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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Cloud and Google Drive

The buzz is all about the cloud. The cloud, the cloud, the cloud. And it's worthwhile buzz. Having stuff stored on someone else's server has a lot benefits. You don't have to back up your stuff. They do. You can access your files from many devices and in many locations. And you can share stuff in many ways with many people.

You may notice your Google Docs name has changed to Google Drive, which is Google's more advanced foray into the cloud. Yes, Google Docs is cloud computing, but Google Drive is a bigger step in the right direction. It's very similar to DropBox, which set the standard for file sharing and is Google's main competitor. If you login to you Google Docs and your account has been upgraded (mine magically was this AM) you should see an option to download Google Drive. After you download it you'll have to sync your files by entering your login and password information (read the next paragraph if you're getting an error). You'll then have a folder in your home folder called Google Drive that shows all of your Google Docs files. Note: it won't show the files that are shared with you because they're not yours but you can drag those online from the shared folder into your Google Drive. That was a bit confusing.

If, like me, you went through the installation process and things wouldn't sync and you got an error here's the solution. Create a folder called 'Google Drive' in your home folder (Hard drive > ~user > Users > Google Drive) and then the sync should work. If you don't understand what that last parenthetical meant it means double click on your hard drive, then click on the folder that has the house next to it, then click on the Users folder and create the Google Docs folder there.

How do you use it? Or why should you? If you're connected to the Internet you can now add and subtract files from your Google Docs...er...Drive...account right on your computer. If you double click a file in the Google Drive folder it will open your web browser and show you the file. It will also drop an icon into your taskbar on the top and from there you visit your docs shared with you, open your Google Drive folder either on your computer or the web, and even buy more storage if you get full.

Update: I've used it for a day and there are some things I like and some things I don't like. One thing I really wish it would to is give me the option to convert my files to Google Drive format. For example our points sheets, when uploaded are in a weird read-only format and not a Google Spreadsheet. I have to go into Google Drive, right-click on the file, and choose Export to Google Drive to convert them. I think the best use will be read-only documents that you want to upload quickly. I also wish there were more right-click options in my new local Google Drive folder for Exporting, Sharing, etc. I also wish there was a way to view my local files as 'recently updated' like I can in Google Drive. But hopefully those will come in future updates.

Also, when uploading documents the old Google Docs only allowed you to upload a file to the main file directory (your Home) and then you'd have to move files from there. But now you can open a folder and when you upload it will drop it into that folder. Plus, they renamed their collections to folders. Kind of an odd change. My thought is that they used to be called collections because one file could be in different places at the same time. Maybe that's not the case within their internal structure anymore?


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