Google’s online storage service is a stellar file repository and syncing tool to begin with, but with these top tips, you’ll be amazed to find out what it can do for you.
Google Drive offers comprehensive online file storage and synchronization, similar to services like Dropbox and Microsoft’s OneDrive. The good news is if you have an account with Google, it comes with 15GB of free storage and you can begin using it instantly.
But Drive is a lot more than that. It’s also the central hub for Google’s full online office suite, which includes Docs, Sheets, and Slides—Google’s online word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation tools. And if you have a business paid account or have access through work, that same suite combo, with a few extras, is called Google Workspace. Both utilize Google Drive as the central repository for your office files.
Where you may find Google Drive lacking, though, is in that 15GB, which can fill up fast because a number of other services share that space, including Google Photos and Gmail. (Google stopped offering unlimited Photos and Drive storage last year.) You can upgrade by subscribing to Google One, which upgrades your cloud storage to 100GB for $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year, and also throws in some other extras such as a VPN.
So those are the basics of Google Drive, but what you need are the secrets—the tips and tricks that will drive your use of Drive to another level.
1. Shortcuts for Simple Access
A shortcut in Windows looks like a file, say on your desktop, that when clicked, opens a file that’s actually stored elsewhere. Google Drive now supports shortcuts, sort of. If you have an item and want to store it in more than one Drive folder, then you’re creating a shortcut so there’s no duplication. You can rename, move, or even delete a shortcut—it doesn’t impact the original. If you do have duplicate files in Google Drive, don’t worry about fixing this yourself. Google is planning to do it for you(Opens in a new window), starting sometime this year. In the meantime, to create a shortcut:
- In your browser, go to Google Drive(Opens in a new window).
- Right-click the file or folder where you want to create the shortcut.
- Click Add shortcut to Drive.
- Select the location where you want to place the shortcut.
- Click Add shortcut.
2. Move Files Via Cut and Paste
You can drag files around in the Google Drive interface on your browser, but sometimes you want to avoid using the mouse as you go from folder to folder. In that case, you can use keyboard shortcuts to cut (Ctrl+X) or copy (Ctrl+C) a stored file, navigate to where you want it, and press Ctrl+V to paste it, the same as you would in the macOS Finder or Windows Explorer. You’ll need a Chromium browser (Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge) to make it work.
3. Get a Quick Link
If you want to link directly to a file in Google Drive, select it and hit Ctrl+C to copy. Then go to your document or email or whatever, and hit Ctrl+V to paste in the document name with a full link to it included, or Ctrl+Shift+V to paste only the URL.
4. Install Drive on the Desktop
Google Drive syncs across devices, so you can start a project on the PC and pick it up on your phone, tablet, or home laptop. Plus, it works with any kind of document, not just native Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Install Drive for Desktop(Opens in a new window) on your PC to automatically back up files from your computer (you pick the folders) to Google Drive or even to Google Photos. You can then access those files easily using the mobile Google Drive apps for iOS and Android. (Just be mindful of that 15GB data limit for free accounts if you’re backing up everything.)
5. Added File Types to the Bookmark Bar
If you want to quickly create a new doc, spreadsheet, presentation, or drawing to add to Drive, add the following links to your browser’s bookmark bar manually (visit chrome://bookmarks in the Chrome browser to edit).
- http://doc.new(Opens in a new window) (Opens in a new window)—new Google Doc
- http://sheets.new(Opens in a new window) (Opens in a new window)—new Google Sheet
- http://deck.new(Opens in a new window) (Opens in a new window)—new Google Slide
- http://site.new(Opens in a new window) (Opens in a new window)—new Google Site
- http://form.new(Opens in a new window) (Opens in a new window)—new Google Form
6. Drag and Drop Into Drive
Google Drive has a big “New” button in the interface for creating new files. It’s also how you upload a file or folder. Skip that part and drag files from Windows Explorer or the macOS Finder right into Google Drive’s list. At the bottom of the browser screen, you’ll see a cloud with an up arrow to indicate you can let go of the file you’re dragging. Better yet, mouse over the name of one of your Drive folders to drop it instantly to a folder.
7. Access Drive Files Offline
You typically access files stored on Google Drive when your browser or device is connected to the internet. But for those times when Wi-Fi is not available, Google Drive supports offline access.
First, install the Google Docs Offline(Opens in a new window) Chrome extension (this only works in Chromium-based browsers like Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge), then go to Google Drive settings(Opens in a new window). Check the box next to Create, open and edit your recent Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides files on this device while offline. That activates the option, but you’ll have to select which files you want to access offline. Navigate back to drive.google.com(Opens in a new window), right-click on the doc(s) you want (press Shift/Ctrl or Command to select multiple files), and toggle Available offline to on.
8. Use Offline Files While Mobile
If you want to work with a Google Drive file on your smartphone or tablet but don’t have internet access, set up the file to be available offline ahead of time. Click the three-dot menu next to each file name and click Make available offline. Next time you go online, any changes you’ve made will sync again with Google Drive. To undo it, return to the menu and select Remove offline access.
