Windows 8.1 introduced OneDrive placeholders, with the intention of showing users what files are inside of OneDrive without keeping an offline sync of every file. It’s been a very-loved feature, and its removal from Windows 10–replaced with selective sync–sparked many people voting on UserVoice to bring the feature back. In addition, Return back OneDrive files placeholders!, is the top-most upvoted feedback item on Windows Feedback for OneDrive.
I understand that it’s painful to lose a feature that was very useful; I loved its convenience as well. However, I’m here to tell you that you don’t really need it.
Despite Its Usefulness, OneDrive Placeholders Caused Problems
It’s possible that this problem never occurred to the people who want this feature back, but according to Microsoft the concept of placeholders confused many:
People had to learn the difference between what files were “available online” (placeholders) versus what was “available offline” and physically on your PC. […] For example, people would expect that any files they see in File Explorer would be available offline by default. Then they would hop onto a flight (or go someplace without connectivity) and try to access a file they thought was on their PC and it wasn’t available because it was just a placeholder. It didn’t feel like sync was as reliable as it needed to be.
Was this ever a problem for me? No. However, I do have to say that I’m pretty well Internet connected. My smart phone, by virtue of a smart phone and my current mobile plan, has Internet practically everywhere I go. I have a tablet with mobile Internet as well. Both the phone and the tablet can broadcast a hotspot so my Surface Pro can connect. I’m blessed in a neighborhood that has quite a few free Wi-Fi spots within walking distance of my apartment. My office has Internet. In short, It’s never occurred to me that this could be a real problem. I imagine that the majority of people who voted on UserVoice or on Windows Feedback are in very similar scenarios.
Another issue I’ve noticed with placeholders is depending on what application you’re using to open the file, it may or may not actually read the file if it’s marked online only. Not all applications understood what the placeholders were, and trying to open placeholders in applications that didn’t support it caused errors.
I understand that people are mad, but all Microsoft’s reasoning in consideration, I’m willing to give up the placeholder feature. Besides…
Stuff In OneDrive Is Still Accessible Anyways
Believe me, it’s true; your stuff can still be accessed even if the OneDrive folders aren’t synced:
Whenever you want to download a photo or video–say, from your Camera Roll–from OneDrive, you can download it through the Photos App, then do whatever you want with it. Viewing and sharing photos is built into the app, so no need to download it first if that’s all you want to do.
Selecting the file Cortana found will take you to OneDrive.com to download the file. I know, I know; it’s not as convenient as having that placeholder there. But your file is still available without having to sync.
Only Sync Things You Really Need All The Time
I feel that having access to your music, pictures, and videos would satisfy a majority of the needs that OneDrive placeholders fulfilled. Files you don’t need access to often can just be searched for and downloaded whenever the need arises, saving you the free space. Files you need all the time are the files that should be used with Selective Sync! What that means for me is my Working Projects folder, which contains everything I need to work in the context of a project, tends to be the only folder that I need synced on my Surface Pro. Everything else I have on OneDrive is either Pictures, Videos, Music, or files that are necessary (stock images, fonts, etc.) but are used only occasionally.
It may be painful to feel like you don’t have all your files there; there’s a certain nice-feeling to know that my OneDrive folder was populated with everything in Windows 8.1. But be comforted in knowing that things are still there, and that you can still get to it easily. Try just syncing what you need all the time and let me how it goes; I don’t think it’s as bad as 20,443 people think it is.