Google Drive – Previewing your files

If you have some PDFs, Microsoft files like Word, pictures, or other files which aren’t Google ones, Google Drive allows you to preview your file right within Drive.  This is useful if you want to view those documents without exiting Google Drive and having to open them in for example, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Word, or some kind of image viewing program.

To do it is simple and from within the previewer, you have further options.

To open the preview of the file, just double-click on it and it opens automatically, as long as it isn’t a Google Doc, Google Sheet, etc. Below is an example of a PDF I opened.

Previewer - 1

At the top you have various options.  Most of which you can access without actually opening the file, by right clicking on the file in your My Drive.  But it’s good that the key options are also available here.

The first options are:

Open with: open the file in an external application or a Google Add-on.

Printer symbol: Open the print dialogue box.

Arrow: Download the file to your computer.

Person+: Share the file

Three dots: Extra options

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Clicking on the three dots, gives you the options to move the file, star it for quick access, rename it, or to report any abuse of the file.

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On the right-hand side there are the more options:

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Magnifying glass: Allows you to zoom in and out of the document.

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(i): Opens information about the file (location, owner, etc)

Square with an arrow: “Pop-out” This opens the preview of the file in another tab.  Useful, if you want to continue working on other things in your Drive.

Cross: Closes the preview

Some tips

If you have PDFs which are bigger than 50Mb, they won’t open in the previewer. You’ll have to either compress them or download them to view them.

I also find that loading PDFs with a lot of pages can be very slow, so if you’re doing this, for example, in a classroom, make sure you allow yourself time for it to load before you show it.

On the side of each preview, you will see arrows, so you can flick through files that are in that particular folder.  This is quite useful with images as a quick way to show multiple ones.

Previewer - 6

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Google Drive – Finding your files

Once you’ve been using Google Drive for a while, I bet everyone’s had that moment where you ask yourself, “Now, where did I save that file??

Or if you’re organised like me, you end up with folders within folders within folders, so your files end up nicely hidden away in a folder structure that makes sense, but then ends up taking you ages to get to them.

Well, there’s better way and to be honest only recently have I seen the light!  We’re using a Google product, so it makes sense that there’s a powerful search engine built right into Drive.  It’s the bar sitting at the top of the screen, with the words “Search Drive” in it.

Search Drive - 1

Start typing in the box and Google will automatically start finding matches.  This means you don’t have to type the whole word, in this case I wanted to find the “Getting started” pdf and just by typing in “getting” it found it.

Search Drive - 2

It also doesn’t have to be the first word, so if you can’t remember the filename exactly, just type in the words you can remember and it should find it.

As soon as you click in the empty box, Drive offers you options to filter your search.  For example, you may already know it’s a PDF you’re looking for, so click on “PDFs” so that all the results Drive finds will be PDFs.

Search Drive - 3

If you click on the little triangle to the side of the box, you will open further options to filter your results.  These are particularly useful if you have a lot of files and folders on your Drive or maybe you’re trying to find multiple files and folders, for example, all the ones belonging to a particular person, that could be in different places.

Search Drive - 4

Shared with” I’ve found useful if you want to make sure you’ve removed all sharing access to a particular person.

Clicking on “Type” opens up more options to filter your search by.

Search Drive - 5

Clicking on “Date Modified” will open up various time options and the option to enter a specific time period yourself (in “Customised”).

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Clicking on “Owner” gives you options of filtering by the owner of the files.

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Located in” is limited but you can search your “Starred” filter or your “Bin”.

Search Drive - 8

Within the search box you can also use the same search tricks that you can use in Google’s main search engine.  The ones below are ones Google recommend:

Quotes “” Documents that contain an exact phrase.
Example:”match this phrase exactly”
OR Documents with at least one of the words.
Example:tacos OR nachos
Minus sign – Documents that exclude a word. So if you want “salsa,” but not “dancing,” use…
Example:salsa -dancing
Documents owned or shared by a specific person.
to: Documents you shared with someone.
is:starred Items marked with a star.
is:trashed Items that are trashed.
type: Search by the type of document: folder, document, spreadsheet, presentation, PDF, image, video, drawing, form, script, and table.


Find items that were edited before or after a certain day.
title: Search by title.
title:”Conference 2014″
app: Search for items that can be opened by a specific app.
app:”Google Docs”

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Google Drive – Getting the link to your file so you can share it

Sometimes you want to share your file or folder but not via the normal way of sharing within Google Apps.  For example, you may want to add a link to your file on a webpage, or in an email using something like Outlook. Fortunately, this is really easy to do.

1) Right click on your file or folder and click “Get link” from the menu.

Get Link - 1

2) This brings up the link.  It’s highlighted automatically, so to copy it all you need to do is, hold down Ctrl then press C (Cmd C on a Mac) and it will be copied to your clipboard.

