Microsoft has finally begun rolling out support for syncing shared folders to a user's computer through its OneDrive cloud storage service.
Now, people browsing a folder shared via OneDrive online or through a mobile app can click a button labeled "Add to my OneDrive" and have the folder added to their account. Changes made to items in that folder will automatically be pushed out to the computers of everyone who it's shared with, assuming they're compatible with the feature.
Syncing shared folders was one of the features OneDrive users have requested the most. A thread on a user feedback forum calling for the feature garnered nearly 6,000 votes of support. Until now, users have had to navigate a complicated mess of permissions to share a folder, and then recipients wouldn't actually get a syncing version of the folder on their computer.
That's a marked difference from OneDrive competitors like Google Drive and Dropbox, which already support syncing shared folders. Right now, OneDrive's version of the feature only supports syncing folders a user can edit, so they'll still have to check the web for changes to files they have read-only access to. Support for shared folder syncing is going out gradually to all OneDrive users, so it may be a while before it's available to everyone.
The feature works for people on Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, Windows Vista and Mac OS X. Users of Windows 8.1 need to upgrade to Windows 10 in order to get access to it. Microsoft is "focusing our investments on Windows 10," according to a forum post by OneDrive Director of Product Management Angus Logan, which is why Windows 8.1 isn't supported. It's not yet clear whether this functionality will make its way to OneDrive for Business, Microsoft's storage service for corporate customers of its Office 365 service.
Improving the sharing of files through OneDrive is an important component of Microsoft's plans for workplace collaboration with its forthcoming Office 2016 suite. One of the key benefits to Office 2016 is support for real-time collaboration on documents shared in OneDrive, so it's in Microsoft's interest to try and promote sharing through its service as much as possible.