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Dropbox is adding placeholder files to its client; shows Microsoft how it's done

Dropbox is adding a new feature to its popular client; a feature called Project Infinite. While that sounds quite fancy, this is just the addition of placeholder files, which allows users to view all their files without actually downloading them.

Cloud storage has become a staple of computing in the last few years and even if you’re not aware of it, you’re probably using cloud storage right now. Clients like Google Drive and Photos, Microsoft’s OneDrive and Dropbox all offer free or affordable cloud storage that makes your files available on every device. The only problem is that accessing all your files can be a hassle when using a low-storage device, like a tablet or Ultrabook. But there’s one simple solution available and Dropbox is now implementing it: placeholder files.

Placeholder files allow users to view all their cloud-stored data as if it were stored on the device they’re using. Microsoft implemented this feature with OneDrive on Windows 8. But while many found it incredibly useful, some users were apparently confused when cloud files looked the same as locally-stored files, so the company eventually ditched placeholders. There are signs that the feature may return to Windows and OneDrive but those haven't materialized just yet.

But now Dropbox seems to have fixed such issues in its own implementation of placeholder files, called Project Infinite. Users will see all their files in the Dropbox folder, with those stored locally having a green checkmark, while those in the cloud will show a grey cloud icon. Simple, but effective.

Users will no doubt find this feature useful, though it’s not yet clear when the company intends to roll it out. As it currently stands, Project Infinite is in closed beta. Also not clear is whether this will roll out to all users, or be restricted to business users.

In either case, Dropbox’s implementation of placeholder files is a step forward for its customers, and it will hopefully force its competitors to move in this direction as well.

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