How to share any kind of file through OneDrive

Part 4: OneDrive integrates with Windows, iOS, and Android -- and works via the web -- to let you share and discover shared files of all types

How to share any kind of file through OneDrive

Now that you have OneDrive installed on your computers and mobile devices, all the files stored in OneDrive from those devices can be shared with others -- not only Office files.

There are two basic methods to share non-Office OneDrive-stored files: from your computer or mobile device, or from OneDrive Online in a browser.

Sharing files via OneDrive Online

You'll need to use OneDrive Online to manage your access settings, such as making specific folders available to others. Let's start there.

Sign into your Office 365 account from a browser, as explained in Part 1, and go to OneDrive from there. In OneDrive Online, click File in the sidebar to see your files and folders. On a PC, right-click a file in the browser and choose Share in the contextual menu that appears. On a mobile device, long-press the filename in the browser to select the file, then tap the share button in the toolbar.

Office 365 OneDrive Online share

Figure 13. The Share window in OneDrive Online for a selected folder or file.

The Invite People option sends an email with a link to the file or folder -- yes, you can share folders this way -- for access in Office Online or OneDrive Online; you can specify editing privileges if desired, as well as include a note in the email your colleagues will receive, if you chose to send an email invite for the file.

The Get a Link option provides a link to the file or folder that you can share through any digital means you like, such as in a text message or embedded in a document. But you can't specify editing permissions through such a link. You have to do that for the folder in which the file resides.

To specify the underlying access for a folder, select it for sharing as previously described and choose Shared With, then click or tap Advanced at the bottom of the window that appears. Check the recipient or group for that folder whose permissions you want to modify, then click or tap the Edit User Permissions button to assign the desired permissions.

You can also click or tap Remove User Permissions here to remove access to the folder and its contents. Another way to modify permissions for both files and folders is in the Share With window. You'll see all people and groups that have been granted access to the file or folder. Click or tap the person or group to change its permissions, as shown in Figure 14. The options depend on what permissions the person or group already has but will be at least one of the following: Change to View Only, Allow Edit, and Stop Sharing.

Office 365 OneDrive Online modify share permissions

Figure 14. Modifying access permissions for a specific folder or file in OneDrive Online.

Sharing files from your computer or mobile device

You can share files directly from OneDrive on your PC, iOS device, or Android device -- but not from your Mac, since Microsoft has yet to create a sharing extension for MacOS.

The basic technique is to select a file, then use a menu to share it as an emailed link -- one of the methods available from Office 2016 apps. Or you can copy its link and paste it into a message or other digital medium. In other words, you have the same methods available as from Office 2016, but for any file type.

But how to select and initiate that sharing varies by operating system.

As Figure 15 shows, in Windows' File Explorer, you right-click a file stored in one of your OneDrive accounts and choose Share With > Specific People in the contextual menu that appears, then enter the email addresses of those people one at a time, clicking Add after each. Everyone is also an option. Be sure to set permissions for each person: Read or Read/Write. Select Remove to take them off the sharing list. Click Share when done. Recipients will get an email with a link to the file for access in Office Online or OneDrive Online.

If you send people an Office file, it will open in Office Online, where they can edit it in the browser or via an Office 2016 app. If it's not an Office file, they'll get the document in OneDrive Online, where they can view it or download it for use on their computer or mobile device.

You can also choose Share a OneDrive Link from the contextual menu, if available. Doing so copies a link you would then paste into a message or other digital medium.

Office 365: OneDrive file sharing: Windows File Explorer

Figure 15. Sharing a selected file from Windows's File Explorer.

