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Windows 10’s OneDrive modifications challenge Microsoft’s feedback methods

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Testers aren't happy

Microsoft’s changes to Windows 10 have been largely well received, but one particular modification to OneDrive has angered Windows users. The latest Windows 10 Technical Preview build, released earlier this week, changes OneDrive sync functionality significantly. Microsoft has decided to ditch its use of placeholder files in Windows 10 in favor of selective file and folder syncing that’s identical to Dropbox. In Windows 8.1 folders and files aren’t automatically synced down to a machine, saving disk space. Instead, small placeholder files are used to show that files and folders are available, and any data and documents that are opened will automatically sync.

The current implementation of OneDrive in Windows 8.1 is innovative and particularly useful for Windows machines with small disks, but it has caused confusion amongst some consumers so it’s going away in Windows 10. “We were not happy with how we built placeholders, and we got clear feedback that some customers were confused,” says OneDrive program manager Jason Moore. Some Windows applications also didn’t work well with placeholders, leading to a frustrating experience.

Microsoft’s changes have generated a lot of feedback from the million Windows 10 testers. One suggestion, that has led Microsoft to respond directly, calls for the software giant to keep the placeholder sync in place as an option for power users, with icon overlays to clearly identify between local and cloud files. “The experience you get in Windows 10 build 9879 is just the beginning,” explains OneDrive program manager Jason Moore while responding to the feedback. Microsoft is planning to bring back the key features of placeholders “longer term,” but it’s not clear if that will ship with the final version of Windows 10 or not.

"Working on Windows is like ordering pizza for 1.5 billion people."

Either way, this is the first real test of Microsoft’s feedback methods for Windows 10. It’s clear that most Windows 10 testers do not appreciate the OneDrive changes, but they’re also early adopters and Windows fans that don’t represent the broad use of Windows around the world. "Working on Windows is like ordering pizza for 1.5 billion people," admitted Windows program manager Chaitanya Sareen earlier this year. That analogy is particularly evident with these OneDrive changes.

Microsoft has always struggled to balance the various needs of Windows users, but it’s clear with Windows 10 that there’s an open two-way dialog about any changes that are being made. That’s the beauty of a preview system that allows Microsoft to learn from loyal Windows users and make relevant changes. During Microsoft’s Windows 8 development there was very clear unorganized feedback against a number of the mouse and keyboard changes, but it was largely ignored. Microsoft has now been forced to address that feedback directly with Windows 10, and it will be interesting to see how the company responds fully to the OneDrive backlash in the coming months of Windows 10 development.