First a look back into history: with version 2.5, the ownCloud client introduced the Virtual File System. Never before could ownCloud users have their files available that conveniently. Since version 2.5, there has been steady work on the Virtual File System, user experience, stability, bugfixes, performance.
Now, the ownCloud Desktop Client 2.6 brings the first new feature for Virtual File System Windows users: native integration with the Windows File Explorer.
Virtual Files on Windows 10
OneDrive already has Files on-Demand for a while, with certain behavior optimized for saving disk space while storing all necessary files locally. The behavior of the ownCloud client is now aligned with OneDrive as a tech preview – we have been working with the team at Microsoft to bring you this feature.
This means, you can now:
- Access your ownCloud files directly from the Windows File Explorer, without burdening the disk space on your PC
- Select files and folders you want to keep on your PC permanently
- Free up disk space with two clicks – while the files are still available in the cloud
- Share files with a simple right click in the File Explorer. Changes you make locally will be synced to other collaborators
This is possible because of two specific improvements:
Temporary vs. Permanent Downloads
This means that you can select whether you want to save disk space or network bandwidth. If you ask for a temporary download policy, you download files as usual in the Virtual File System. Only if your disk space is low, Windows will clean them up.
If you want to save network bandwidth instead and don’t want that Windows cleans up the files, you can choose the permanent download policy. This way, your files stay on your hard disk even if you run out of disk space.
Native Windows File Explorer Integration
Apart from this permanent/temporary distinction, you can now better see in the Windows File Explorer whether a file is physically available or virtual. This is because the client uses native File Explorer APIs now, which were designed for OneDrive.
Also some right-click actions have a user interface consistent with OneDrive now. This way, you don’t have to get used to a new software when migrating from OneDrive.
Both these improvements need the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update 1709, so you might need to install the latest Windows updates to benefit from these features.
Switch to Virtual File System
You want to make use of these improvements, but your account is still using a traditional folder connection? Don’t worry, you can convert your folder sync connection to virtual files easily:
Rewritten File Discovery Algorithm
There is a lot of candy for Windows users in this release, but not only: also the Linux and MacOS users get a piece of the cake. One example is the rewritten File Discovery Algorithm.
The ownCloud Desktop Client regularly synchronizes your local files with the server – with each sync, the file/folder structure on Server and Client need to be discovered and compared. The algorithm responsible for non-virtual folder sync connections was long due for a rewrite – the result is part of this release.
Olivier started this team effort to achieve more performance; the file discovery before syncing is faster now, because discovery on your device, on the server, and the merge of both structures, happen in parallel now.
It is also a lot softer on the RAM – before these improvements, having complex folder structures and many files could mean hundreds of megabytes of occupied RAM during synchronization.
You can expect more improvements on this in 2.7: the download/upload could already start while the folder scan is still running.
Faster Connections Through HTTP/2 Support
And there are even more performance improvements in the 2.6 release: with this version, the connections of the Desktop Client will be faster. That’s because the Client supports the HTTP/2 standard for its connections now, which is more performant than HTTP/1.1.
This is good news, but not only for the ownCloud Client: we contributed our patches upstream to Qt, to fix it for everyone else, too.
SAML Support Removed
A change which is important for admins of the ownCloud Enterprise edition: the 2.6 Client doesn’t support authentication with SAML identity providers like Shibboleth anymore. It is dropped in favor of OAuth2.
In case you need help with migrating from SAML, please contact the ownCloud support.
Apart from these changes, there are over 50 small changes and bugfixes. We can’t talk about every single one of them, of course – only that the technology is getting more mature with each release.
So make sure your client is upgraded to version 2.6! The auto-updater will take care of that for you. If you don’t have the Desktop Client installed yet – try it out! Nothing is more convenient if you want to work on your files: Get the Desktop Client now!
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