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Microsoft's Latest OneDrive Update Doesn't Include Popular Placeholders Feature

Looking to make OneDrive the cloud storage service of choice, Microsoft last week added improved synchronization, search and support for the new Apple Watch. The upgrade of OneDrive now includes the ability to synchronize shared folders from a desktop app, visibility to when someone edits a file and Microsoft says it's now easier to search for documents. While customers welcomed the improvements, many lamented the lack of a once popular feature called Placeholders, also known as Smart Files, which Microsoft removed in January.

Microsoft first introduced Placeholders in OneDrive with Windows 8.1 but subsequently removed the feature. Placeholders allowed users to see files that are online in addition to local documents. Users complained about the missing feature in the comments section of the blog post by OneDrive Group Program Manager Jason Moore last week announcing the upgrade, imploring Microsoft to bring Placeholders back.

"I switched from Dropbox to OneDrive because of the placeholders," wrote Mark Newton. "Now, OneDrive is just Microsoft's Dropbox." Tom H. added: "This is great folks but there are thousands clamoring for placeholders, especially those of us who bought your Surface tablets. I would have hoped you would have brought placeholders before this other stuff."

 Many complained that they bought the Surface and Surface Pro specifically because of Placeholders. "The elimination of placeholders has made my 'tablet that can replace my laptop' just a tablet," wrote Jeremy. "OneDrive was the only thing allowing your own devices to do what you advertised. Thanks for selling me a thousand dollar tablet. Downgrading now."

Microsoft's Moore did weigh in last week welcoming the feedback. "Folks -- I definitely recommend checking out our UserVoice and leaving feedback there -- write up the features you want and how you'd like us to go about them! We love seeing the passion," he said. One poster, who didn't leave a name called that lip service. "You already know that placeholders back on Uservoice  [Microsoft's customer feedback platform] have more than 13,000 voices, but it's easier to say, 'give your feedback, but we will do what we like to do.'"

Not everyone commenting on Moore's post want Microsoft to bring Placeholders back. "The placeholders were a nightmare for me. Just keep adding reliable functionality," wrote Rusty Gates. But those commenting who want Microsoft to bring Placeholders back far outnumber those who could live without it.

The obvious compromise would be to offer both options and allow customers to choose either configuration.

In the meantime MVP Kent Chen explains in a blog post on Next of Windows how to map OneDrive files to a network drive or alternatively to consider third-party apps such as Odrive.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 08/17/2015 at 1:24 PM


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