Most productive people with a mind for the web know what Google Docs are about. Then Google Docs became Google Drive, with all kinds of storage space and collaboration folders and connected webapps. Most people just noted the new icon and kept on writing meeting agendas and filling small spreadsheets.
Now, however, would be a good time to pay Drive some mind. Google has done impressive work making it easier to keep your files organized, share any file with anyone, and keep everything in your work life one search away. Very specifically, these are the things Drive can do for you at no cost, and requiring just enough effort to remember Drive can do that.
Your email attachments are only as useful as the lamest inbox to which you send them. Some antiquated mail systems can't accept files larger than a megabyte or two, and some are limited to sending even less. And in any inbox, it's often easy to lose track of which attachment is the most recent, working version of a file.
Google Drive and Gmail really, truly want to fix this. So now you can insert Drive “attachments” into a Gmail message, up to 10 GB in size. Gmail also checks that the file you attached is open for access to everybody in the message. If you jump into Drive and change the document, spreadsheet, presentation or whatever, no matter—that one email with the Drive link is still current.
One caveat: You need to be using Gmail's "New Compose Experience" to insert Drive attachments. So if you haven't already done so, click "Compose" in Gmail, then click the link to "Try out the new compose experience."
Google makes a Drive app for iOS devices, a Drive app for Android, and a kind of “app” for Chrome browsers. Installing these apps gives you the ability to create and edit documents while you’re connected to the web, and on a Chrome browser, you can also edit text-based “Docs” while you are offline. And on mobile devices, you can view documents online or offline, and even edit spreadsheets that others are working on at the same time.
Perhaps most helpfully, you can stash lots of documents for a project in Drive and view or present them in Drive. Not just stuff you’ve created, but Photoshop files, ZIP-compressed packages, videos, images, and many other file types, as noted in an earlier post on the Google Drive app’s handy features.
In other words: Stash stuff inside Drive that you might need to look at later, when you really need to pull it up. It’s free, and it works quite well.
Google has spent years learning the most precise way to turn images of text into edit-ready computer text. Those odd little word puzzles you have to decipher to log into certain sites? Google acquired that technology in 2009, and uses it to digitize old books and newspaper text. And, if you want, Drive will read your own paper scans and otherwise non-copy-ready PDF files and index every word in them, along with your other documents.
With the Drive app installed on your phone or tablet, you can snap a picture of handwriting and, faster than you think, pull up a converted text document from the app. If your stuff is already scanned or written out, you can simply drag and drop an entire folder from your system into Drive and wait for it to convert over for you. Drive wants to be the stenographer you rudely ignore while piling paperwork on their desk.
If you ever need to make a single-serve website, or test out some new web stuff you’re fiddling with, Google Drive has some spare server space they’re willing to donate to your cause. You just have to upload your files and grab the right link.
[Image: Flickr user Martin Gommel]