What is Google Drive? – a complete user guide.

By October 8, 2013Google Drive
What is Google Drive? – a complete user guide.

What is Google Drive?

In this module you will have a complete overview of ‘Google Drive’.

What are the 4Cs of Google Drive?

To understand the real benefits of Google Drive, we’re going to look at four areas.

The first is how Google Drive acts as cloud storage.

The second, how it allows you to create documents, spreadsheets, forms, and presentations, within that online environment.

The third is how it enables collaboration so people can work together on particular projects.

The fourth is about communication.

How to access Google Drive

To begin, you’ll want to access Drive.

Now if you search for Google Drive in Google Search, it’s likely you’ll be able to access it straight from the search results.

If you’ve set up your Google+ account and if you have Gmail, you’ll find the same there – on the top right side click the  App Launcher icon and select ‘Drive’ that will take you directly into Google Drive.


Once you are in Drive

Looking at the first element, the cloud storage.

1. If you go to upload and click, you’ll be able to find either files or folders that are on your computer – you can upload those into the cloud.

2. Once you have content in Drive, if you click next to My Drive, you’ll see folders that you have that are stored. A little further down, you’ll see files or folders that are shared with you, which ones are starred, and your recent activity.

3. You can see your files in this section

Switching between list and grid view

Looking now at the upper left:

1. If you click the dropdown for ‘sort’, you can then choose one of the options.

2. You can view and change view by switching between grid and list. The grid view can be a very attractive way of for instance displaying your images.

Choosing your options in Drive

If you look at settings, which is indicated by the cog, and you click:

1. You can change the way things are displayed.

2. You have other options there when you get used to them, including managing your applications, keyboard shortcuts

3. Upload settings – this allow you to change the way files are uploaded to Drive e.g. converting files to a Google Docs format, or not

4. Settings – this takes you to another page

Google Drive Settings

On  the page for your Google Drive settings you alter:
1. The default language

2. The time zone and choosing to show bold when a file has been ‘updated’

3. See you storage used so far

4. Edit your profile and access your account settings

Searching using Google Drive

Since you are using the ‘cloud’ to store your files and your folders, you’ll want easy access. There’s a search box on Google Drive that will allow you to do just that. If you put in keywords and then click search, it will bring up the files related to those keywords.

If you click on the dropdown for advanced search options:

1. You can also search by type e.g. using the example of pdf files, if you click that, it will then bring up all of the pdf files. And you can then search a little deeper by adding a keyword and then pressing search to refine it.

2. Within the advanced options, you also have the ability to filter by visibility and,

3. You can also search by by ownership.

Create a new folder in Drive

Staying with the element of the cloud storage for a little longer.

1. If you click on ‘create’ then ‘new folder’,

2. That will add a new folder to Drive.

From there, you could click and drag a file into that folder, organizing your own Drive. Simply by clicking on that folder you’ll be taken into that folder where you can see your files. If you want to remove a file from a folder, you can drag it to ‘My Drive’ on the left side bar and that will remove it.

Organizing your files and folders

From the main screen in Google Drive, if you right click a folder or a file, you’ll see options appear at the top of the screen.

1. If you want to move a folder or a file, you click move to and you then have the options of which folders to move them to. (If you select multiple folders or files, and then choose move to, you have the same option.)

2. If you click on the dropdown next to more, you will have options of ‘open with’ and create.

3. You can also add/remove stars, or you could do this directly next to the file. You can share. (Share is something that we’ll be discussing when we reach the collaboration and communication point of this tour of Google Drive.)

You’ll have many options including the ability to change the color of that particular folder.

4. If you select a folder or a file, you can hover your mouse over the bin, then can click to remove. Once you’ve removed, you’ll find that that item appears in trash (on the lower left hand bar).

‘Select all’ files or folders

1. Check the box on the upper left to select all files and folders.

2. Uncheck any files or folders you don’t want to e.g. move or remove.

You can then move multiple files at the same time.

Once you choose a selection of files, you can click and drag them across into a folder on the left hand bar.

Opening and previewing files in Drive

If you want to open a file at any time, you just click to open.

If you want to preview, I can select a file, in this case a presentation, and click on preview, which will bring it up into a light box. The same principle applies in grid view.

If you select several images by checking the box in the upper left and then click preview, it will bring them up into the light box. You can then navigate using the arrow to the right to move right and the arrow to the left to move backward.

‘Creation’ in Google Drive

Moving now to the second element of Google Drive called ‘creation’.

To create, you press the button create and you have the choice to create a folder, a document, a presentation, spreadsheet, form, or a drawing.

You also have the option to connect more apps.

Creating a document in Drive

Choosing the example of a document, click in the menu a document will appear.
1. The first thing you can do is click to set the title. Once I click okay, you’ve then created that document.
2. Note: If you click file in any of the documents, you won’t see an option to save. The reason being is with Google Drive, everything is saved automatically.

3. Also I should point out that if you look at download as, you’ll see the options that you can download this file to your computer. This is a way of taking the content out of Drive back onto your computer.


Now we’re going to move on to our third element, the element of collaboration. This is one of the greatest aspects of Google Drive. No longer do you have to pass by email files back and forth between individuals. You can all work on them together from within the Drive environment.

Not only can you keep track of changes and comments, you’ll also be able to translate the document into whatever language you choose.

To enable collaboration on any document, if you go to share, and you click:

You’ll see who has access to that document currently.

1. People with explicit access will show here

2. You can invite more people in this section

3. Or, you can change the setting from ‘private’.

Before we change the setting from private, we will add someone to the document.

