Jason Carroll

3 Tips for Using Google Drive More Effectively

If you are a teacher or student using Google Apps for Education, you are likely spending a significant amount of time in Google Drive. The new Google Drive was launched over the Summer of 2014 and has slowly been rolled out to users (including Google Apps for Education users) over the last few months.


If you are a teacher or student using Google Apps for Education, you are likely spending a significant amount of time in Google Drive. The new Google Drive was launched over the Summer of 2014 and has slowly been rolled out to users (including Google Apps for Education users) over the last few months. By now, most users are either using the new Drive or have access to it. To know which version of Drive you have, simply click your settings button in Drive (see image below). If it shows “Leave the New Drive” as an option you are using the new Drive. Otherwise you will see the option to “Experience the New Drive”. If you haven’t yet explored the new Drive you can check out Google’s Intro video here:

To help get the most out of the new Drive I’ve shared 3 quick tips below that you can implement immediately if you haven’t already given them a try.

1. Organizing files – Anytime you create a new document, spreadsheet, or other file (or upload a file from your computer) it ends up in your “My Drive” folder. When someone shares a file with you it shows up in your “Incoming” folder. While Drive has excellent search capabilities you will quickly find that using only these two folders can be a nightmare. Just like you would use folders to organize documents in a file cabinet you need to use folders (and subfolders) in Drive to organize your electronic files. Doing this is easy. In Drive, simply click the “New” button at the top left of the screen and choose “Folder.” The folder will appear in the directory you are in.One tip is to do this earlier rather than later. I made the mistake of waiting a couple of months and ended up spending a significant amount of time trying to clean things up. To move files into your new folders, right click on the file (even those in your incoming folder) and choose to move it to any folder you have created. You can select multiple files using your shift key.If you are in a classroom setting, helping students create an organization system at the beginning of the year is one of the most helpful things you can do to help them stay on top of their work throughout the year. Also remember that you can upload any file type (images, video, etc…) to Drive. Now that Google offers unlimited free storage to Google Apps for Education users it makes for an excellent backup system

2. Convert files to the Google Format – Most organizations haven’t been using Google Apps for long, and many are also using Microsoft Office or other tools at the same time. In order to take advantage of the many collaboration and other features Google offers I find it helpful to convert all of my existing Microsoft files to Google’s format. To do this simply click the settings icon in Google Drive, then choose “settings.” The first setting option should read “Convert uploaded files to Google Docs editor format.” Check this box and now applicable files will automatically be converted when you upload them.

You can always convert the Google version back to its Microsoft equivalent if needed. This is useful when you need to send a file to a person who does not use Google Apps. I should also note that in my experience some files, such as heavily formatted Word documents using tables, etc… may not always convert properly, but for the most part it works great.

3. Offline Access – One of the biggest misconceptions I hear about Google Apps and Chromebooks is that you need be online to do anything. While all documents are stored in the cloud (and having an internet connection definitely helps with many of the features), offline access is available and simple to use. Simply open the Google Drive settings as mentioned above and check the “offline” option box. Because this syncs documents to the local computer it is not meant for shared computers. However if you have your own Mac, Windows machine or Chromebook you may want to take advantage of this feature.

What other tips do you have for using the new Drive more effectively? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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