Popular cloud-storage startup Dropbox said today at the Dropbox Open London conference that it’s working to let you access your files through the Finder as you normally would, but without taking up storage space on a Mac until they’re actually needed—no matter how small your hard disk, no matter how much stuff’s in your Dropbox.
Code-named Project Infinite, the initiative will let you decide which files in your Dropbox will be instantly downloaded and which ones will be referenced.
Dropbox has long had a selective sync feature which makes it easy to cherry-pick Dropbox folders that’ll be synced via the Mac desktop client. However, selective sync makes any folders that are not marked for syncing unaccessible in the Finder.
That’s what Project Infinite will be for.
With Project Infinite, simply requesting a file will prompt the client to download full contents of the file to a Mac. After it’s been downloaded, a user can edit the file and perform common operations and Dropbox will instantly upload changes to the cloud.
As evidenced by the promotional video embedded below, Dropbox files that are referenced on a Mac have a tiny cloud icon next to them. The on-demand downloading will happen in the background and won’t require any additional effort on a user’s part.
You can see in the video that a massive ten-terabyte cloud file is taking up just 28 megabytes of data on a local machine. Of course, double-clicking the file to open it will prompt the desktop client to download the full file to the computer.
“You can quickly drill down through folders to find what you need, without the lag of a network drive or the inconvenience of a web app,” explained the company. “Plus, you can view key info like file size, and creation and modification dates through your desktop file system, no downloading required.”
There will also be an offline file access feature. With it, you’ll be permitted to select one or more files to save as local copies on your Mac’s disk so that you can access them without an Internet connection.
These upcoming features will be initially targeted at Dropbox Business users. Should they prove a commercial success with business users, Dropbox will consider bringing Project Infinite to consumer accounts.