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What can you do with Google Drive?

Working with files in the cloud is a little bit different from what you may be used to, but it is much more convenient. You can edit your files from anywhere and you can share and collaborate on files with other people. Importantly, your files in the cloud are safe if there is ever a problem with your hard drive. Here are some examples to give you an idea of the things you can do with Google Drive:

  • Create a presentation: Let’s say you need to make a presentation. You create a new Google Slides presentation in Google Drive, get a rough draft of the slides in a reasonable shape, and share it with your co-worker. (With Google Drive, there is no need to e-mail versions of files around.) Your co-worker makes a few comments on your slides, and you make the recommended changes. Once you’ve given the presentation, you share it publicly so everyone has access to the slides afterwards.

  • Write a report as a group project: Your teacher or boss has tasked you with creating a report for a work or school project. The data is collected in a Google Sheets spreadsheet, with each person in the team adding their own data. They can even enter data using their phone or tablet, and with Google Drive, everyone can edit the spreadsheet at the same time—there is only one copy of the spreadsheet to keep up to date. Next, the entire team collaborates on the report, using Google Docs, with each person writing a section. And when you’re done, you can convert it to a PDF file and share it with your boss or teacher for their review.

  • Work with Microsoft Office documents: Let’s say a company that you work with uses Microsoft Office, and sends you a Microsoft Word document. You upload the document to a shared folder on Google Drive, where you and a co-worker review it and make a few changes to the shared copy. When done, you e-mail the revised version back to the person who sent it to you as an attachment, all directly from Google Drive.

  • Upload and share vacation videos: You just got back from vacation, and are eager to share videos of you learning to ski with your family. The videos are too large to e-mail. So instead you upload the videos from your camera’s memory card into a new folder in Google Drive, and then share that folder with a few of your family members. They get an e-mail notification, click on the link in the folder, and are able to enjoy the moment when you got up on two skis for the first time. They can view the videos and photos right on their phone or tablet.

  • Keep a backup of your important files: You have several years of irreplaceable family photos, school projects, and home business records stored on your computer’s hard drive. Because hard drives can fail, you want to back these files up. So you download and install the Google Drive sync program, which then automatically uploads and syncs files and folders of your choice to the cloud. If something ever happens to your computer, your cloud backup is there for you in Google Drive.

As you can see, with Google Drive, you aren’t limited to just built-in document types (such as Google documents, spreadsheets, and presentations). You can open, view, share, and comment on almost every type of file such as PDFs, Microsoft Office files, photos, and videos. And with third-party add-on programs, you can go beyond viewing and actually edit special types of files such as Microsoft Office documents, all online from any web browser, phone, or tablet computer.

First steps for using Google Drive

Getting started with Google Drive is easy and free. All you need is a Google account and an Internet connection. You may already have a Google account (for example, an e-mail address ending in gmail.com), and if not, creating one is easy. Note that you can use any e-mail address, not just those ending with gmail.com for your Google account.

To get started, simply visit Google Drive on the Web with your web browser at https://drive.google.com/.From there, you can log in with your existing Google account or create a new one.

You don’t have to make the switch to the cloud all at once. You can start using Google Drive for creating new documents here and there, or you can upload files one at a time as you need them in the cloud. Alternatively, download the sync program to automatically keep large amounts of folders and files in sync between your computer and Google Drive. Whether a little or a lot, it’s up to you how much you use Google Drive.

Using Google Drive on your phone or tablet

You can access your files on the go from your mobile device using the Google Drive app for Android (phone and tablet) or for iOS (iPhone and iPad). Using these free apps, you can download, view, and even edit your files right on your device. You can even upload photos you take with your phone right into Google Drive. All the other features you’re used to using on the Web work just as you’d expect on your phone or tablet including searching, sorting, sharing, and organizing.

Installing the Google Drive app for Android

The Google Drive app for Android is available for free from the Google Play Store, and it supports both phones and tablets.

To install the app, visit the Google Play Store by tapping the Play Store icon on your Android device. Find the application called Google Drive (you can search for it), and then install the app. Note you can also install the app by visiting Google’s Play Store on the Web at https://play.google.com.Once installed, launch the app by tapping the Google Drive app icon in your device’s apps screen.

Installing the Google Drive App for iPhone or iPad

The Google Drive app for iPhone and iPad is available for free from Apple’s App Store, and it supports both phones and tablets.

