Recently I moved over from Dropbox to Google Drive and found a few unexpected benefits. At first, I had a little trouble managing the space since the 1TB on my Google Drive was bigger than my HDD, but after I got that sorted I started to learn some of the deeper features of Google Drive, some of which are pretty cool. Below is a list of the top tips and tricks I have learned from playing with Google Drive over the last few months.
Before we start, I wanted to offer you a bonus upgrade of 25 Gmail tips you can use to get super-fast at reducing your inbox to zero.
Just click the button below to access your Gmail tips.
Done that? Now, let’s get onto the Google Drive tips.
Work Well with Others
Google drive got it’s early breaks in the market by being far superior at collaborating with others than any other tool out there. This still holds true today. You can have a ton of people working on a document simultaneously and the experience is smooth. Doesn’t matter what device they’re on, you can always see exactly what everyone is doing in real time. Plus see a clear history of activity so you can easily tell who was responsible for deleting that cell. Currently, documents are capped to 200 collaborators with only 50 being allowed on a document at any one time, but for 99% of the users, this is more than sufficient.
Publicly Share Documents
Not only can you share and collaborate with people you invite, but you can also make documents public. You can make them public to view or edit so that anonymous users can edit your documents. I have seen some cool examples of public documents being used, like Pieter Levels who used it to source the initial list for Nomads List.
Control Access Levels for Security
Just because you want to share and work with others, doesn’t mean you necessarily want people messing with yo sh*t. Because of that, Google has graciously given us the ability to control permissions on documents. There are four levels of permissions to choose from including Owners, Editors, Commentators, and Viewers.
Chat While Collaborating
To give collaboration a further kick, you can even have conversations around particular documents and spreadsheets. Just click the speech bubble icon on the top right to start a chat. Anyone who is working on the spreadsheet can participate in the chat, a great place to keep document-centric discussions.
Search by Person
When you are a heavy Google Drive user, you can have a bunch of incoming documents being shared with you. Sometimes it’s hard to remember exactly what the name of the document was. Don’t worry, there is a solution for this too. First, you can check out the “Shared with me” folder for a list of documents that have been shared with you… If that list is too long, just do a search for the person’s name or email and it will bring up a list of all the documents you are working on
Enhance your Experience with Add-Ons
If you’re looking for a functionality boost to your documents, take a look at the add-ons. There is a huge range of addons to try for both docs and sheets. Check out Avery Lable Merge, EasyBib, MailMerge by Mailchimp and Gliffy to start with.
Don’t forget the Apps
There is also a whole directory of Apps that work directly with Google Drive. Actually, we are planning to build one for Process Street so you can view your Process Street templates straight from Google Drive. Try Cloudconvert for converting files and DocuSign for signing documents. Google Drive Apps are not to be confused with Google Apps (actually now called Google Work) the Office Collaboration suite.
Use Drag and Drop to Upload
Google Drive has a big red upload button on the interface, right next to the “Create” button for making new files. However, you don’t have to go through the steps of clicking it and finding a file or folder to upload. You can drag and drop files from Windows Explorer or the MacOS Finder right into Google Drive and they’ll auto-upload.
Use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to Turn Images/PDFs into Text
I just found out about this one recently. One of my favorite aspects of Evernote is its ability to do OCR on images and PDFs then make them searchable. Looks like Google is headed in this direction too allowing you to OCR your images and PDFs. I haven’t played around with this too much but from what I read, it makes them searchable and editable (the PDFs at least).
Use Mobile App to Scan and OCR
This is also heading into Evernote’s space. Use the Google Drive app to take pictures of documents, signs, business cards etc and have the OCR scan them and make them searchable. Again I use Evernote for this already and haven’t tested it yet but if you are not using Evernote could be worth checking out.
Use Bookmark Links for Quick Creation
To add a quick create shortcut to your bookmark bar, simply drag the below links into your bookmarks bar:
Use Drive on your Desktop like Dropbox
This may not be big news anymore but some people don’t realize that you can actually use Drive the same way as Dropbox. Actually, I just moved all my files over from Dropbox to Drive. The pricing is about the same but you can consolidate all your documents, spreadsheets and files into one place, plus Google has a much wider range of features than Dropbox. If you are looking for a file syncing or backup solution it’s definitely worth looking at Google Drive.
Use Offline Mode to Access your Documents on the Go
Not only can you access your files offline using the Dropbox-esq desktop app, you can also allow offline access through your Chrome Browser.