9. Save Anything You Find to Google Drive
Note-taking services such as Evernote, OneNote, or Pocket can serve as online repositories for all your digital stuff. Use Google Drive in a similar fashion with a Google Chrome extension called Save to Google Drive(Opens in a new window), which makes it a breeze to save almost anything you see online to a folder on Drive. There are some caveats, though. You can’t really save just the good text parts of a page—you can only save a view of it as a PNG file, the entire HTML source code, or as a Google Doc (which will throw off the formatting). Right-click an image and you can save just that. For serious info saving, stick with the services mentioned above.
10. Bypass the Gmail Attachment Limit Using Drive
If you use Gmail and Google Drive, you’re in luck: You never need to attach a document ever again. Just send a link. That means you’ll never run into that 25MB attachment limit—instead, send up to 10 Gigabytes worth of files.
The file or files have to be uploaded to Google Drive storage first. Insert the link into a Gmail message with a click of the Google Drive icon at the bottom of the Compose email screen—it opens the Insert files using Google Drive dialog box. If the files are on your hard drive, drag and drop them using the Upload tab. If you try to attach (not link) any single file over 25MB, Google will automatically upload it to Google Drive anyway and send a link in the message.
11. Convert All Drive Uploads to Work With Docs
If you want every item you upload on the desktop—even PDFs—to convert to text you can edit as a Google Doc, go to Google Drive (not Docs) on the desktop, click the gear icon up top, and select Settings. In the pop-up box, check the box next to Convert Uploads. File uploads may take a little longer, but it’s worth it. You’ll end up with a Google Doc that has the image inserted, with editable text below.
12. Upload Pics to Search Text
One unique feature of the Google Drive mobile app (not in the separate Docs and Sheets apps) is the ability to upload a picture. Why would you do that? The words in the image are scanned by Google and become searchable text. It’s great for taking a picture of a recipe, menu, store hours—anything you’d need to find later, but don’t want to retype. Click the big plus icon and then either Upload or Use Camera to do so. (Note: The iOS app doesn’t make the text editable with OCR—that only works from the desktop or from Android.)
13. Reveal All Keyboard Shortcuts
Embrace keyboard shortcuts and you’ll be a Google Drive god. Except what are they and how do you find them? No matter what Drive app you’re in, even on the main Google Drive page, type Ctrl+/, and the shortcut menu will reveal every keyboard option available.
14. Check All the Search Options
Looking for a specific file or doc in Google Drive? Google’s got the search stuff down, so it’s usually easy. To do an advanced search, open the options in the search bar via the icon that looks like parallel lines with sliders on them. From there, search on the file type; the owner; whether it’s starred, trashed, or encrypted; when it was last modified; who it’s shared with; and more. Better yet, use Natural Language Processing when you search Drive, which lets you skip the esoteric search operators and type something like “find my sales meeting minutes from last July.”
15. Color Code Your Organizational Files
It helps to keep folders in order, but sometimes you just want your eye drawn to the most used folders by, say, a color choice. Google Drive offers a rainbow of choices. Right-click any folder and select Change Color to get the menu.
16. Get Google Drive Apps
Not to be confused with Doc/Sheet/Slide Add-ons, there are also a number of Google Drive apps—entirely web-based applications you can link to your Google Drive. There’s some overlap with add-ons—you probably don’t need the HelloFax app and add-on. But the apps, found in the Chrome Web Store(Opens in a new window), make it easy to do some extra editing elsewhere.
17. Quick Search Drive From the Omnibox
The Omnibox is what Google calls the URL/search box at the top of the Chrome browser, since it can take you to a URL and can search a number of places. One of those places is Google Drive.
Right-click in the box and select Manage search engines and site search. Scroll down and look under Inactive Shortcuts for Google Drive (you may have to click on Additional inactive sites). If you don’t see it, go to Site Search and click the Add button. For search engine, enter “Google Drive” and under Shortcut type “drive” (both without the quotes) and finally put https://drive.google.com/drive/search?q=%s in the slot for URL with %s in place of the query. Next time you want to search Google Drive, type “drive” into the Omnibox followed by the search criteria for what you want.
18. Block the Drive Spam
Spam isn’t only a problem in email, thanks to the close ties between Gmail and Google Drive. A spammer could easily send you a link to a Google Drive file to click on, or just share a file directly from Google Docs, Slides, or Sheets to give you access—it’ll show up in your Google Drive automatically.
In Drive, go to the Shared With Me view and look for any files or even entire folders you know don’t belong. Right-click and select Block. There will be an email address associated with it; that’s who you’re truly blocking. (If you mess up and block the wrong person, go to the Blocklist in the People and Sharing section(Opens in a new window) of your Google account to unblock them.)
Cover photo: https://www.businessinsider.com/