Google Drive tips and tricks

The Drive interface

Google Drive's folder system is similar to the behavior of a desktop operating system's folders. Single clicking a file or folder selects it, and double clicking a file or folder opens it. Right clicking a selected file or folder will pull up a contextual menu with actions you can take on that item.

Adding items shared with you to your My Drive folder

By default, items that are shared with you are not added to your main Drive folder, aka My Drive. To add shared items to My Drive, navigate to the Shared with Me folder via the left sidebar, select and right click the items that you want to add to your top level folder, and select Add to My Drive. Items added to My Drive will still appear in the Shared with Me folder but will not have the Add to My Drive option when you right click them. Any new items shared with you that are stored in folders that are already in your My Drive will appear in My Drive based on their parent folder's settings. Note: If you are adding a large number of files/folders or a folder containing many subfolders and files to My Drive, it may take a few minutes for all files and folders to appear.

Shift + Z: make files and folders live in multiple locations

One amazing hidden feature of Google Drive is Shift + Z, which allows you to add a file or folder to one folder while also keeping it in its current folder. This is similar to placing a shortcut to the file in the other folder, since changes made in one location will also be made in the other location (in fact, there is just a single document being changed). This is very useful when ArtsPool needs a file in a particular location but a member prefers it organized differently, e.g. files related to grants that are needed by both auditors and development staff, insurance policies needed for various purposes, etc.

To use this feature, just select one or more files or folders, press Shift + Z and navigate to the folder where you want to add them. When sharing documents as part of the annual audit, you should not use Shift + Z for any editable working documents that could be changed while the audit is in process. Instead, either make a copy of the document and move it to the audit folder or save the document as a non-editable PDF. This will ensure that nothing is inadvertently changed after the document is shared and will serve as an archive of the file at that point in time for audit purposes.

NOTE: Shift+Z does not currently work with Google Team Drives. 😭

Take care when renaming or moving documents

Be sure to check the Owner column in Drive before renaming or moving documents or folders, particularly when the owner is an ArtsPool member. The document owner may have a very good reason for naming a file a particular way or storing it in a particular location, so it's better to use Shift + Z to move a document (see above) or make your own copy of the document if you really must rename it. But use common sense: a document called "Scan00001.pdf" living in a folder called "To Be Organized" can probably be safely renamed/moved.

Real-time collaboration

Collaboration is one of the most unique features of Google Docs and is extremely useful for simultaneously editing shared documents with multiple stakeholders (e.g. as budgets). Colored circles or user avatars in the top right of the screen indicate which other users are viewing a document.

In-document comments

Comments are implemented a bit differently in Google Drive than in other systems such as Box. Instead of commenting on the document in the file list, you can make the comment within the document by selecting some text and doing one of the following:

  1. Right click and select Comment
  2. Select Comment from the Insert menu
  3. Click the small plus sign to the right of the text you selected in the document.

Comments live forever, so be aware that comments you make can potentially be viewed by future generations of ArtsPoolers and members staff. 

Tracking changes

Google Docs' Suggested Edits feature works a lot like tracked changes in Word. To enter Suggested Edit mode, just right click selected text and choose Suggest Edits, or click the word Editing in the top right corner of the screen under the Share button and select Suggesting. The green indicator in the top right should appear and any additions or deletions will be tracked. Click the green indicator and select Editing to return to regular editing mode.

Opening and editing Microsoft Office documents in Drive

Google provides a Chrome extension called Office Editing for Docs, Sheets and Slides to allow users to view and edit Office documents directly in the browser without converting them to the Google Docs format. Any tracked changes from Word will appear as suggested edits in the browser. NOTE: This only works for Chrome, and simultaneous editing does not work for Office documents.

Install Chrome Extension

Google Drive keyboard shortcuts

Going fast is fun. Master Google Drive's keyboard shortcuts and change your life forever. One very useful shortcut that is not on Google's official list is g followed by p, which allows you to go to the parent folder quickly.

Google Drive desktop sync client

If you have files stored in Drive that need to opened with desktop software (MS Word, Excel, Adobe InDesign, etc), you can download and install the sync client using the link below to access documents on Google Drive from your desktop or laptop. 

Download Google Drive Sync Client

Selective sync

One way to keep from overloading your hard drive is to sync only the folders that your use frequently or are actively working on. Once you install the sync client and log in, click the Google Drive icon in the top right of your screen, select Preferences, and check the Only sync some folders to this computer box in the Sync Options tab. Select the folders to sync and click Apply Changes.

Google Drive apps for iOS and Android devices

Download the apps to easily access Google Drive files from your phone or tablet.

Download Google Drive from iTunes Store

Download Google Drive from Google Play Store

Migrating data between Google Apps accounts

Google has very comprehensive documentation of how to migrate data between different Google Apps accounts, should you ever need to do that (e.g. you want to merge one user's data into another account. See the guide below for more information.

Migrate data between Google Apps accounts

The recommended way of migrating email, contacts, and calendar items between Google Apps accounts is to use Google's data migration service. You will need to be a Google Apps administrator to use this tool.


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