Judging by the responses from users on Twitter, Dropbox' new technology for accessing cloud-based files from the desktop will be a welcome and much-needed improvement. Unveiled today, the "Project Infinite" preview will let Dropbox users view all their cloud-stored files and folders from their devices without having to first launch a browser.
"Dropbox Infinite is exactly what I've been looking for for several years now," Web developer Nils Riedemann wrote today in a tweet. Tech news publisher Owen Williams added, "Whoa, Dropbox Project Infinite looks *amazing* -- don't need to have the files locally anymore, takes no space."
Dropbox, a file hosting and cloud storage services provider, introduced the project during the Dropbox Open conference in London. It calls the technology -- currently available only to a limited number of sponsor customers -- a "revolutionary new way to access all your files."
Project Infinite syncs a user's desktop with the data stored in Dropbox files and folders so all of the cloud-based information is visible on local devices, no matter how much or how little hard drive storage those devices have. The locally visible files and folders act as placeholders, and are identified either with green checkmarks (for locally synced content) or cloud icons (for everything else).
Addresses 'a Major Issue' for Users
The new cloud icon next to a desktop file indicates data that is stored in Dropbox, which means it uses up no memory on the local device. When the icon is clicked, however, the cloud-based file opens just as any locally stored file would, syncing with Dropbox on demand.
If users know they won't have network access but still want to access Dropbox-stored files from their desktops, they can choose to save a local copy for later viewing. Dropbox said Project Infinite will work on any device, whether it's running Windows 7, 8 or 10 or Mac OS X.
"With Project Infinite, we're addressing a major issue our users have asked us to solve," product manager Genevieve Sheehan wrote today on the Dropbox Business Blog. "The amount of information being created and shared has exploded, but most people still work on devices with limited storage capacity. While teams can store terabyte upon terabyte in the cloud, most individuals' laptops can only store a small fraction of that."
Project Infinite solves that problem by letting users view all of their Dropbox files from their local devices without having to launch a Web browser, which is "a clunky user experience at best," Sheehan added.
Like OneDrive's Now-Defunct Placeholders
Tech blogger Paul Thurrott wrote in a post today that Project Infinite basically brings back the cloud storage placeholders that users of Microsoft OneDrive were able to employ on their devices.
"Naturally, Dropbox isn't using the term placeholders," Thurrott wrote, noting the company instead describes its technology as "revolutionary." "Well. It's revolutionary only if you've never used placeholders."
Microsoft had enabled local viewing of OneDrive cloud-based files with its Windows 8 operating system. However, users had no way to easily distinguish between cloud-based and locally stored files, and the feature was dropped with Windows 10. Instead of placeholders, Windows 10 users can use a feature called selective sync to access cloud-stored data locally.
Dropbox's Sheehan did not say when Project Infinite might be rolled out to a wider user base. However, she said the company plans to make more product announcements throughout the year and encouraged users to keep an eye out for more updates.
Image Credit: Project Infinite screenshot via Dropbox.