If you have a Windows Phone 8, you’ll notice that there isn’t a pre-installed cloud-based storage tool. Even though you connect your phone to your SkyDrive account, you can only access your SkyDrive documents through the built-in Office tool. Other files are outside of the scope of the built-in tools. However, you can access those files with the SkyDrive app and the Windows Phone 8 version of Office.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Office app for Windows Phone 8, you’re in for a treat. This particular iteration of Office allows you to easily edit text and spreadsheet files and create Office-compatible documents. It’s a stripped-down office suite tool (nothing like Kingsoft Office), but it works seamlessly with Office 365 and SkyDrive.

The Windows Phone 8 Office tool is installed by default. To access it, simply slide your home screen to the left, and tap the Office launcher. From the Office home (Figure A), you can either add a new file, search for files, open a recent file, or open a sample document.
Figure A

The Office tool on a Verizon-branded HTC Windows Phone 8.

If you slide the Office home screen to the left or right, you’ll see the Places menu. This is where you can access documents from both SkyDrive and Office 365. Tap the SkyDrive button to reveal the document listing for the SkyDrive account associated with your phone (Figure B).
Figure B

Here you see one of my test SkyDrive accounts.

From here, you can navigate into your SkyDrive folders and open up either .docx or .xlsx files (Windows Phone 8 Office can open .doc and .xls files, but it can’t edit them). With the mobile version of the tool, you do have very limited formatting options. Those options include:

  • Bold
  • Italics
  • Underline
  • Strikethrough
  • Superscript
  • Subscript
  • Highlight
  • Font color

To get to the formatting tool, tap the small broom, tap the menu button (three horizontal dots), tap the edit button, and then tap the paintbrush button (Figure C).
Figure C

Editing this very document in the Windows Phone 8 version of Office.

So, now we know how to get to those SkyDrive Office-based documents, what about pictures, PDFs, and other necessary files? Let’s turn to the SkyDrive app.

The SkyDrive app

To install the SkyDrive app, do the following:

  1. Slide the home screen to the left
  2. Scroll down and locate the Store app
  3. Tape the Search button
  4. Search for “skydrive” (no quotes)
  5. Tap the entry for SkyDrive
  6. Tap the Install button
  7. Tap Allow
  8. Let the installation complete

Once it’s installed, you can launch the app by sliding the home screen to the left, scrolling down, and tapping the SkyDrive launcher. Although your phone is already associated with your SkyDrive account, when you first launch SkyDrive, you’ll be required to sign in. When prompted, enter your credentials. Upon successful authentication, you’ll find yourself on your SkyDrive home screen (Figure E).
Figure E

Whatever you have on your SkyDrive cloud will appear here.

From this screen, you can do the following:

  1. Create a new folder by tapping the menu button and then tapping Create a new folder
  2. Upload a picture from your phone by tapping the plus sign [+]
  3. View thumbnails of files by tapping the button immediately to the right of the plus sign [+]
  4. Download files by tapping the button immediately to the left of the search button, selecting what you want to download, and tapping the Download button

Unfortunately, there’s no way to upload documents from the SkyDrive app. For that, you have to return to the Office tool.

You can also share folders from within SkyDrive. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open SkyDrive
  2. Tap to open the folder you want to share
  3. Tap the farthest right icon
  4. Tap Send an email link
  5. Select either View only or View and Edit
  6. Tap OK
  7. Select the sending method
  8. Enter the target user’s email address
  9. Tap Send

The user will get the link and, as long as they have a SkyDrive account, will be able to open and (if allowed) edit the file.

With a bit of work, the Windows Phone 8 has the ability to enjoy the cloud, just like all other mobile devices. Although SkyDrive isn’t as flexible as, say, SpiderOak, it does offer some unique features and, in combination with the included Office tool, can have you happily working in the Microsoft cloud with ease.