used to be a pain to get to the most recent photo. We now default to sorting by newest to oldest, which should make viewing your camera roll much better.
Similarly we introduced a feature that allows you to customize and save the sort order for any folder
And we’ve built rearrange directly into the viewing experience so that you don’t have to navigate away from your photos to arrange them the way that you want.
Update to SkyDrive for Windows desktop & OS X
With this update, which will gradually roll out over the course of the week, we’ve made SkyDrive faster and more efficient for a couple of key scenarios, based on your feedback. We focused on photo uploads and looking for changes in your local SkyDrive folder. As with any performance discussion, “your mileage may vary,” as actual performance depends on a variety of factors including hardware, connection upload/download speed, network congestion, content type, distance to the service data center, and other factors.
You love syncing your photos to SkyDrive. After any great event, you end up with a bunch of new photos you want to share with your friends and family. So, we streamlined the photo upload path resulting in a faster bulk photo upload experience. Using an example from my home PC, I tried out a before and after with the 388 photos I had on my camera. I dragged these photos into my SkyDrive folder, let them sync, and measured the completion time before and after the change. In this case, the photos uploaded 1.7 times faster with the update.
Looking for changes
When you add files or make changes in your local SkyDrive, you want them picked up quickly for upload without impacting other apps on your device. If you have a lot of files or older hardware, this can take time. So, we focused on minimizing CPU time while looking for changes, which has significantly reduced the total work that we do on every scan—meaning a much faster sync experience and more time for your CPU to tackle its other tasks. For this one, I synced about 40,000 files and restarted SkyDrive to kick off a full scan. As it started up, I measured the total CPU time of the scanner before and after the change. In this case, we were able to reduce the total CPU time by 165 seconds.
For a visual example of the performance improvement, take a look at the following charts. And remember that actual performance does depend on a number of factors and everyone’s setup is different.
A side note on “choosing what to sync”
We’ve heard feedback that some people would like to specify which folders in their SkyDrive sync to their PC. This can be due to space constraints on their laptop or tablet, or because they don’t want personal files syncing to their work PC. We’re working on a solution to this problem but can’t give specifics yet—stay tuned!
SkyDrive for more mobile devices
Back in December 2011 we released the original versions of our SkyDrive apps for Windows Phone and iPhone. Since December, almost 4 million people have used our mobile apps to access their SkyDrive from their mobile phone—and we’ve released a number of feature updates as well as fixes and improvements over that time.
Today, as part of making sure SkyDrive is available to all Windows customers, we’re excited to announce that an official SkyDrive app for Android phones will be available in just a few weeks. The Android app is similar to our mobile apps for Windows Phone and iOS and allows you to browse your SkyDrive, upload files to SkyDrive, as well as share SkyDrive files with “Send a link.” You’ll also be able to open SkyDrive files from other apps, as well as upload, save, and share to SkyDrive from other apps.
Watch our Twitter feed (@SkyDrive) for a notification when the app becomes available in a few weeks!
SkyDrive for developers
It’s been almost a year since we first announced the revamped developer platform for working with SkyDrive which made it easier to integrate SkyDrive into mobile and web apps. Since then we’ve gotten consistent feedback on two key places where we could improve our developer story.
- No more file restrictions and full control over photo upload resolution
There are no longer any restrictions on the types of files that your application uploads to SkyDrive. Additionally, you can now upload images in their full resolution.
- Open and Save pickers
With these changes we’ve addressed a few of the top items of feedback from our developer community and can’t wait to see the interesting innovations that our customers will get to enjoy, now that this functionality is available. We’ll cover these changes in more detail in a follow-up blog post.
As always, we hope you enjoy all the updates and improvements to SkyDrive across the web, desktop, mobile, and developer support. And keep the feedback coming!
– Omar Shahine, Group Program Manager, SkyDrive.com
Mike Torres, Group Program Manager, SkyDrive apps