Google Drive is a Google platform that brings together Google files you have created or opened. Google Drive can appear overwhelming at first, but I’m here to break it down in a simple, clear and useful way. If you’ve already made an attempt to understand Google Drive and are feeling lost, it may be helpful to have a second browser open while going through this tutorial for a more live version. There are many setting options throughout Google Drive that allow for customization which, in my experience, makes for a more organized and productive experience.
Breaking It Down
Google Drive is part of your Google account. It is a cloud-based service under which many of Google’s apps are accessed, edited and saved in real-time. Every file is created as a webpage with a link that is stored and then accessed on the cloud. Google Drive is the umbrella to the following Google apps:
- Google Docs
- Google Sheets
- Google Slides
- Google Drawings
- Google Forms
Some Google apps such as Google Calendar, Gmail and Google Photos act independently from Google Drive, however information and files can easily be shared across all the apps. Many people are surprised to access Google Drive for the first time and find documents that were once attached in a long since deleted email, but that is the essential point of Google Drive; files created in a Google app are automatically saved to the Google account it was created in or accessed with.
To get started with Google Drive, you need to have a Gmail account, which is what any actions within Google Drive will be saved to. Visit Gmail to create an account. Once a Gmail account is active you can go directly to Google Drive. At any time when you are in a Google platform (Gmail, Google Drive, Google etc.), there is a square icon of 9 small squares located in the top right corner of the browser window. (It is sometimes referred to as the waffle icon.) This icon opens shortcuts to the majority of Google apps so you can navigate through them while remaining logged in. The Google Drive icon is the shape of a triangle in the primary color sequence that Google often uses.
Creating a New Folder or Google File
Once you are in logged in to Google Drive you will likely see a display of your files that currently exist within My Drive and a list of folders in the left column. My Drive is the main folder where all of your files are automatically sent (think of it as the hard drive to your computer). You have the ability to create folders and subfolders to organize your files within My Drive which is especially helpful if you are sharing files with other people, a major strength of Google Drive.
At the top of the left column is the icon New which by clicking on it gives you option to create any of the following:
- a Document – Google Docs operates similarly to Microsoft Word
- a Slide – Google Slides is comparable to Microsoft Power Point
- a Spreadsheet – Google Sheets is similar to Microsoft Excel
- a Form – Google Forms allows you to create a questionnaire
- Drawing – Google Drawings lets you create with images, shapes and text boxes
- Jamboard – Similar to Drawings but more interactive options and free drawing
- A new folder – You can create a main folder or drag around to make subfolders
- Upload files or folders, more on this below
Editing Folders and Files
Setting options in Google Drive allow you to adjust settings for both folders and files saved within My Drive. Folder settings can be accessed by selecting the folder and right-clicking with your mouse, or by clicking the drop down menu found next to the folder name on the toolbar. You can create a subfolder, change the name or color of the folder, move it to a new location and more!
Each file has a similar list of settings. To adjust these settings, select the desired file and right-click with your mouse, or click the stoplight icon found on the right side of the toolbar. The file must be accessed from the specific folder it is stored in to see the setting options.
Note: if you are sharing a folder or file with another person, and there is a problem with viewing or making edits, it is likely that the folder and/or file settings are contradicting each other.
There are several ways to delete a folder or file within Google Drive. When looking at the My Drive view of an existing Google Drive account, you can simply drag any selected folder or file right into the Trash folder found in the left column. Additionally, right-clicking on any folder or file will present you with the option to Remove. Lastly, a trash can icon can be found on the toolbar when a file is selected.
The folder Starred is a default folder in Google Drive that becomes more helpful the more you use your Google Drive. Whether it is an entire folder or single file, marking it as Starred creates a shortcut for you retrieve quickly by selecting the Starred folder found on the left column. Similarly, the Recent folder is a quick option for finding a recently opened file, and it is conveniently divided into a time line for quick referencing.
Using the New button, you have the option to upload a file or folder. Once you have selected your upload, it is dropped into My Drive. From there you can move it to the desired folder in the left column.
Sharing Folders and Files
In my opinion, this is one of the greatest features of Google Drive. Sharing folders and files eliminates the need to email attachments back and forth and lets you share large folders or video clips that would be too large to email. Each time a file is shared, a copy of the link is sent. To share from My Drive, you can right-click on any folder or file for the option to share. If the file is already opened, you can select the blue Share icon in the top-right corner of the window. A pop-up box will open where you enter the email address of the recipient. Within this box there are other setting options you need to notice.
- The default setting is Restricted and allows only the people you list to open the document but not make any changes.
- The second option Anyone With the Link allows anyone who is given the link for the file to open it. You can then choose the permissions for anyone using the link:
- Viewer – view the file, comments and suggestions
- Commenter – view and add comments to the file
- Editor – edit the file
- The gear box in the top right corner offer a few additional settings for sharing.
There are three viewing modes in Google Drive that can be especially helpful with file sharing:
- Editing is the default mode and is the standard view where you create and edit the file.
- Suggesting mode lets you add to the file but changes are recorded as a different color and also added as a comment box on the right side of the screen. This lets multiple people add to the file but no changes are made permanent until the comment box is approved by clicking the check mark (or discarded by clicking on the X). A history of all suggestions and comments is kept and displayed when you click on the icon of a text bubble in the top right corner of the window.
- Viewing mode shows the file as a finished piece, similar to a Print Preview option.
Google Drive Mobile App
The mobile app for Google Drive is broken into four main categories that are shown as icons at the bottom of the screen. Starting from the left is the Home icon which will display the most recently opened or uploaded files to My Drive. The next icon is the Starred folder which will display all folders and files that have been marked as starred. The third icon from the left is the Shared folder which will display any folders and files that have been shared with you. And lastly, the Files folder on the right will display your My Drive as it is organized by folders. The app always displays a search bar at the top to type in keywords as well as a hamburger menu which will show you additional folders and setting options. Also displayed throughout the app is a New icon displayed as a + symbol in the lower right corner. This icon lets you create any new file, folder or upload as it does in the browser version of Google Drive.
How Google Drive Can Help CML Students
With the shift to remote learning and Zoom classes this year, Google Drive has been useful as a file sharing system between Crescendo Music Loft and students near and far. Sheet music can be added to a shared folder for a student to access and print at home. Tracks can be shared and used for at-home practice. At-home practice videos can uploaded for Sandy’s review. Even students who have maintained in-person lessons can retrieve and print practice plans or curriculum information to limit the amount of contact at The Loft. My hope is you can find Google Drive to be a useful tool as a singing or piano student and beyond!