Sharing Files

We've seen that one way to transmit files to another person is to send them as attachments to emails.  Sometimes it is better to share files, that is, to store them on Internet servers where they are continuously available.
Sharing is a particularly good option for sharing large numbers of photographs with others.  Photos are rather large files.  Therefore, sending many photos as attachments takes a good deal of time and sometimes exceeds email size limitations.  Uploading them to an Internet site where they can be shared with others is a reasonable option.
Another situation in which file sharing is an efficient alternative to email attachments is when two or more persons are collaborating on a project that involves them in jointly editing or producing documents.  The documents can be placed on an Internet server where all collaborators can gain access to them at their convenience.
Some Internet services companies offer file-sharing services to their members free-of-charge.  Leaders in this field are Microsoft and Google.  Microsoft offers storage on its servers via its Windows Live and Office Live services.  Google makes file sharing available through its Picasa Photo Albums and Google Docs services.

Using Google's File Sharing Services
As before, we'll illustrate file sharing using Google's services.
Picasa Photo Albums
You can store your photos on Google's servers and make them available to others.  To do so, sign up for a Google Gmail account and then for a Picasa Photo Albums account.  Both are free-of-charge. 
To sign up for photo sharing, go to the Picasa Photo Albums sign-in page, and follow its instructions. 
Once you've signed in, you can access your Picasa albums pages by clicking the Photos link located at the top of your Google home page.
On your Picasa albums page is an Upload button.  Click it to upload photos from a storage device connected to your computer.  If you haven't yet created an album, you can do so from the upload popup.
After uploading photos into an album, you can set the album's access rules.  You can share the album with ...
  • the public, that is, anyone in the world who happens onto your site,
  • named individuals whom you identify by their email addresses, or
  • only yourself.
You can change access permissions at any time.
If you choose to share an album with named individuals, Google will, at your option, send each an email inviting him or her to visit your Picasa Album site.  The invitee can view the shared photos by clicking the link in the invitation Gmail. 
Were I to invite people to view one of my Picasa Web Albums, they would see what you see by clicking the following link.  Tom's Shared Album
Google Docs
Google Docs stores documents and makes them available to whomever you grant access.  Docs works almost identically to the way Picasa Web Album functions.  After signing into the service, you upload documents into folders, just as you would were you moving files onto an external hard drive.  Indeed, that's what Google Docs is.  It's an external hard drive located on one of Google's Internet servers.
I've uploaded onto my Google Docs site the PowerPoint slide presentation used in our Internet & Email for Beginners class.  You can view it by clicking the following link:  Link to Presentation.
The File menu on the Docs page contains menu items that permit the viewer to copy, download, etc. the file.
I set the permissions on this file to allow persons to be Viewers, not Collaborators.  Accordingly, you can view, copy, and download the presentation, but cannot alter it.  Had I granted you Collaborator status, you could have edited the presentation, deleted it, etc.
You can upload onto Google Docs only those permitted by Google, namely,
  • Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files,
  • HTM (or HTML) files,
  • PDF files, and
  • Various types of text file (e.g., .txt, .csv).

 Special Features
Although we have been illustrating file sharing features using Google's services, Microsoft's Office Live offers a couple of noteworthy features that Google and others don't have.  Likewise, Google offers some that are also unique to Google.
Office Live
Office Live offers a unique feature that deserves special mention.  It allows its users to open and save file-shared files directly from their PCs.  Other file sharing services require their users to upload files onto their servers, and files can be opened only within the Internet site.  (Of course, they can be downloaded, edited, and re-uploaded.)
Office Live provides users the option of installing an Active X add-on that reconfigures their Microsoft Office applications' File menu items.  Specifically, the add-on places two menu items among the others:  Open from Office Live and Save to Office Live.  With these, the Office Live server space truly becomes an external drive that functions just like the user's C:\ drive or other storage device.
Google Docs
Google Docs offers its users three server-based applications --- a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a presentation application.  They are available on the user's Docs site and can be used to create files just as one would do using his or her PC-based applications.
The files produced using Google's applications can be stored onto Docs sites and downloaded onto PCs' storage devices.  Downloaded files can be opened using Microsoft's Office applications, i.e., Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.