SkyDrive on Fedora 18 Gnome 3.x

Category: Linux

Accessing SkyDrive using Google Chrome on a Fedora 18 box is odd enough but native support for Microsoft's popular online storage service was a surprise when I saw it in the Fedora 18 release announcement. Admittedly, I'm a regular user of SkyDrive on my Windows 7 machines, so I was curious how good the support would be. As it turned out, all you need to do to setup the service was go through the Online Accounts option in System Settings in Gnome 3.x and just fill out your Outlook or Hotmail account. Curiously enough, the account appears as Windows Live even though Microsoft has long dispensed with the name and switched to the product names Outlook and SkyDrive. There's currently very little documentation on accessing SkyDrive from Gnome and with good reason. Just launch the Documents application (not the Documents folder) and ideally it should display your SkyDrive files. Since I was running Fedora 18 through virtualization it took awhile for Gnome to "sync" all my SkyDrive files into the Documents application.

I had never used the Documents application in Fedora Gnome 3 so I was initially surprised it was tagged as a "Document Manager". You also have to run the application using the Gnome Shell or clicking it from Activities since clicking Alt+F2 and typing "Documents" will open the Documents folder in Nautilus. Once you run Document the application, there's an integrated search function which can be accessed by clicking the magnifying glass in the upper-right hand corner. If you click the Select button just next to it, options will be displayed for opening the file in SkyDrive (useful if you plan to use MS Web Apps), printing the document, moving the file to a different folder (labeled as Organize), and displaying document properties. Clicking once on a document will open the file with options to zoom in/out, rotate left/right using the settings control marked by the gear icon. Right-click to select a document manually.


Gnome Documents has some pretty curious interface and functionality quirks. For one thing, you don't use the application as a file manager although it's supposed to function as a "Document Manager". Considering Gnome 3's atrocious window management, clicking and dragging to Nautilus is a chore - a single-click to a document will automatically launch it (you have to use Select if you don't want to accidentally open it).

I also assumed that Document manager downloaded the files from my SkyDrive account from the onset since the "syncing" took awhile but in actuality, the application only indexed it. The file is only downloaded when you launch it or drag it outside Gnome documents. In short, your SkyDrive files aren't stored locally. While in virtualization, I never got to open a document using the application because of bandwidth issues.

Moreover, considering the number of file views and filters Gnome Nautilus provides, Gnome Documents only provide two: List and Grid with no option to resize the icons.


Integration with SkyDrive is an excellent concept for a Linux application, but the Gnome Documents approach seemed half-hearted. It does look good and would impress users accustomed to a Windows or MacOSX desktop. However, it doesn't really fit in anyone's workflow. If the user ends up clicking the "Open with SkyDrive" option anyway, then why bother "syncing" it with the Gnome desktop? With Dropbox providing a working Gnome application that provides real file syncing to Nautilus, then adding a crippled SkyDrive access seems pointless.

There's a lot to praise about Fedora 18's newest release but I wish they hadn't prominently listed SkyDrive integration in the release announcement. Like most new features, perhaps it will get better in time but in the meantime, SkyDrive access is best opened through an updated browser such as Google Chrome or Chromium in Fedora 18 Gnome 3.


  1. It would be so nice to get dropbox-esque support for Skydrive. This solution is neat, but as you mentioned it does not fit well into most workflows.




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