Get Link - 2

To paste it where you want it, just hold down Ctrl then press V (Cmd V on a Mac).  This is the normal shortcut for copying and pasting things.

Get link

Important: Sharing the link doesn’t automatically share access to that file.  If the file isn’t shared with anyone or is only shared with certain people, then anyone not on that list won’t be able to open it.  Google kindly reminds you of the sharing status, above the link.  In this case, “Only specific people can access this file”.

To add people or to change the sharing status to “Anyone with this link”, click on “Sharing settings” and this will open the “Share with others” dialogue box.  See my post on sharing files and folders, if you’re not sure about what to do.

Get Link - 3

Alternative ways to get the link

Above the files area, you will see a chain symbol, click on that and the link will appear as before.

Get Link - 5

Another way, is to open the document and copy the address from the browser.

Get Link - 4

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Google Drive – Downloading your files & folders

Sometimes you need a copy of your files in a place other than your Drive.  Google Drive provides some options to do this, each one depending on what it is that you’re downloading.

*Downloading non-Google files (e.g. Word docs, PDFs, mp3s, images)

Right click on the file you want.  Then click on “Download” from the menu.

Downloading files - z1

This will download a copy of the file to your computer.

Downloading files - z2

*Downloading Google files (e.g. Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides)

The process for downloading these is the same, expect for one key difference.  Google files don’t really exist as a normal ‘physical’ files like a Powerpoint document.  They live in the cloud on your Google Drive.  So, to get them back down to Earth, as it were, Google converts them into a Microsoft file.

Google Docs become Word documents; Google Sheets become Excel files; and Google Slides become Powerpoint slides

So, to download one, right click on the file you want.  Then click on “Download” from the menu.

Downloading files - z3

This will download a Microsoft-friendly version of the file to your computer.

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*Downloading a whole folder

If you’ve got a lot of files to download, one of the quickest ways is to download a whole folder.  This downloads the folder as a .zip file, i.e. all your files are put together in one convenient file.  Any Google files are automatically converted to Microsoft-friendly ones.

1) Right click on the folder you want and click “Download”.

Downloading files - z6

2) A pop-up window will appear showing you the zipping status.  For a few files this takes seconds.

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3) The .zip file is then downloaded to your computer.  Drive also adds the date it was downloaded to the filename.

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4) On your computer, double click the file to open the contents of the folder.

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5) In this example, Drive has converted my Google Docs to Word files (.docx).  It has also, downloaded the sub-folder (“Second level folder”) and its contents, that was in the folder I downloaded.

Downloading files - z10

*Downloading a file from within the file – More options!

The default download option detailed above, is to convert Google Apps into Microsoft files, but with a file open, you also have the option to download the file as other formats. Below are the options you can download your Google Apps as:

Google Slides > Powerpoint (.pptx), .pdf, Image files: .svg, .png, .jpg, or a text file .txt

Google Docs > Word (.docx), OpenDocument .odt, Rich Text Format.rtf, .pdf, .txt, .html zipped, EPUB publication (.epub)

Google Sheets > Excel (.xlsx), OpenDocument .ods, .pdf, .csv, .tsv, .zip

Probably the most useful is the option to download them as pdfs.

I will cover the options in greater detail in future posts, when I go through the individual Apps.

1) To do this just click on “File”.

Downloading files - z11

2)  Then click on “Download as”.  You will then see the various formats you can download as.  Just click on the one you want.

Downloading files - z12

Bear in mind, that downloading a document, will download that version of the document at that particular time, so any further changes to the original on your Google Drive, won’t be reflected in the downloaded version.

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Google Drive – Converting Microsoft docs to Google ones

If you’re like me, you may have lots of Word, Excel and Powerpoint files.  Whilst you can just upload those to your Google Drive, they do take up precious space on your Drive and Powerpoint files in particular, can be be quite big files.  Converting them from Word to Google Docs, Excel to Google Sheets, and Powerpoint to Google Slides means they don’t take up any space.  Plus, you can edit and view on any computer and so don’t need programs like Word installed. Here’s how to do it:

1) Right click on the file you want.  This opens the menu.  Then click “Open with”, which opens a further menu, showing the programs you can open that file with.  The one you want to convert it to, will be at the top of the list, in this case “Google Slides”.

Converting files - z2

2) In this case, click on “Google Slides”.  It will then convert the file, which will take a few seconds.  The newly created file will appear in a new menu.

Converting files - z3

3) Back in your folder, you will see two files.  The original Microsoft document (in this case a Powerpoint document) and the new Google document (here a Google Slides file).

Converting files - z4

Note: on the right of the screen, you can see the file sizes.  The Powerpoint one was 805Kb and the Google Slides one is zero.

