Microsoft to rationalize OneDrive sync experiences

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Microsoft has made an announcement about the roadmap for OneDrive file-sync-and-share services. Note that I say services, plural, because the company has devised multiple versions of the brand, with very different ways of doing things. And besides being confusing, that situation has caused some problems for users encountering very different behavior on different versions.

OneDrive (once called SkyDrive) is a consumer-facing file-sync-and-share integrated into Windows. While OneDrive for Business shares the brand, it was developed using a separate architecture — Ray Ozzie’s old Groove sync capabilities — and is integrated into Office 365.

So, the company basically had two incompatible products.

Microsoft has laid out a plan to develop a single back-end technology that will underlie both OneDrive and OneDrive for Business. Which is what they might have done in the first place.

The announcement also includes information about other long-desired features like syncing shared folders — like other competitors do — and selectively syncing. The latter feature is something I do extensively in Google Drive, but with OneDrive for Business, today, users must sync everything or keep files only in the cloud.

There is an added wrinkle: so-called ‘placeholder files’ were implemented in Windows 8.1 — but not for Windows 7 and 8 and Mac, or in OneDrive for Business — which allowed users on Windows 8.1 to browse OneDrive files in the File Explorer. That feature was omitted from a Windows 10 beta last year, causing beta testers to loudly complain. Also, there were a number of reliability issues related to placeholders that caused time outs and syncing problems.

At least they are now planning to do the sensible thing, but it looks like it will be a complex project, with different release dates for Windows 10, Mac, and earlier versions of Windows. And the long-desired syncing of shared folders won’t be released until the summer, it appears.

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