How to access documents stored in OneDrive from any device

Part 3: The OneDrive service works for accessing shared files both within Office 2016 and the OneDrive app, if properly enabled

How to access documents stored in OneDrive from any device

Until recently, a functional version of the OneDrive app wasn't available for Windows or MacOS, so many people learned to use OneDrive as part of Office 2016 apps, as descried in Part 2 of InfoWorld's Office 365 document-sharing how-to series.

Although you don't need the OneDrive app to use OneDrive cloud storage, using the app lets you share more than Office documents alone.

Enabling OneDrive access in Office 2016 apps

The Office 2016 apps, as well as other Microsoft apps such as Outlook in some platforms, can access OneDrive directly, allowing you to open and save files to OneDrive from within them. To do this, you must be signed into your OneDrive accounts from within the apps.

If you sign into Office 2016 with a corporate account, your corporate OneDrive or SharePoint access (from the same account) is usually automatically granted at the same time. Likewise, if you sign into Office 2016 using a personal account, your personal OneDrive access is usually granted automatically as well. But you're not limited to that solitary OneDrive account.

To add access to other OneDrive accounts, as Figure 9 shows, click File in the Office 2016 app’s toolbar, then click Account in the sidebar. In the Connected Services section at the bottom-left side of the main pane you will see the Microsoft storage accounts (OneDrive and SharePoint) you're connected to. Click Add a Service, then choose Storage and the desired account type to enable more Microsoft storage accounts. You'll need to sign into each to complete the access setup.

Office 365 OneDrive setup in Office 2016: Windows

Figure 9. Adding Office 365 access in Office 2016 for Windows.

At this point, the Save As and Open panes will show you the connected Microsoft cloud services in which your documents can reside.

Office 365 OneDrive setup in Office 2016: OS X

Figure 10. Adding Office 365 access in Office 2016 for MacOS; the iOS version works the same way.

In Android, it's also simple: Go to the File view, tap Save As in the sidebar, and tap Add a Place.

Enabling OneDrive access in other apps

It's a rare person who works only in Office. You use other apps -- email, at least -- and other kinds of files. Chances are you'll want to have OneDrive available to them. In all operating systems but Windows 10, that means installing the OneDrive app, as described in Part 1.

Understand that OneDrive works a little differently from OS to OS in how apps and the native file system see it.

In Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 and in MacOS, installing OneDrive creates a virtual drive that you can access exactly as you would any drive: directly from the File Explorer or Finder, or through apps' Open and Save As dialogs.

In Windows 10, OneDrive is available natively in File Explorer and thus in apps' Open and Save As dialogs for any OneDrive accounts you've signed into. You can install OneDrive, but you don't need it for the basics.

In iOS, there is no visible file system, so apps must use the Open In and/or Share facility to access OneDrive. If an app doesn’t provide direct access, use the Open In facility in iOS to save files to a storage service. Use the app's Save feature to open the Locations sheet, shown in Figure 11. (In some cases, such as for Mail attachments, tap and hold a file until the Locations sheet appears.) It will display iCloud Drive by default, but you can switch to storage services by tapping Locations, then choosing the desired service. If a service does not appear, tap More to see if it is installed but disabled, and enable it by setting its switch to On, then tap Done.

Office 365 iOS Open In facility

Figure 11. The iOS Locations sheet is how most apps provide access to cloud storage services like OneDrive.

Some iOS apps use the Share button to transfer data to other apps, including cloud storage apps. After tapping Share in such apps, a list of available locations will appear. If a service that you have installed an app for isn’t listed there, tap More at the far right (you may need to scroll) to open the Activities sheet from which you can enable or disable access to compatible apps and services.

To open files stored in OneDrive from an iOS app, that app must support Open In (as GoodReader and Apple's Mail do) or provide direct access from its Open menu or button (as Office 2016, Outlook, and Apple's iWork suite do).

In Android, because there is a file system, OneDrive works very much as it does in Windows and MacOS. Apps can directly access available storage locations through their Open and Save As tools, or they can use Android's File Browser, shown in Figure 12. Each app decides how it provides access to File Browser, but common approaches are through an Attach button (such as in Gmail) or the standard Share button. If you can't see where an app saves or opens files, try tapping the More button (the … icon) or the Menu button (the stack of three lines, aka hamburger icon) to find it.

Office 365 Android file browser

Figure 12. Android's File Browser.

Regardless of OS, once installed and configured, OneDrive keeps files stored in a local cache so that you can work with them even when you have no Internet connection. It will also sync them with the master copies in the cloud -- but be aware that syncing is not instant, so it may be a few minutes before syncing actually happens.

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This story, "How to access documents stored in OneDrive from any device" was originally published by InfoWorld.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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