You take one casual look at Windows 8.1 and it becomes clear that SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service is a pretty much a cornerstone for the new operating system.

The company is getting ready to debut a new version of the SkyDrive app in its latest OS, and has provided more details on how it merged SkyDrive with Windows 8.1. SkyDrive team member Adam Czeisler has gone over the details in a detailed new blog post.

According to the company, while it has released SkyDrive apps for a number of platforms (both mobile and desktop), the apps cannot be used online, and their performance is limited by the speed of the network. Plus, they have been developed to have a small footprint and file size.

Then there are the sync clients — while they work offline, their performance is based upon the devices they are installed on. And browsing files on SkyDrive with these sync clients means they have to be downloaded to the device.

To overcome this, the SkyDrive team had to think out of the box.

And this is just what they did, with the end result being what Microsoft calls Smart Files. Here is a description of how this technology works:

“Smart files are files that contain only metadata and no “body”. In addition they have a special behavior where applications or components on the system can register to be the provider for the contents of the file and when a caller reads the body of the file via certain APIs, these providers are invoked to satisfy this request.”

In other words, this solution does not download all the data onto the device, and allows the Windows 8.1 version of the SkyDrive app to drastically reduce the amount of storage space needed.

Microsoft also goes over a number of other Windows 8.1 SkyDrive features like much more robust statistics that allow users the ability to view the number of times SkyDrive files are downloaded to the desktop, including details like file percent complete, throughput and how many bytes that remain.

And finally, since the Photos app and the SkyDrive app in Windows 8.1 share the same underlying code, among other things, users can now move, renamed and edit photos in SkyDrive from the Photos app.

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