As Figure 16 shows, in Windows 10's OneDrive app, navigate to the desired files and click the Select button (checklist icon) -- it can appear at the top or the bottom of the window -- to display the selection boxes. Select the file you want to share, then click the Share button (the circle icon with three nodes). If you select only one file, you get three options:

  • Invite People, which sends a link to the recipients for access in Office Online or OneDrive Online. If you want the recipients to be able to edit the file, be sure to check the Allow Editing box in the form that appears where you enter the recipients' email addresses or Active Directory names.
  • Send Files, which composes an email and attaches the files as independent copies for you to send from your default email client.
  • View People Shared With, which does what it says.
Office 365 OneDrive file share: Windows 10 app
Figure 16. Sharing a selected file from Windows's OneDrive app.

To share files in iOS's OneDrive app, tap and hold any file for a second or two. The selection bubbles then appear. Select the desired file. Then, as Figure 17 shows, tap the Share button and choose one of the buttons that appears at the bottom of the Share sheet: Invite People, Copy Link, Email in Outlook (this appears only if you have the Outlook app installed), and Send File.

Office 365 OneDrive file share: iOS

Figure 17. Sharing a selected file from iOS's OneDrive app. If you choose Invite People from the Share sheet (at bottom left), the sheet outlined in red appears so that you can specify the recipients and editing permission.

If you choose Invite People, a new sheet appears where you enter the email address or Active Directory names of the recipients and can set the Allow Editing switch to On if you want them to be able to edit the files.

The Android OneDrive app works essentially the same way. But you don't have to do anything to display the selection boxes -- they're always there. After you select the file to share, tap the standard Android Share button (the icon of a < with three nodes) at the top of the screen, then choose Invite People or Send Files from the menu that appears, as Figure 18 shows. These options work exactly as they do in Windows 10 and iOS.

Office 365 OneDrive file share: Android

Figure 18. Sharing a selected file from Android's OneDrive app.

Accessing files shared to you by others

No matter where you use OneDrive, you can see your files -- that is, the ones you saved to OneDrive. But you may not see files shared to you by others.

That's because OneDrive does not expose files shared to you by others in either the Windows File Explorer or the MacOS Finder. You can see files shared with you only in the OneDrive apps, via a browser at OneDrive Online, or in some cases from Office 2016.

If you use other cloud storage services -- Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive -- that will come as a shock, since they all show you the files shared to you in both computer operating systems and in their apps. OneDrive's lack of support for file-system access to files shared by others also means you can't use OneDrive as an ad hoc network drive to collaborate on a project together, on files contributed by multiple people.

Microsoft's solution for that is to use SharePoint, which requires IT to set up and manage shared folders for members of Active Directory groups. But SharePoint's integration with native file systems (both Windows and MacOS) is also poor, and you're basically forced to use the same clients for SharePoint access as you already have for OneDrive access. There is now a SharePoint app for iOS to access users and sites, with Windows and Android (but not MacOS) apps planned. Still, it is not really a solution for platform-agnostic collaboration.

Given those limits, what can you do? You can access files shared by others in three ways.

One way is to bookmark the shared files' URLs in your browser, so you can open the documents in Office Online or OneDrive Online. Basically, make your browser your file system for shared documents. If your browser is set to sync bookmarks and settings to all your devices (which Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox can do across their supported platforms), then that pseudo file system of bookmarks is also shared among them, giving you broad access to the documents.

The second way is to go to OneDrive Online in your browser and click Shared With Me in the file list's sidebar, as Figure 19 shows.

Office 365 OneDrive others' shared files: Web

Figure 19. You can see all files shared with you in OneDrive Online, as well as all files you've placed in OneDrive yourself.

The third way -- in Windows, iOS, and Android but not available to MacOS -- is to open the OneDrive app and open the Shared With Me window by clicking or tapping the Shared With Me button, which is an icon of two people. (The location of the icon depends on the operating system but will be grouped with other buttons.) Figure 20 shows this method in Windows 10's OneDrive app.

Office 365 OneDrive others' shared files: app

Figure 20. The OneDrive app (Windows 10 version shown here) can show you which files are shared with you.

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This story, "How to share any kind of file through OneDrive" was originally published by InfoWorld.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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