In May of this year, Microsoft released a Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app for their OneDrive cloud storage service to provide users a view of all their cloud based files whether they were synched with that local device or not.
The app was made available for Windows 10 on the desktop and mobile devices at that time with the basic ability to view all of your OneDrive storage structure but files were downloaded on demand when you clicked on them. After any editing the changes were synched up with their cloud counterpart.
This app also worked independently of the OneDrive sync client that is integrated with Windows 10 however, it added the ability to view 100% of your file structure that was in OneDrive whether those folders were synched or not. In the Windows 10 desktop client you must designate which folders are synched to your device and those are the only ones you see when you view OneDrive through File Explorer.
One issue with the OneDrive UWP app as it was released back in May was the need for a connection to the Internet in order to view the full file locally. Otherwise you got an error that the file was not present. By the way, this was the same behavior for place holders - if the file was not synched locally then it was inaccessible without an Internet connection.
So earlier today here at Ignite I was in a OneDrive for Business presentation by Omar Shahine, the Program Manager for OneDrive and OneDrive for Business, and at the end of his session he showed a roadmap for the service.
Under the Q4 2016 heading on the slide was an entry called Offline Files for Windows.
Nothing was mentioned during the session so I caught up with Omar afterwards and asked him what this entry was all about.
He confirmed for us that Offline Files for Windows meant the OneDrive UWP app would gain the ability by the end of this year to select files from your OneDrive storage and have them stored on your local device for access without an Internet connection.
As I mentioned earlier, this was missing from the OneDrive UWP app when it was released in May. By adding the offline feature to the UWP app that can be used on Windows 10 desktops, tablets and mobile devices Windows users will have the same capabilities that already exists in the iOS and Android OneDrive apps.
Offline files in OneDrive for Android App
As I look at this feature and listened to the OneDrive presentation this morning, I get the sense that their goal is to give users the same experience across devices and to be honest how is offline files any different to placeholders as we knew them?
- In the OneDrive UWP app you can see your full OneDrive file structure both online and offline. Just like we could with place holders.
- In order to access and use a file when it was a place holder and not synched locally a connection was needed to sync that file to your device either permanently or temporarily.
- If you were traveling with the prospect of needing access to some files in OneDrive that only showed up as place holders in File Explorer then you would need to sync that folder/file locally before losing connectivity.
- In order to sync files for offline use in the OneDrive iOS and Android apps you must select then for offline availability before losing your connectivity. This will also be the case once the OneDrive UWP app has offline files capability.
- Once your need for offline access is over you can clear the flag on those folders/files that were marked for offline access so they could go back to just being stored in your OneDrive cloud storage.
As you can see, Offline Files in the OneDrive apps delivers the capabilities that we had in place holders and also a clear method for local offline access on any device which we need to work on. For me that goes above and beyond what we had in place holders and gives us even more productivity potential.
Of course, you still have to remember to make those files available offline first.