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Microsoft Adding Photo Indexing to OneDrive Storage

Starting this month, subscribers of Microsoft's OneDrive cloud storage service will be able to access an intelligent search capability that will make it easier to find photos of receipts, whiteboards, drawings and signs.

Microsoft has begun the worldwide rollout of the new feature to Office 365 tenancies, the company announced on Tuesday.

The idea is that users just snap a photo and upload it to OneDrive using their device (Android, iOS or PC). The image then becomes searchable with a thumbnail view. Users can use search terms such as "screenshot, whiteboard, blackboard, business card, text and sign" to track down the images, according to the announcement. If the image has location information on it, that becomes part of the search index.

Microsoft is planning to enhance the OneDrive intelligent search capability to extract printed text from images, but that capability will arrive "later in the year." The team also is working to extract handwritten text, but didn't indicate when that capability would arrive.

Organizations with Office 365 tenancies won't be able to opt out from the new intelligent search capability for OneDrive when it arrives, the announcement indicated.

The intelligent search capability is specifically designed to be a business productivity perk to help users keep track of meetings or discussions that involve visual aids. The announcement referred to "OneDrive" throughout, which is Microsoft's consumer storage service. Typically, though, Office 365 plans provide access to the "OneDrive for Business" version of the service, which adds management capabilities for organizations (see Microsoft's explanation of the differences here). So, Microsoft's announcement likely pertains to Office 365 OneDrive for Business users.

Microsoft already has an application for Android and iPhones called "Office Lens" that can index words in photos, but apparently it's unrelated to the new intelligent search for OneDrive capability.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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