Google is Adding Placeholders to Google Drive (for G Suite)

Posted on March 9, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, OneDrive with 21 Comments

Google is Adding Placeholders to Google Drive

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.

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Comments (21)

21 responses to “Google is Adding Placeholders to Google Drive (for G Suite)”

  1. kenhes

    Ah the ol' switcheroo. First OneDrive was the only one with placeholders. Now it's the last one to get them. Genius.

    • Mark from CO

      In reply to kenhes: 
      This is Microsoft at work.  Come up with something neat; release it; let it languish/not support it; watch as competitors catchup; watch as competitors extend the technology; watch as its market position deteriorates; and finally watch as Microsoft drops the product/technology.

      As much as people fond over Satya Nadella; it seems to me that all of Microsoft's ineptness in the consumer market and its glacial speed in execution still exists, with no improvement.  I also think there is a reason why Microsoft hasn't released Azure sale numbers.  They probably were embarrassingly low initially, which explains the continued triple digits growth rates we have seen the last 3 years.  And if published, we may well find that Microsoft may be number 2, but not that far ahead of IBM or Google.  As it is, there is a perception in the media that Microsoft is easily the #2.

      I think the color glasses need to come off the perception of Microsoft.

      Mark from CO

  2. Waethorn

    I recently switched to a G Suite Business account for Early Adopter access that you don't get with G Suite Basic. It's nice having the unlimited storage too. I've been looking at App Maker, and I like what I see there. It's like Visual Studio Lightswitch, but done right.

  3. Polycrastinator

    Yes, at this point, Microsoft should be embarrassed for themselves. This was a fantastic feature that was hugely beneficial. I do understand the source of confusion: it should have been explicitly opt-in to avoid that confusion. But that it hasn't yet been re-implemented defies belief.

  4. SvenJ

    "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." My ass. Since when is streaming it to your PC not downloading it? OK, with video, it streams, i.e. downloads and is presented in real time, but doesn't stay on your PC. Is that how you want your PowerPoint to work? You stream a slide and it sits on your screen until you stream the next slide. Then if you go back it streams that slide again? Maybe you can stream the whole slideshow into RAM (maybe), and as soon as you move off PPT to Word or Excel, it's gone and you need to stream it again to see it again? Of course not. You are going to download the files you need to store locally and establish sync folders, just like OneDrive, and they offer that. All MS needed to do was tag files that were on-line only with a little cloud icon, just like the little arrow we are accustomed to for shortcuts. Oh, no little cloud, that one is local. That one has a cloud, so I better set it for off-line before getting on the plane. How hard is that. Even when placeholders existed you could add a column to file explorer, Offline status, so the status was clearly available.

  5. dvdwnd

    But this will not work. People will get on planes thinking that their PowerPoints are on their laptop, but the computer will say they are in the cloud (just outside the window??), and they will be confused. Microsoft learned this the hard way, so they saved us from placeholders in Windows 10. /s

  6. skane2600

    MS already "figured it out", they just decided to drop the feature. I don't know but I'd speculate dropping it had something to do with their mobile-first approach in Windows 8 which of course only damaged their brand.

  7. redstar92

    You guys are being too tough on MSFT, its a very complex computer science problem... ;)

  8. Martin Pelletier

    I hope that announcement will motivate Microsoft to reaaaly do something about it lol.

  9. lordbaal1

    Onedrive will automatically sync if you pick the folders you want to sync. You can still use them on your computer even if you didn't sync them.

    I don't know why people don't want all of their onedrive files synced to their PC.

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