To install the app, visit the App Store by taping on the App Store icon on your iPhone or iPad. Find the application called Google Drive (you can search for it), and then install the app. Once installed, launch the app by tapping on the Google Drive app icon in your device’s apps screen.

Using the Mobile App

For Android, iPhone, and iPad, the various flavors of the mobile Google Drive app all have the same basic functionality and work in similar ways. In fact, you’ll recognize many of the basic user interface pieces from earlier in this book.

Navigation panel

This corresponds to the Navigation panel on Google Drive for the Web, and functions in the exact same way. Tapping an item in this panel will update the files shown in the Files list on your mobile device.

The labels correspond to those found in the Navigation panel on Google Drive for the Web:

  • My Drive is where all files that you’ve created appear. Note that, unlike on the Web, your hierarchy of folders is not shown; instead, folders will be shown in the Files list and you can “drill down” into them as needed.

  • Shared with me is where all files that other people have shared with you appear. Clicking on this will filter your Files list to only those items.

  • Starred will show only those files that you have previously starred.

  • Recent shows a list of files sorted by modification date; use this to quickly find files that have most recently been created or edited by you or someone else.

  • Offline will show a list of files that are available for viewing offline, that is, while not connected to the Internet. Files can be marked to be kept offline in the Preview panel, discussed later.

Files list

The Files list appears when you tap on any of the items in the Navigation panel; for tablet devices that have a larger screen, the list will simply always be present to the right-hand side of the Navigation panel. In this example, we are in the Family folder.

For each file in this list, you can:

  • See the file’s title, icon, and the date that the file was last modified.

  • Tap on the star to toggle whether the file is starred.

  • Tap on the arrow on the right-hand side to get additional details about the file via the Preview panel.

  • Tap on a file to open it. Google types can be previewed and even edited on the device. If you have an app installed on your device that can open the file, such as a PDF viewer or image editor, you’ll have the opportunity to use that app to view the file.

Preview panel

The Preview panel shows a visual preview and additional details about the file, and also permits you to take additional actions on the file.

From the Preview panel, you can:

  • See the icon and title of the file

  • See a thumbnail (small image) preview of the file

  • Open the file by tapping on the Open button or the file thumbnail

  • See with whom a file is shared and their level of access (view or edit)

  • Share the file with other people

  • Mark the file as Available offline which means it will be copied onto your device and is viewable on the device even when you don’t have an Internet connection

  • Return to the Files list by closing the Preview panel

Actions menu

The Actions menu lets you perform certain operations on the selected file. It is very similar to the Context menu that appears in Google Drive for the Web. To pop open the Actions menu in Android, long-press (tap-and-hold) a file in the Files list. For iPhone/iPad, click on the “Actions” icon in the upper-right corner of the Preview panel.

Here are some of the things you can do in the Actions menu:

  • Share the file with one or more people

  • Rename the file

  • Move the file to a different folder in Google Drive

  • Remove the file, placing it in the Trash

  • Print the file to any printer using Google Cloud Print

  • Send the file via e-mail

Depending on the application version, certain other advanced options, such as printing, may be supported.

Create menu

The Create menu (or Add menu on iPhone/iPad) lets you create new items in Google Drive directly from your phone. This menu appears by clicking on the menu icon in the toolbar and selecting New, or by clicking on the + icon in the toolbar on iPhone/iPad.

From the Create menu, you can create a new Google Docs document, a new folder, or you can upload a photo or video from your phone directly into Google Drive.

Searching for files

Just like with Google Drive on the Web, you can quickly search all of your files in Google Drive. On Android, click on the search icon in the toolbar which will display the search box (this is always visible on iPhone/iPad), and type in your query. Files matching your search will appear in the Files list. From here, you can work with a matching search result like any other file: open, preview, star, share, and more.

Access your files and create new ones, wherever you are!

You can see that the mobile experience for Google Drive is robust and full-featured. With the Google Drive mobile app, you can do the majority of the same things you can with a web browser on your desktop—viewing, editing, and sharing on the go.


In this article, we learnt about cloud-based storage, how to access our files from anywhere, and why it’s so much more convenient than being tied down to using files on just one computer. We also learnt about how we can use Google Drive on your phone or tablet computer.

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