Tip: Generally the conversions are good, but if your original files had a lot of formatting, links, etc, it’s a good idea to check the new document, to make sure it looks fine, as sometimes, things can go awry.

4) If you’re happy with the conversion, then you’ll probably want to delete the original file to save space.  Right click on the original file, and from the menu, click “Remove”.

Converting files - z5

Remember, that will move it to your bin.  To remove it fully you will have to remove from your bin to save space on your Drive.  See the bottom of my post on managing files for details on how to delete files.

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Google Drive – Uploading files and folders

Google Drive is not just a place to store your Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc but you can use it to store pretty much whatever file you want.  Uploading files is a piece of cake:

1) Click on the red ‘New’ button on the left hand side of the screen.

 Uploading files - z1

2) This brings up the menu.  Then click on “File Upload”.

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3) This opens your file directory (this is the Mac view, but Windows is similar).  Find your file, click on it and then click “Open” in the bottom right-hand corner.

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You can upload multiple files at the same time.  Just select the ones you want then click “Open”.

4) A little uploading status pop-up window will appear.

v2 - 9

5) Drive will tell you when the upload has completed.  Just click the “X” on the right-hand side to close the status window.

v2 - 10

6) You will see your file in the folder you were in.

Uploading files - z5

You can upload files to different folders at the same time. If you’ve done this, you can locate the files in the folders by clicking on the green circle, which will change to a magnifying glass and state “locate in My Drive”.

v2 - 11

You can also drag a file from your file directory directly into Google Drive.  Just drag the file across onto your Drive and drop it (let go of the mouse).  The upload status window will then appear as above.

Uploading files - z7

On Google Chrome, it’s also possible to upload an entire folder, following the same steps above, but in step 2 choose “Folder upload” not “File upload”.

Uploading files - z2

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Google Drive – Folders: 50 shades of grey

By default, all your folders are a lovely shade of grey.  Not the most exciting colour, but that can easily be changed and is useful for quickly identifying the folder you want.

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1) Right click on the folder you want to change.  This brings up the menu.

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2) Click on “Change colour” and this opens the palette of 24 colours.  Just click on the colour you want and it changes the colour of the folder.

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Note: if this is a shared folder, this doesn’t change the colour for those who also have access to it.

Tip: Colour folders in the same category the same colour.  This visually shows they are linked.

Tip2: If you select multiple folders, it will colour all of them at the same time.

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Google Drive – Starring your files to find them quickly

You may have hundreds of files on your Google Drive, but if you’re like me, you end up using certain ones all the time.  To help you get to those files or folders quickly, Google Drive has the option to “star” them, so that they appear in the “Star” filter.  Here’s how to do it:

1) Right-click on the file or folder you want to star.

If you want to star multiple files or folders in the same folder, remember you can do that be select them either holding down Ctrl or Shift, selecting them and then right-clicking.

Starring files - z1

2) Click on “Add star”.

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3) A little star will appear next to you files or folders.

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4) Go to the menu on the left-hand side of the screen and click “Starred”.

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Here you’ll find your starred files and folders for quick access.

If you want to remove them from this filter. Just right-click on a file or folder and click “Remove star”.

Starring files - z6

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Google Drive – Sharing files and folders

Life is less lonely if you share stuff.  Well, it’s the same with files and folders on Google Drive! Once you’ve created something often you want to share it with someone, a team, a class or even the whole world, and Google Drive allows you to do just this.

Before looking at how it’s done, let’s look at the options you have.

1) You can keep your files & folders private on your “My Drive”.  Only you can see your file or folder.

Sharing - You

2) You can share with a specific person. Only you and Bob can see the file or folder.  Bob needs to log in to his account to see the file or folder.

Sharing - YouBob

3) You can share with a group of people.  Only they can see the file or folder.  They need to log in to see the file or folder.

Sharing - YouTeam

4) You can share your file or folder by sharing a link with them. They need this link in order to access the file or folder. It’s like giving them a key to be able to open it.

Important: They don’t need to log in to be able to do this. This means you don’t know who has accessed your file, only that they must have done it with your link. Use with caution, as you don’t control who shares that link.

This is useful if you share the link somewhere else, e.g. a website, an email in Outlook, a blog, etc.

Sharing - SharedLink

5) The final option is sharing your file or folder with the whole world.  Anyone can access the file or folder and they don’t need to log in.  Use this option with caution.

Sharing - YouWorld

Apart from giving access to your file, you also have the option of controlling what they can do within that file.  The three main options are:

Can edit – They can edit the file.

Can comment – They can’t edit the file, but can leave comments in it.

Can view – They can’t do either of the above, but can look at it.

So, how do you share a file or folder?

1) Right-click on a file or folder you want to share and this brings up a menu.

