Google revealed today that it is adding a placeholders-like feature to its Google Drive sync clients for PC and Mac. It’s becoming a bit of an embarrassment that Microsoft can’t seem to figure this out for OneDrive.
There’s no official Google announcement yet. (Update: Here we go.) But according to VentureBeat, which interviewed Google today about this change, the new feature is called Drive File Stream. It appears to work like placeholders used to work in OneDrive for Windows, or like the Dropbox Smart Sync feature, and lets users see and then seamlessly access files and folders that are not actually (yet) synced to the PC.
“You don’t have to select [folders to sync], that’s the point of it,” Google vice president of apps Prabhakar Raghavan told the publication.
It’s not clear yet how Google will roll this out, exactly. The VenturBeat article seems to indicate that this will be a feature for G Suite subscribers only (Update: confirmed), and that the existing desktop client will continue to be available for end users. Going forward Drive File Stream will be the “preferred way to access content” for G Suite customers, the article notes.
Access will evolve over time, starting with an early-adopter program. (Sign-up here.) It will be made available to everyone afterward. (But again, “everyone” meaning all Google Drive users? It’s not clear.)
This one is still breaking. I’ll let you know if/when I find out more. But I assume most people are familiar with Microsoft’s broken promises around OneDrive and its inability to deliver a replacement for the placeholders feature that so many seemed to love. The latest news there is that we’ll learn more at Build in May.
Here’s the official description:
Access Drive files on Mac/PC faster, using less disk space
Introducing Drive File Stream — a new way to access all of your Google Drive files directly from your Mac or PC, without using up all your disk space. Unlike traditional file sync tools, Drive File Stream doesn’t require you to download your files first in order to access them from your computer. Instead, when you need to view or edit a file, it automatically streams from the cloud, on-demand. With Drive File Stream, your team will spend less time waiting for files to sync, no time worrying about disk space, and more time being productive.
Get your files in seconds with smarter offline access
With Drive File Stream, files you open are streamed directly from the cloud on-demand. You can also select files or folders that you want to access offline at anytime. The files that you are likely to work on from your Mac or PC become available in the background intelligently, making it much quicker to access them later.
Work with all the tools and apps you’re used to
With Drive File Stream, you can work with Drive files directly from the apps you’re used to, like Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop. Any changes you make to files in those apps are saved automatically to Drive and can be accessed from any of your devices later.
Drive File Stream Early Adopter Program
We’re excited to extend this new Drive feature to customers through our Early Adopter Program (EAP) for feedback. The EAP for Drive File Stream is only open to G Suite Enterprise, Business and Education customers, and G Suite admins may apply with their primary domain on behalf of their organizations.