If you use Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive to sync files on a Mac, note the release notes for the current macOS 12.3 beta: The update replaces a kernel extension used by both apps to download files on demand. The extension means that files are available when you need them, but won’t take up space on your drive if you don’t. Apple says that “both service providers have replacements for this functionality that are currently in beta.”
Both Microsoft and Dropbox started warning users about this change before the macOS beta even dropped. Dropbox’s page is relatively sparse. The page informs users that Dropbox’s file functionality will only work online in macOS 12.3 and that a beta version of the Dropbox client with a fix will be released in March.
Microsoft’s documentation for OneDrive’s Files On Demand feature is more detailed. It explains that Microsoft will use Apple’s file provider extensions for future OneDrive versions, that the new Files On Demand feature is enabled by default, and Files On Demand is supported in macOS 12.1 and later.
In addition to better integration with the Finder (also explained here by Microsoft), using modern Apple extensions should reduce the number of annoying permission requests that each app generates. The extensions should also reduce the chance that a buggy or compromised kernel extension can expose your data or damage your system. But the move will also make those apps a bit less flexible — Microsoft says the new version of Files On-Demand can’t be disabled. That can be confusing if you expect to have a full copy of your data on your drive, even when you’re offline.
This isn’t the only time Dropbox and OneDrive have fallen behind in supporting new macOS features. Both companies have only released Apple Silicon versions of their customers in recent months.
The betas for macOS 12.3 and iOS/iPadOS 15.4 add a handful of other notable features, following releases earlier this week that focused primarily on security improvements and bug fixes. The beta version of macOS 12.3 adds support for Universal Control, the feature that allows you to seamlessly use multiple Macs or iPads together. Universal Control was announced at WWDC in June 2021 and was briefly present in the first run of Monterey betas before being almost completely removed from final release. The iOS and iPadOS 15.4 betas add support for FaceID that can be unlocked by mask-wearing users without the need for Apple Watch. Two years after a pandemic, a bit late to add this feature, but late is better than never.