Microsoft is updating OneDrive, its cloud storage service that competes with rivals such as Dropbox and iCloud, in a bid to make it a better photo management tool. Over the next few weeks, the company says it's introducing changes that will automatically import photos from external devices, allow users to categorize them in new albums with clear thumbmail images, and use an updated search function to find specific files and photos saved on the service.
OneDrive now offers 30 GB of space for free if you turn on camera backup
OneDrive users were already able to upload smartphone pictures straight to OneDrive using Microsoft's iOS, Android, and Windows Phone apps, but the updates mean that you'll be able to transfer files to the cloud service from cameras, USB sticks, and external hard drives linked to your computer. Once uploaded to OneDrive, users will be able to arrange and sort their pictures into new albums, which feature larger thumbnails than before and pictures that fill the entire screen when selected. In addition to the web interface, OneDrive users with iOS devices are able to sort their pictures into the new albums now, but Microsoft says Android owners and people using its own Windows Phone OS will need to wait a while longer.
Searching through those files will be easier, too. OneDrive will use Bing's search technology to let users look for Office files and PDFs by text contained inside, and photos based on location or the time they were taken. Each photo can also be tagged, either manually, or by OneDrive itself — Microsoft says, rather ominously, that the storage system will "automatically identify" tags for uploaded photos.
Microsoft has also extended the deal it announced last September, whereby users can increase the storage offered for free on OneDrive, from 15 GB to 30 GB, if they turn on automatic camera backup. That's a hefty increase — OneDrive's free 30 GB is far more than cloud competitors Dropbox and iCloud make available to non-paying users. Coupled with OneDrive's changes to the uploading, organization, and searching of files, Microsoft's cloud storage is becoming an easier and prettier system to use and manage, and an increasingly enticing option.