Google’s cloud storage system is a useful place to backup your files, but it can feel like a dumping ground. Here’s how to get the most out of it
In 2018, Google Drive hit a billion users – making it the eighth of Google’s products to have over one billion users. But out of all of them, how many can claim that they’ve never struggled to find a file stuck between holiday pictures uploaded in no particular order?
Here is a round-up of tips to make the most of Google’s beloved storage service, so that you never again lose precious time scrolling past unnamed documents and duplicates of monthly budgets.
Learn which files can go where and how
Google Drive is all about storing files. But which files? Well, it turns out, pretty much all of them – it’s just a matter of knowing how to. If you install Google’s Backup and Sync programme, for example, all files on your computer, as well as the changes you make to them, will automatically back up to your Drive. You can also download Save to Google Drive, an extension that will appear on your web browser and that will let you save anything you see online and which you deem worthy of interest to a Drive folder. And don’t forget that you can save time and avoid downloading Gmail attachments by uploading them directly to your Drive instead.
Drive can also be a faster option when sending files – and that will come in handy when your email attachments reach Gmail’s 25MB attachment limit. Using the Google Drive icon at the bottom of your email, you can insert up to 10 gigabytes worth of pictures and documents. Another option, if your document can be shown to the public, is to share it to the web by clicking “Public – on the web” as you get a shareable link. The file, which will be in your name, will be made available to search engines.
Let Google Drive do the hard work for you
Here’s some good news: Google can actually carry out some of the most time-consuming tasks that you don’t have time for. This includes pulling out text from images simply by uploading pictures or PDFs, and letting Google’s word scanner work its magic to transform it into searchable text.
It is also worth keeping in mind that you can translate your document using the Tools tab at the top. If you are using a Chrome browser, that’s also where you can switch on voice typing, which lets you rest your fingertips and dictate your text, while still being able to type edits when using the tool.
Make sure you can use documents even when you’re offline
You may have assumed until now that you needed Internet connectivity to access and change your files on Drive – which, if you’ve ever been on the Tube in London, can be problematic. If that is the case, it’s about time you downloaded the Google Docs Offline extension, available only on Chrome browsers, and which will let you select, through your Google Drive settings, the documents that you would like to access offline ahead of time.
Those will be the only files that you will be able to view and modify once you lose connectivity, so make sure that you select everything you’ll need to open. Your changes to the files will sync automatically with your Drive as soon as you get online again.
Know the shortcuts
If you have followed WIRED’s advice on how to use Trello like a boss, you’ll already know that shortcuts are the new mouse; and Google Drive, like most digital platforms, can be navigated a lot faster from your keyboard, if you know the right tricks. The best one has to be Drive’s keyboard shortcut for keyboard shortcuts: if you type Ctrl plus / anywhere in the platform, it will show you all the keyboard options available.
There is more though: now, you can also create a file without going through your Drive main page, but by inputting the correct shortcut name in your browser. Typing “Doc.new”, for instance, will directly open a new Google Doc. The same goes with “form.new”, “sheet.new”, “site.new” and “slides.new”.
Manage your storage
Your basic Drive account comes with 15 gigabytes of free storage – although you can pay to increase your allotment. But if you feel that your free space is shrinking unfairly fast, it is easy to check what is taking up most of it. On the left of your Google Drive homepage, you can click on the “i” button that appears when you place your cursor over the storage tab to view your files ranked from big to small – and start deleting. Remember that native files – that’s any file that you created in Google Drive, instead of importing it from a device – do not take any space. So you might want to prioritise creating your spreadsheets directly in Sheets.
A less well-known fact is that your Drive also has a trash folder, which you can empty to save space. This is also a useful thing to know if you are trying to recover a file that you deleted.
Make the most of add-ons
It looks like a scary jungle from the outside, but the add-on scene is definitely worth looking in to to make your Drive as efficient as possible when you are on a deadline. Among the plethora of options, Easybib automatically generates a bibliography for your work in various formats, while Pandadoc lets you e-sign documents in seconds – a lot faster than if you had to print, sign and scan your document again. You can also embed a Google Maps in your document by downloading Maps for Docs; or, using UberConference, you can share and edit files during a conference call. Make sure, however, that you don’t succumb to the counter-productive temptation of overcrowding your Drive with questionably useful add-ons.
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