Microsoft overhauls OneDrive with new design, easier file views, and AI smarts

The next version of OneDrive will offer new ways to access and share your files, better integration with other Microsoft apps, and an AI-enabled copilot.
Written by Lance Whitney, Contributor
The new look and layout for Microsoft OneDrive
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Microsoft OneDrive is getting a refresh designed to make it easier for people to access, view, share, and manage their files. At an online event this week dubbed "Microsoft OneDrive: The Future of File Management is Here," the company unveiled plans for its online file storage service, some of which are already live for certain users and others that will start rolling out later this year or early next year.

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First on the list is the new visual look and layout for your OneDrive storage site. The screen will now offer a few different ways to access recent and frequently used files. A For You section at the top presents links to recommended files that Microsoft's AI thinks you'll want to view. Below that, a section for Recent displays links for recent files across categories such as Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and PDFs.

On the left pane, you can switch among all your files, only those shared with you, files set up as favorites, and deleted files still in the Recycle Bin. Below that are two new areas -- one for files shared with you by specific people and another for files shared as part of a virtual meeting. A Quick Access section also shows files that you've opened from shared OneDrive libraries.

You'll be able to change the default color for all your folders to better distinguish one from the others. You can create shortcuts to your most-used files for quicker access. And Microsoft promises that sharing files and copying links will involve fewer clicks than in the past.

The new look and layout for OneDrive is currently available for work and school accounts but not yet for personal OneDrive accounts.

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Beyond the overall refresh, other OneDrive features are designated as "coming soon."

Right now any changes you make on your PC to a Word, PowerPoint, or Excel file stored in OneDrive automatically get synced to OneDrive online. Microsoft is expanding that capability to all types of files. Make a change on your PC to a PDF or JPG file stored in OneDrive, for example, and that change will sync to the online version as soon as you save the file. This feature is expected to roll out globally by December.

Yet another feature due out by December is OneDrive access in Outlook. The new Outlook for Windows and the Outlook website will both feature a OneDrive app in the left pane, allowing you to more easily attach a file or copy a link from OneDrive into an email message.

The OneDrive updates continue in early 2024 with a Files On-Demand for the Web tool. Want to make specific OneDrive files available for offline access on your PC? You can do that now but only from your PC. The new Files On-Demand option will let you perform that task from your OneDrive website. Plus, any changes you make to OneDrive files via your browser when you're offline will automatically sync when you're back online.

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Finally, OneDrive is getting an infusion of AI via a copilot. Due out in December for people who have a Microsoft 365 Copilot license, the OneDrive Copilot will let you ask questions about your OneDrive files and get a summary of their content. You'll also be able to ask questions about multiple files in OneDrive, and the AI will combine the necessary summaries from all of them in one shot.

Further, the OneDrive Copilot will try to anticipate your needs by suggesting certain actions, such as saving related files in the same folder or as part of the same project. And if you share files from OneDrive with other people, the copilot can provide them with summaries of each file.

Beginning with OneDrive for the Web and the OneDrive mobile app, the new AI search features will roll out to consumers in a limited preview this month. The feature is expected to go into a wider public preview in early 2024.

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