Adding people to the document and giving them the right to view, comment and/or edit

The first way to have people collaborate with you is to enter a name, email address, or a group, and then choose whether they can:

a) edit

b)comment or,

c) just view.
If you want them to collaborate in an editing fashion, choose edit, and then add a message, if you want to explain what the project is that you’re including them in.

Once you’ve chosen the people, you can decide whether to send a copy of the message to yourself and whether the item is to be pasted within the email. And when you’re set, just click share and save.

This way of collaborating is private. There are, however, other options.

Changing the settings from private

If you click on change (point number 3 earlier) you’ll see that you could if you wanted to:

1. have this document available publicly on the web, or

2. you could decide to go for anyone with the link.

3. Private is the option we started with.

Once you have chosen:

4. Then change the options from can view, can comment, to again, as the example, can edit. So anyone that receives the link will then be able to edit and collaborate within that document.

Once you are ready, you click save.

This is now where collaboration, the third element, and the fourth element of communication start to work together.

If for instance, you have a circle set up on Google+ of a team of people that you’d like to have access to that document so they can edit or view or just comment, click on the Google+ icon and that link will be brought into the share box.

1. You can put in a message and a comment at the top

2. Through there, you can decide with whom to share it. If you wanted to share it publicly, then anybody with that link is going to be able to edit or view or comment, depending on the setting that you had earlier. If you only want, for instance, a small group of people that you’ve set up as a circle, to be able to edit in this case, you would choose them.

3. When they receive the message, they will be able to click into the document straight from the message.

When you’re ready, click share.

Using Google Hangouts for collaboration

Staying with the element of collaboration just a little longer, looking now at Google Hangouts, if you bring in the Google Drive app, which you’ll either find

1. already on the sidebar, or

2. If you hover over the 3 small dots,

3. you’ll find it in the list.

And once you’ve clicked, you’ll be able to see your Google Drive documents and the files are then brought into the Google Hangout.

This will enable the individuals that you bring into the Google Hangout to collaborate with you as if you were in the same room working on the same document.

You can see:

1. You Drive and documents/files shared with you

2. You can create shared notes, or

3. You can create a shared sketchpad.


Let’s now move to the fourth element.

The fourth element is communication.

1. Any time you see the icon of a little man with a + sign, you’re going to be able to share that file, and that will appear in the more dropdown,

2. If you right click next to a file and see it next to share.

3. Also, when a folder has been shared, you’ll see the icon appear within that grey section of the folder.

4. Note you can also email collaborators from this menu.

Once you have clicked on share, having chosen a file, it will bring up the box when we’re talking about collaboration. The difference now with communication is how you can share your content to other social networks and to anyone who has the link or publicly on the web, that this time you’re not looking for them to collaborate, so you won’t them to comment or to be able to edit, only to be able to view.

When you are ready, click ‘save’.

Sharing to a social network

The first thing to know is this:

1. You have the link available to share as you please, also
2. f you click on the Facebook or Twitter icons, it will bring up the file into any connected account, and you can send it. If you click on the Gmail icon, it will send it as an email to the recipients that you choose.

This will bring up the share box once more.

In the same way as when sharing a link to a limited circle of people, and using the example of a presentation you can see:

1. You can add a message

2. The presentation is embedded

3. You can select the audience with whom to communicate

Once it’s sent to the individuals – and it could be public, it could be your circles, or it could be specific individuals – when they receive it, they’ll be able to click the presentation, or if it’s a Google form, or a spreadsheet, or a document, or a drawing, and they’ll be able to view that document directly from the Google+ post.

Once ready, click ‘share’.

Sharing images straight from Google Drive

The same principle would apply to images.

1. If you check an an image within Google Drive

2. You will see the top bar icons appear, including the ‘share one’. Click this.

This will bring up the familiar box.

1. If the file is private in this section and you

2. Click to share on Google+, you will see the box to change the settings (i.e. you cannot share a private file on Google+)

You will then need to adjust the settings, for instance:

1. Choose anyone with the link can view,

2. Click ‘share to Google+’ (it would say e.g. share to Twitter if you clicked on that icon)

Next it will bring up the share box:

1. You can see the embedded image with the Google+ post, and

2. You can select e.g. a community (private or public) into which you can share.

Publishing a document to the web from Google Drive

There’s another really useful aspect to the element of communication using Google Drive.
This includes e.g. embedding presentations onto a website.

1. If you look at a file and go to the tab file and click before going to

2. publish to the web, you’ll be given to the option to publish that file to the web.

Click start publishing to do so.

Once you’ve clicked okay, you’ll then see:

1. You could e.g. embed the code of that particular file into a website.

2. You can also choose the size of presentation that will appear, even customizing it for your own site, and how the presentation will be displayed. For instance, changing slides every 3 seconds, or from the options within that menu.

3. If for any reason, you want to stop publishing, you can return to the same file and once you’ve selected the publish to the web option, you click stop publishing.

That was a complete introduction to Google Drive and the four elements of:

Cloud (which includes is storage)
Collaboration, and


  • Misty Young says:

    Martin, your work is simply amazing. Coherent, simple and complex all in one. I am thrilled to find such depth and generosity that you share. Thank you!

  • Martin Shervington says:

    Thanks Misty! This one was a lot of work but feedback had been very positive so I am pleased.

  • Roy Danby says:

    Great, clear information as always Martin. Easy to follow.
    Just as an aside, is it possible to send someone a presentatation, that they can view as a presentatation i.e. only see one slide at a time, rather than the file with the slides showing to the left habd side as well?


  • Martin Shervington says:

    Thanks Roy, and yes you can using Google+. Just drop in the link and it will play/navigate as you want 🙂