Google offers so much more than just the world’s premier search engine and email, and I’m making it my personal mission to introduce you to some of its best services. First we looked at Google Alerts. Then we examined Google Analytics, and Part 3 was about Google Trends. This fourth installment in the series will explain Google Drive and all it can do.
You’ve heard of Dropbox, and maybe even Microsoft’s OneDrive. Google Drive is similar to those services, but goes above and beyond both of them.
At their most basic, all three are cloud storage solutions, meaning you can upload files to your account, and those files are then available to you wherever you have internet access. Cloud storage is incredibly useful, and it’s changing the way we save and store files of all sorts. These three - the big players in cloud storage - all offer free and premium accounts. Dropbox gives 2GB with its free account. OneDrive offers 7GB with its free version. Google Drive has them both beat, offering a generous 15GB (shared across your Gmail, Drive, and Google+ pictures accounts). But it’s what you can do with that 15GB that truly sets Google Drive apart.
Google Drive: The Basics
OK. So Google Drive is basically a cloud storage system that offers 15GB with its free version (all you need is a Google account). But what makes it special?
Upgrade Your Storage
15GB is a decent allotment for most people, especially considering that ANY document, spreadsheet, or presentation (more on that later) created within it does not count towards that limit, and most pictures (except for very large ones) are also stored outside of that amount.
If you want more than the 15GB provided for free, Google offers several pay upgrades, available by clicking on Manage at the bottom of the left-hand side on its main page. Here are your options:
- Free - 15 GB
- $1.99/month - 100 GB
- $9.99/month - 1 TB (1000 GB)
- $99.99/month - 100 TB
- $199.99/month - 200 TB
15 GB is likely way more than the average user needs, but the 100 GB upgrade is appealing because of the large allotment and incredibly low price. You can’t beat it. For $2/month you get nearly seven times the storage. By comparison, the cheapest upgrade offered by Dropbox is $9.99/month for the same 100 GB. Score one for Drive!
Install and Sync Across All Your Computers and Devices
Google Drive is available online for Windows and Mac computers, and iOS and Android mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). Once installed, you have instant access to everything stored in your account, wherever you happen to be. You can open, view, watch, and even edit. Use it to save documents, slideshows, spreadsheets, photos, videos...virtually anything. All safely and securely saved on Google’s servers.
Google Drive creates a main folder on your computer. Anything you drag or copy into it will be automatically uploaded and synced with every other device. You never have to worry about remembering to upload an important file so long as you keep it in your Drive folder. Create and edit something at home and the most recent version is there waiting for you when you log in at work the next morning.
Even better, you will never again accidentally close something without saving. Google Drive automatically saves and updates your file every time you make even the smallest change. Presto.
Google Drive: Productivity Suite
The days of Microsoft Office Suite dominating the planet are gone. Not only are there many alternatives out there, but most of them are just as good, if not better, and many are free to use.
Google Drive can be used as cloud storage and nothing more; but it is its strength as a productivity suite that make it the new indispensable professional tool. The fact that it is free and available everywhere with no need to install it on your computer gives it a huge amount of power.
Once logged in to your account, you can see and organize your files as you would on your computer using folders.
But you can also create. Google Drive replaces the need for a third-party office suite by providing built-in document (like Microsoft Word), spreadsheet (like Microsoft Excel), and presentation (like Microsoft PowerPoint) functionality. Simply click CREATE on the left-hand side and choose the type of file you want to make. Create, edit, revise...and everything is synced and saved on all your devices. Anything you can do with (the pricey) Microsoft Office Suite, you can do with Google Drive.
Collaborate With Others
Because everything is saved online (and not as a file on any one particular device), you can share any file with someone via email, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. They can view, comment, highlight, and even edit (provided you grant that permission), making real time and instant collaboration with colleagues not only possible, but convenient and fast. You’ll find the blue SHARE button at the top right-hand side of the page.
Sometimes, after making a few changes, you realize that something was better before, or that the middle slide or paragraph you deleted yesterday is suddenly needed once again. Google Drive has you covered.
Under the File menu at the top left, you’ll find See Revision History. Click it, and a list of older versions appears at the right. Find the file with the appropriate time code, open it and you’re instantly presented with the file as it looked at that time.
Because it’s part of the Googleverse, you have the full force of Google and its search engine at your fingertips. You can actually search the web - conducting research and checking facts - without having to leave Drive. Simply go to Tools at the top, and select Research. A research panel appears at the right of the page, complete with an entry field at the top, allowing you to use Google’s search engine right there. Websites, definitions, blogs, images, videos...whatever you need.
Multiple File Formats
Despite its shortcomings, much of the world is still reliant on Microsoft’s office files. Microsoft Word is (sadly) still the most widely used document file format. But not using Word to create your document doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with your Word colleagues. Google Drive allows you to download and email your files in many different formats, including Microsoft Office and PDFs.
Simply go to File, and then select Download As to be presented with a list of options. Select, save, and send.
The newest of the bells and whistles is Add-ons. You’ll find it along the top menu. Once you select it, you’ll be presented with a dizzying array of third-party upgrades and tools that can added to your Drive programs. Add a thesaurus, or mind-mapping capabilities, or various ready-made templates. Add-ons allow you to truly personalize Drive to your needs and requirements.
And there’s more. So much more, but this is just meant to whet your appetite. Check out the detailed guides in the Google Drive Help forum if you want to learn more.