OneDrive for Business without OneDrive for Business

So, what does that title mean? Use OneDrive for Business without OneDrive for Business? What I mean by that, is that it is not required to use the OneDrive for Business client in order to interact with your document libraries hosted on SharePoint or SharePoint Online. This counts for both that one document library on your OneDrive (also called your personal site) as well as on the document libraries on all the different teamsites that you might have.


When to use the OneDrive for Business client

So when should you use the OneDrive for business client then? I could come up with the following reasons:

  • You are working regularly without an internet connection and need to be able to view and/or edit documents while offline.
  • You are using very large files, so having these files offline speeds up the process for opening and/or editing them.

Sometimes I also get the argument that people want to be able to work the way as they did before by just browsing through files and folders and don't want to go to the browser for finding, reading and editing their documents. I can understand this way of thinking, as people have been working with file shares for 15-20 years. But let me try to explain why I think they are arguable (and I'll show you more info in the sections below):

  • You actually can browse, open and save documents through folders without using the browser and without having the content synchronized locally.
  • You actually can open up documents that you opened up before, with just two clicks.
  • If people really want to remain working exactly the way they worked before, it probably also means that they don’t see the value of changing some of their habits. Showing the end-users “what’s in it for me?” really helps them to understand why change is sometimes inevitable in order to improve things. Like Frederick Douglass once said: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress”.

Below are some tips that can help those users be more productive while keeping the end-user experience similar to the one they are used to.


Browsing through folders

Let's start off by talking about browsing through folders without having to use your browser.

  1. In a document library, click on the button Open in Explorer in the Library menu of the Ribbon
  2. Now you will see the content so the document library in your windows explorer. The means you can actually create folders here, copy/paste and drag and drop files, just as you would on a normal network share.
  3. Now you can actually drag and drop the folder icon (left mouse button) from the address bar onto the favorites section on the left hand side of the windows explorer. This way you can instantly open the location in your windows explorer, but also from within the office “Save as” and “Open” dialog to quickly open and save documents.



    Note that you can you can also drag and drop the folder icon from the address bar onto the desktop is that has your preference or map a network drive as outlined in this kb article.


Open documents with two clicks

As mentioned before it is actually possible to quickly open up document that you have been working on before. Below are the steps on how to accomplish that:

  1. Make sure you have pinned your frequently used Office applications onto the Windows taskbar.
  2. Now, just right click on one of the pinned Office applications. In this instance Word and notice that you will see the 10 last saved documents. Click on any of the documents to instantly open it without having to open any browser windows.
  3. By default, you will only see the last 10 presentations, but you can increase this by right clicking on the Windows taskbar and choosing Properties. Here go to the tab Jump Lists and increase the amount to a higher number (20 or 30 might be sufficient).
  4. I have to say, I use this feature all the time and is a real time-saver for me. No more figuring out where my documents are located as I can instantly continue with the files I’ve been working on before.


Using the browser

For basic operations such as opening and saving Office files, the above methods can come in real handy, but ultimately the browser will give you a much richer experience. In the browser you can:

  • Instantly preview Office documents without having to open them in the client. This will give you a much faster and more relevant experience without leaving the context of what you were doing.
  • Use multiple views of Office documents, e.g. grouped by author, or filtered by date. Using views will increase the speed of finding and opening relevant information.
  • Use metadata which will enrich and classify your documents. By using metadata you will increase relevancy of Office documents and make sure your Office documents can be found more easily.
  • You can open and edit Office documents in the browser. This will increase the speed of opening Office documents as no download is required and the data is purely rendered in the browser. This method of opening Office documents will also make sure that if someone does not have office installed, they can still open and edit the Office documents in the browser. This browser can be browsers like Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Opera and of course Internet Explorer. So this will also work on IPads, Android tablets and Chromebooks.
  • You can view, compare and restore versions of Office Documents. If you have the appropriate permissions you can view the different versions of an Office document, compare it with other version and even restore to an earlier version of the document.
  • Search and find document very easily. When searching in the browser, you will get results back from all Office documents within your organization, results will be very relevant due to a highly intelligent search engine and the search results can be easily filtered on metadata such as the author of a document, the modified date. On the left hand side you see that filters have been set on the type of file (PowerPoint) and on the Author of the file (Paul Vermeulen). If you hover over the result, you instantly see the preview of the deck, so you can instantly determine if this is the correct file your are looking for.

There are definitely more advantages of having the browser experience over the file share experience, but these are just some of most obvious ones.



You can work with Office documents in SharePoint or OneDrive without using of the OneDrive for Business client. A common misconception is that you require the client to be installed, but without the client you can still be very productive and have a similar file share experience that users have been using for decades. For basic operations such as opening and saving Office files, the methods described in this article can come in real handy, but ultimately the browser will give you the best experience.

Comments (6)
  1. FredlArts says:

    That is a great tip. I knew the "open in Explorer" thing but the nice Shortcut and the Icons with the last opened documents on the history make this really an option for me.

    Thanks for this great article!

  2. FredlArts says:

    Is there any way to use this on the OneDrive for Business doclib? The ribbon is not available and as I understand it I would need it to make the one time connect via Explorer thing right?

  3. Andre Kieft says:

    @FredlArts, you can turn on the Ribbon by going to the topright cog symbol and choosing Show Ribbon.

  4. Jos says:

    When you’ve got users on your Citrix / RDS farm, you probably don’t want the OneDrive client syncing up your server….use a script to map a user automatically upon login! 🙂

  5. Myles says:

    Hi Andre. Another great article, thank you! You can map your OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online libraries to network drives and make those drives permanent and available on sign in to Windows with a tool like Zee Drive:



  6. Great post! says:

    Really well done Andre. The only thing missing is the fact that ODfB doesn’t work reliably, making your suggestions even more relevant.

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