Despite the hordes of naysayers, the usage of Chromebooks continues to grow. Their increasing popularity is the driving force behind the on-going changes, updates, and improvements to the operating system. The latest area of the device to get a makeover is the “Files” app.
It’s now possible to easily integrate your OneDrive and Dropbox accounts directly into the app, allowing you to view your files without having to use the respective web-based clients.
We take a look how it’s done…
The Way It Was
The Chromebook’s filing system has never been the most full-featured affair.
Traditionally, it has been split into two pretty unimaginative and bland sections – “Google Drive” and “Downloads”. This was understandable – Google designed the device as primarily a web-based operating system and wanted you to use their cloud storage as your main memory space, even going as far to offer people who bought one of their laptops a mammoth 1 TB in free cloud space (an amount most people would never use).
That was all well and good – if you were a Google services lover. However, if you used Microsoft’s OneDrive or Dropbox as your primary cloud-based storage provider, it created unnecessary hassle.
There was no easy way to make your files show in the file menu; you could have tried using IFTTT or done a nifty two-way sync with Cloud HQ – but it wasn’t as easy as it should have been.
Thanks to the latest update, that’s all changed. OneDrive and Dropbox files can now be viewed, opened, edited, and uploaded directly in your Files app via the new “Add new services” feature.
Getting The All-New Files App
The setup process is simple and straightforward, but you need to know where to look.
Firstly, you need to make sure you’re running the latest version of the Chrome OS. Despite the on-going media storm around Windows 10 automatically downloading updates, Chromebooks have been doing this since their introduction.
To check which version you’re on, click on your profile picture in the bottom right hand corner, then choose Settings. In the new window, you’ll see an option called “About Chrome OS” in the top right hand corner. Click it, and make sure you’re running version 43.x or later.
If for any reason you don’t have the latest version, click on “Check for and apply updates” and follow the on-screen instructions.
Setting Up Your Services
To begin setting up OneDrive and Dropbox, open the Files app from the Launcher.
Once you’ve got the screen in front of you, you’ll see a new option in the left hand column called “Add New Services”. Click on it.
You will now be presented with all the currently-available services. At this stage, it’s important to make it clear that these are third-party plugins – they are not controlled nor designed by Google or Microsoft/Dropbox.
At the moment, most users will only see plugins for OneDrive, Dropbox, an SFTP server, a shared folder of a SMB/CIFS Windows server, a WebDav plugin, and a couple of other miscellaneous ones. Although some of these are great for accessing secure connections on your organisation’s servers, we would still expect this list to become more populated over time.
To install one of the services, simply click on “Install”. Hit “Add” on the next window that pops up, then on the final pop-up click “Mount”.
After a brief pause for installation, you’ll be presented with the logon screen for your chosen service. Enter your credentials, authorize the app to access your files, and you’re done.
Keep in mind, this service needs a web connection to access your files – they are not saved locally on your computer.
Remove the Service
If you decide you want to remove the service for any reason, the process is equally simple.
Firstly, click on the small eject icon next to the name of the service in your Files app. That will break the connection with the server, but will not delete it from your machine.
In order to delete the app completely, you do exactly the same thing as you do if removing a regular app. Head to your app tray, right click on the service, and select “Uninstall…”.
It is possible to find other cloud storage providers through the Chrome Web Store – all of whom are taking advantage of the new File System Provider API.
One such service is Box. Unlike Dropbox and OneDrive, the Box plugin is made by the company itself, so could arguably be more reliable and more secure.
You can find it with a simple search in the store. It’s still in beta at the moment, which probably explains why it’s not yet available directly from the previously mentioned “Add new services” list of apps.
The setup method is reasonably similar. Just install the app, navigate to it in your app tray, and enter your login details.
Will This Make You Use a Chromebook?
Were you a Chromebook hater in the past? Is this new service enough to make you reconsider your opinion?
If not, why not? What would Google need to do to convince you to invest in one of their machines?
We’d love to hear from you. You can let us know your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below.