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One drive, many steps

Topics/tags: Rants, technology, short

Recently, someone shared a group of files with me on Microsoft OneDrive. The message I received included a link to a shared folder. I wanted to download all of the files to my laptop. However, while I could select all of the files, no download button was available or obvious. I tried asking one of the more technically savvy people downstairs from me [1]. They didn’t know either. I figured if they didn’t know, it wasn’t possible.

But that’s strange, isn’t it? Every other cloud storage service I use [2] seems to have a mechanism for downloading a folder. Why doesn’t OneDrive?

I thought I’d figured out a solution. I downloaded the OneDrive application for Mac, started that application, and went through the multi-step log-in process. I got a OneDrive folder on my Mac along with the subfolders I expected. But the shared folder didn’t appear there. My eventual hack was to create a subfolder, then go to the shared folder online and copy the files to that new subfolder. That didn’t seem like the most efficient way to download a bunch of files, but it was better than downloading each one individually.

Eventually, I decided to call the ITS help desk [3]. The first person I spoke with said I don’t use OneDrive and helpfully passed me on to one of the back-room people who know much more about such things. They told me that the only way to do a group download was to use Internet Explorer, which doesn’t seem to be a possibility on my Mac. They agreed. And it sounded like there was not much more I could do.

Then I mentioned the strategy I was using: I tried using OneDrive on Mac, but that didn’t show the folder that was shared with me. The helpful person at ITS asked, Did you try using Sync? I tried. OneDrive made me log in again. Then it complained that I was already logged in. Somewhere along the way, I also ended up with two copies of OneDrive on my computer.

But I eventually ended up with a folder with the shared files. It wasn’t where I expected it to be. My files were in a folder called One Drive - Grinnell College [4]. The shared files were in a folder called One Drive - Other Person - Shared Folder [5] in the parent directory of my OneDrive folder. Not where I’d think to look. And, of course, the files weren’t actually there; if I double-clicked on a file name, I had to wait a bit for it to appear, since OneDrive only downloads a file when you need it [6]. I think that’s a good feature.

So, it appears that once I’ve set things up correctly, there’s a natural way to download all of the files. It’s not as easy as, say, a download button would be. Nonetheless, as I said, it’s better than downloading individual files one by one.

Still, I’m left with at least two outstanding questions.

  1. Now that I’ve downloaded my files, how do I turn off the OneDrive application?

  2. What do workflows look like at Microsoft that they make it so hard to do something so natural?

I traditionally refer to SharePoint as SharePointlees. I need a similar nickname for OneDrive. OneDriveManySteps is a possibility, but it’s a bit too long. Do my readers have any suggestions?

[1] Arguably, all five people downstairs are more technically savvy than me, particularly with regards to Microsoft products.

[2] Let’s see … Google Drive, Box, DropBox, Mega, and a few more that I can’t recall, but that friends have asked me to use from time to time.

[3] I will admit that I did so with an intention to support this musing. I wanted to be able to write, I called ITS; they didn’t have any suggestions, either.

[4] I didn’t name it. OneDrive did.

[5] You can substitute in the name of the other person

[6] That’s a feature, not a bug.

Version 1.0 of 2019-12-10.