Sharing - ShareMenu

2) Click on “Share” to open the “Share with others” dialogue box.

Sharing - ShareBox

3) The quickest way, is to type in the email address of the person you want to share the file with.

Sharing - AddEmail

4) On the right, by default, the person will be able to access the file and be able to edit it. If you want to change this, click on “Can edit” and choose from Can edit, Can comment or Can view.

Sharing - EditCommentView

5) You have the option of sending a message to the person.  Just click in the “Add a note” box.  Then click the blue “Send” button to share the file and also to send the person an email, stating that the file is shared with them.

Sharing - AddNote

6) Back in your “My Drive” you will see that your file now has a shared symbol to the right of the filename.

Sharing - ShareSymbol

The person you shared the file with will receive an email similar to this:

Sharing - EmailReceived

The email will contain a link to the file and the message may have included.

Google gives you further control over who can access your files and also what they can do with it.

1) Following steps 1 & 2 above, open the “share with others” menu.  You will see who the file is already shared with, in this case, ‘Baz Roberts’.

Sharing - WhoSharedWith

2) The extra options are in the “Advanced” menu on the bottom right of the box. It’s called “Advanced” but don’t let that put you off, it’s very simple to use, and really all it means is that it gives you extra options.  This opens the “Sharing settings” box.

Sharing - AdvancedSharingSettings

Under “Who has access”, you can see surprise, surprise, who has access to the file.  At the moment it is shared with specific people and Baz Roberts can edit the file.

3) Click on “Change” and this opens the “Link sharing” menu. Here you can change the access to the file, from specific people, to “Anyone with the link” or “Public on the web”, i.e. anyone on the Internet.  Just click the option you want and click Save.

Sharing - LinkSharing

4) Back in the “Sharing settings” box, we can also change how someone can access the file, by clicking on “Can edit” and choosing either, “Can comment” or “Can view”.  Don’t worry about “Is the owner” for now, this changes the file ownership to that person, giving them control of the file like you have.

Sharing - ChangeSharing

5) At the bottom of the box, you have two further options.

  • Prevent editors from changing access and editing new people.
  • Disable options to download, print and copy for commenters and viewers.

They do exactly what they say and add extra control over how the files are shared and how they are used.

Sharing - FurtherOptions

Click “Save changes”  if you’ve made some, then “Done”.

The final part is, where do files and folders appear that have been shared with you?

Fortunately, Google provides us with a convenient filter that shows you all the files or folders that are shared with you.

1) Back on the main Drive screen, on the left hand side, you’ll see “Shared with me”.  Click on this to show the list of files and folders that have been shared with you.

Sharing - SharedWIthMe

2) It shows you who shared it and when.  Note: by default, the filter is sorted in date order, with the most recent at the top.

Sharing - DocInSWM

The great thing about sharing the files and not emailing them like in the past, is that all the users have access to the latest document and multiple users can open and edit the file at the same time.  Google Drive saves every single change.

My last piece of advice is, that it’s usually better to share folders rather than individual files, as once shared, anything put in the folder will automatically be shared with those the folder is shared with.  Saving you a lot of time and bother.

eBooks now available on Drive, Forms, Sheets, Docs, and Slides:

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Google Drive – Moving multiple files & folders

Following on from my post on moving files and folders around, you can of course move multiple ones around too.  The only difference is the way you select the files or folders you want to move.  However, this is exactly the same way you do it in Windows or OS, i.e. you hold Ctrl (on Windows) or Cmd (on a Mac) to select specific files, or you hold down the Shift key to select a range of files.

1) Click on the first file you want to move, then hold down Ctrl (or Cmd) and then click on the other files you want to move.  The ones that you have chosen will be highlighted in blue.

Multiple move - Select files

Or if the files you want are all together, click on the top one, hold down the Shift key, then click on the bottom one.  All the files from the top to the bottom one will then be highlighted.

Multiple move - Select range

2) Once you have your files or folders highlighted, just drag them to the folder you want to move them to.  A blue block with the number of files you’re moving will appear as you move it.

a) Moving to a folder within the files and folder area:

Multiple move - Move

b) Moving to a folder on the menu on the left-hand side:

Multiple move - Move2

c) Moving using the Move to menu:

Right click on one of the highlighted files to bring up a menu, then select “Move to”.  This then brings up the “Move to” menu.  Choose a folder and click Move.  See my post on moving files and folder for more detail.

Multiple move - Move to menu

If you want to move all the files and folders within the files and folder area, just click on a file or folder and then press Ctrl and A together to select all the files and folders (Cmd + A on a Mac).

If you want to select all the files but don’t want specific ones, you can select them all using Ctrl + A, let go, then holding the Ctrl key down, click on the files or folders you don’t want to include.  This will then deselect them and the blue highlight will be removed.

Multiple move - Deselect

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