When Microsoft announced the new OneDrive Files On-Demand feature last week during the Day Two Build keynote in Seattle, the response from the developers in attendance was clear - they were very happy to see this functionality return as noted by their resounding applause.

It has been more than two and a half years since OneDrive users learned that their favorite feature, Placeholders, was not going to be available in the final build of Windows 10 that was released in July 2015.

Placeholders allowed users to view their entire cloud based storage file structure to see what files they had stored in the OneDrive Cloud and whether they were stored locally or in the cloud. That is in stark contrast to how Microsoft's cloud based storage service works in the latest release of Windows 10, the Creators Update, as users are required to select which folders are synched to their local storage with no option to just view the file structure in other folders. Although that structure could be viewed when using the OneDrive UWP app or accessing OneDrive on the web it did not replace the file level functionality of Placeholders.

OneDrive Files On-Demand will return the most popular aspect of Placeholders to users in the upcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update by allowing them to view their entire cloud based storage and its file structure in File Explorer even if those files and folders are not synched locally.

When Microsoft pulled Placeholders they explained it was necessary because users were reporting confusion in their understanding of what files were stored in local storage and which were still in the cloud. Their response, as I described above, was to either sync or not sync files to your local storage with no indication of any files stored in the cloud. Over the last two years I have learned to work within this limitation by only syncing certain folders on specific devices based on how I used that hardware. This worked fine but more than once, after creating a folder/files in OneDrive on one device and then not finding it on my others, I eventually realized I needed to sync that new folder. Talk about frustrating and confusing!

In the upcoming OneDrive Files On-Demand, Microsoft returns Placeholders but instead of using property data or file overlays to indicate the file or folders sync status, a new column has been added to File Explorer simply called Status

OneDrive Files On-Demand File Explorer Status Column

That new column has three distinct icons to show the status of your files and since it is a column you can sort your listing based on that status.

Here is what the three status icons indicates in OneDrive Files On-Demand:

-- Cloud Icon - files is stored in OneDrive only but is available on-demand by selecting it in File Explorer.
-- Light Green Checkmark - file is stored on your local hard drive, OneDrive, and is available offline.
-- Bright Green Checkmark - file is being synched to your local storage and once the download is complete the status icon will change to a normal green check mark indicating it is locally stored, still in OneDrive, and available offline.

Take note, just like with Placeholders, you still must make sure any files you need when offline are synched locally so they have the light green check mark otherwise, they will not be available on-demand until you are connected to the Internet.

According to Microsoft, OneDrive Files On-Demand will be integrated into the Windows 10 file system so it appears you will not need to take any additional action to get these features if you log into OneDrive with your Microsoft Account. 

Yesterday, a new demo video was released by the OneDrive for Business team that takes a closer look at sharing features that will be added to the operating system, the capability to easily access SharePoint sites using your enterprise credentials if you use that service through Office 365, and OneDrive Files On-Demand. At one point OneDrive for Business and OneDrive for Consumers were very different products and implementations but it seems they are merging functionality across the board since the services are now using the same underlying services and abilities.

According to Eugene Lin, the lead engineer for OneDrive for Business that presents in the video, we should see these new features in a future Windows Insider build for the Fall Creators Update.

Here is the video from Lin:

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