Clip Web Pages to Drive like Evernote
I love Evernote and use it daily as my infinite shoe-box. But if you have not got on the Evernote train yet or you just like the idea of everything being in the same place, you can use the Chrome Extension called Save to Google Drive that acts kind of like a sub-standard Evernote Web Clipper, allowing you to save pages and articles directly to Drive. You can’t just copy out the text part however, it will save the whole site as PNG, the HTML source code or transform it to a Google doc, killing the formatting. Not very useful if you already use Evernote but still an option.
Easy Integration with Gmail
Another huge reason to switch to Google Drive is if you are heavy Gmail user. The first big benefit is when attaching files. You can add files directly from drive without needing to wait for them to upload, plus you can send MUCH larger files, try 10GB instead of the standard 25mb. If you are trying to get away from email, you might want to check our post on email alternatives.
Search Drive Directly from Gmail
I also mentioned this one in my earlier post, but you can use the search bar in Gmail to search through Drive. Something you would expect from the world’s leader in search.
Dedicated Mobile Apps for Editing
Another cool and recent addition to the Google Drive feature list is standalone apps for Docs and Spreadsheets. This is great if, for example, you spend a lot of time on Spreadsheets and want a dedicated, fast app specifically for editing and managing them. They work great on iPhone and I assume they work well on Android too but haven’t tested them.
Auto Convert to Google Docs Format
I have a love-hate relationship with this feature. You can upload MS Word and Excel documents to Drive and it will give you the option to auto-convert them into the Google Docs format. While converting the document makes it easier to collaborate around and edit from your mobile, Google Docs and Spreadsheets still don’t have the depth of features and customization the MS Office desktop apps have. So this can cause you to lose formatting on your documents. One of my biggest pet peeves from this is that you lose the color on cells in excel.
View Any Document Straight from the Browser
Google Drive continues to impress me with it ability to open almost any format file in the browser. The other day it opened an Adobe Illustrator file for me to view straight in the browser. Basically any type of document, image, spreadsheet, pdf, video, audio file etc… I don’t know the full list but I can’t remember a time I have had a file not open in Drive. If you are
Use Forms to Collect Data
There are a bunch of form builders out there, but Google is completely free with Google Drive for unlimited use. Plus it integrates very nicely with spreadsheets. Each form entry can be added as a row in a spreadsheet and you can then pull that data into other tabs/sheets and manipulate it automatically. Pretty cool.
Make Pretty Pictures in Drive
If you want a quick and easy way to add images to your documents, try the built in Drawing tool. Go to the Insert menu in Docs, Sheets, or Slides and select Drawing. You’ll get a scaled back version of the Drawing app that makes it a breeze to include your art. It’s no Photoshop but it will work just fine for the basics.
Double Full Screen?
Click on the view menu then select the Full-Screen option. This will remove the apps toolbar and options giving you a clean writing screen. Go into “Double Full-Screen Mode” by hitting F11 to take your browser full screen.
Make Research a Breeze with the Research Pane
Use the research pane (in Docs only) to do a Google search from inside the document screen saving you from navigating to a different page and getting distracted by all that click bait. Pull info from the search and have Google create an auto footnote citation in your document. To access press Hit Ctrl+Alt+Shift+I.
Auto-Generate your Table of Contents
You can use this feature to auto create your TOC. You must format your headings correctly however for this to work. Check these instructions for a guide on formatting your documents correctly for this purpose.
View Every Single Keyboard Shortcut
If you want to become a power user of any piece of software you have to master the keyboard shortcuts. To really become a Google Drive ninja, learn the keyboard shortcuts. Access a list of all the shortcuts by hitting Ctrl+/.
Bonus Tip #1: Use Google Photos for Unlimited Photo Storage
That’s right! Store your photos on Google Photos (instead of directly on Google Drive) and they won’t take up any Drive space. Not bad, eh? There is one catch, but it probably won’t bother 90% of people:
The photos have to be under 16MP. That means you can’t upload 4608×3456 originals from your DSLR, but you can still store super-high quality images there for free without eating Drive space.
Bonus Tip #2: Use Insync to Manage Multiple Accounts
In their words, Insync is the most powerful Google Drive client ever built. What that means for you, is that you can manage multiple Google Drive accounts from one app because Insync pulls data in from all connected accounts no matter where they are.
As well as that, it automatically converts Google Docs / Sheets / Slides files to their Microsoft Office counterparts, automating a lot of busy work you could end up wasting time on.
Bonus: Get a list of 25 Gmail tips!
And that’s it for my list of Google Drive tips, if you know any I missed out please leave them in the comments.