Cloud storage services like Dropbox are great because they help you sync your files and folders across multiple devices. But a big problem is, when you want to view your Dropbox files and folders in Windows Explorer, you have to sync them. This means, in order to be able to view your Dropbox files and folders in Windows Explorer, you have to first download them.
Here is what usually happens when you use Dropbox:
- You install Dropbox
- You decide which folders to sync
- “Syncing” actually means all the files and folders are being downloaded to your local hard drive
- Once all the files and folders are downloaded, you can view them using the usual Windows Explorer
Although it is very easy to install Dropbox in another partition or even another drive, sometimes if you don’t have enough disk space, it can become problematic to view your Dropbox files and folders in Windows Explorer.
Again, here is a scenario that normally poses a problem:
- You sync a folder where there are maybe 10-15 files that you need to access regularly through your Windows Explorer
- But this folder also contains some very big files, maybe a few files of 10-15 GB that you want to preserve but don’t want to use yet – these files are also downloaded onto your local disk when you are syncing the particular folder
- This way, if you don’t have enough space, syncing your Dropbox files and folders in order to be able to view only a few files in Windows Explorer can become a big problem
The new “Project Infinite” from Dropbox can help you, according to this Dropbox blog post. This new feature in Dropbox allows you to see all your files and folders that you have stored in the cloud, within your Windows Explorer. These files and folders occupy no space on your local hard disk. These files and folders are downloaded only when you need them. Here is the video that explains how Project Infinite helps you view your Dropbox files and folders in Windows Explorer without downloading them:
So how do you know which files are locally available and which are stored in the cloud?
If you have been using Dropbox for a while, you must have noticed the green tick mark icon with every file icon if that particular file or folder has synced. It means the file is downloaded on your local drive.
With the new feature, the files that are downloaded on your local dive will have this green tick mark icon, but the files that haven’t been downloaded but you can still view them in your Windows Explorer will have a cloud mark icon. It means the file or folder is there in your Dropbox account but it hasn’t yet been downloaded to your local drive.
This way even if you have terabytes of data stored on Dropbox, in order to just have a glimpse of the files and folders you have saved over there, there is no need to download all the files. Now you can download and sync them as and when you need them. Within your Dropbox account you can also rearrange the files by dragging and dropping them, within your Windows Explorer, without first having to download them.
This selective syncing in Dropbox is available in almost all operating environments where you can install Dropbox including Windows 10 and Apple’s OS. I think this feature has always been there in mobile devices.