OneDrive Tip: Use Documents and Other Libraries with OneDrive

Posted on February 28, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in OneDrive with 0 Comments

Given the liberal storage allotments and deep OS integration with OneDrive, Windows users should consider using this cloud service for all of their documents, photos, music and videos. But in doing so, you will want to configure Windows to use your OneDrive-based storage by default, and not disconnected local folders, for this data. Here’s how.

Today, Microsoft provides 15 GB of free OneDrive storage to anyone with a Microsoft account (free). But you can also purchase additional storage—100 GB is just $2 per month, for example—or get additional OneDrive storage in other ways. (See OneDrive Tip: Get Extra Storage for details.) What’s wonderful about this storage is that it’s ubiquitous: you can access anything you store in OneDrive from any modern mobile device (Android, FireOS, iOS, Windows 8+, Windows Phone) or in even more sophisticated ways on a PC or Mac.

On Windows—which is my primary concern—the capabilities are particularly sophisticated, though they’re also changing a bit as we move to Windows 10 later this year. In short, Microsoft lets you sync all or parts of your OneDrive storage with your PC, and you can choose at a folder level (or in Windows 8.1 only, at a file level), exactly which content syncs.

What this means is that you can use OneDrive as your centralized storage solution for all forms of data, and then access that content seamlessly from your PC, even when you’re offline. So you might create and edit a Word document on your PC, and then you can read or edit that document on your phone or tablet while commuting to work, on the web from your work PC, or in any other situation you might imagine.

This capability is automatic, but you can make your workflow a bit more efficient by mapping the Documents, Music, Pictures and/or Videos libraries on your PC to the corresponding folders in OneDrive. When you do, the applications you use will automatically look for relevant content in those locations, and will automatically save new content to those locations.

You can dive right in and do this for all of the available content types noted above, or just do so on a case by case basis. That is, you may simply choose to sync your documents through OneDrive—using a Documents folder in OneDrive and the Documents library on your Windows-based PC—and skip music, photos and videos. Obviously, what you choose to use and sync is up to you.

What I have done is made sure there is a top-level folder for each content type in OneDrive—Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos, respectively—that matches the corresponding library in Windows. And when one didn’t exist, I created it. You can do this on the web or in File Explorer in Windows, but given the differences in the OneDrive sync client across Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10, the web is the best way.

Then, unless you’re using Windows 8.1—which lets you “see” all of your OneDrive content, and not just the bits you are syncing—you will need to access OneDrive Settings using the OneDrive icon in the system tray and ensure that you are syncing the relevant OneDrive folders with your PC.

With that done, you can map each library to the appropriate OneDrive folder. Depending on which version of Windows you’re using, you may not actually see a Libraries entry in the File Explorer navigation pane. If this is the case, you can always find the Libraries interface by tapping the little drop-down next to the left-most icon in the File Explorer address bar and choosing Libraries from the menu that appears.


When you do so, Libraries appears.


From here, you can configure each library in turn. As an example, let’s look at the Documents library. By default, the Documents library points to two physical locations on your PC’s hard drive: your personal Documents folder (C:\Users\your user name\Documents) and some other folder (Public Documents, perhaps, or perhaps even the Document folder in your OneDrive depending on what you’ve previously installed). To change this, right-click Documents and choose Properties from the pop-up menu.


What you change here will depend on your needs. At the very least, I recommend adding the OneDrive-based Documents folder to the list of library locations (via the Add button) if it’s not there already and then setting the default Save and Public Save locations to that folder (in OneDrive, and not in your user profile). You may also want to remove your personal Documents folder (and/or the Public Documents folder, if it’s there) from the list.


Now, when you open or save from most document-based apps—like Notepad—this is the location that will come up by default in the File Open/Save/Save As dialog. (The one weird exception might be Microsoft Office, depending on which version you’re using. I’ll look at that one separately soon.)


Here’s how the Documents library looks in File Explorer now.


And you can and should do this for the Music, Pictures and Videos libraries as you wish. I do so, though on my desktop PC I leave a local location (D:\Videos) as a location for the Videos library too.

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