Microsoft introduced the concept of smart files with Windows 8.1. Smart files are a fraction of their original size, they behave identically to any other file. A great example of this is how smart files show up in Bing Smart Search in Windows 8.1. Consider the following scenario which is ideal for smart files,
For example, you might have taken a photo 6 months ago of the menu of your favorite restaurant, but can’t remember where it’s buried in your Camera Roll and want to remember the dish you had. You can simply type in the restaurant name on your desktop and Bing Smart Search will search text of your Camera Roll photos and pull up the picture of the menu with the restaurant name printed on it. With the power of smart files, this will work even if your Camera Roll is marked for online-only access. The moment you open the photo, it will be instantaneously pulled from the cloud for you to view the full version.
In the recent Windows 10 Build 9879, Microsoft has removed this smart files feature. Instead, users will be now able to select a folder to sync with OneDrive and all the synced files will be downloaded from OneDrive. This change created lots of discussion and backlash among Windows Insiders. OneDrive team group program manager, Jason Moore responded to this today, read his full response below.
Wanted to jump in here and address some of the questions and feedback we are getting about the changes we rolled out yesterday. As we look at the next version of OneDrive, we are working very hard to make sure it provides the best experience possible for our customers, and a big part of that is getting the sync model right.
We hear the feedback on placeholders, and we agree that there many great things about the model – for example, being able to see all your files in the cloud even if they are not all sync’ed to your PC. However, we were not happy with how we built placeholders, and we got clear feedback that some customers were confused (for example, with files not being available when offline), and that some applications didn’t work well with placeholders and that sync reliability was not where we needed it to be.
So, we stepped back to take a fresh look at OneDrive in Windows. The changes we made are significant. We didn’t just “turn off” placeholders – we’re making fundamental improvements to how Sync works, focusing on reliability in all scenarios, bringing together OneDrive and OneDrive for Business in one sync engine, and making sure we have a model that can scale to unlimited storage. In Windows 10, that means we’ll use selective sync instead of placeholders. But we’re adding additional capabilities, so the experience you get in Windows 10 build 9879 is just the beginning. For instance, you’ll be able to search all of your files on OneDrive – even those that aren’t sync’ed to your PC – and access those files directly from the search results. And we’ll solve for the scenario of having a large photo collection in the cloud but limited disk space on your PC.
Longer term, we’ll continue to improve the experience of OneDrive in Windows File Explorer, including bringing back key features of placeholders.
So keep the feedback coming. We’re working every day to improve OneDrive, and customer feedback is a hugely important part of that.”
In short, smart files are not coming back, but Microsoft is working to bring key features of place holders to Windows 10.