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Google Drive is a great service, but installing the application and synchronizing some files is just the first step. These tricks will help you take advantage of Google Drive, both on the desktop and on the web – whether you’re looking to easily synchronize other folders with your Drive or take advantage of the features only available on the website.
Many of these tricks will also work with Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive, and any other service that provides a magic folder that automatically synchronizes your files over the Internet. Google’s Drive integration with third-party web apps is a unique feature, though.
Use The Send To Menu
You can add Google Drive to the Windows Send To menu and easily send files to your drive from anywhere on your computer.
The Send To menu actually shows the contents of a special folder, and you can add your own shortcuts. To open the folder, launch Windows Explorer, copy the following text, and paste it into the address bar:
Right-click the Google Drive folder in your favorites, hold down the right mouse button, and drag and drop it to your Send To folder. When a menu appears, select “Copy Here.”
If you click and drag with the left mouse button, Windows will move the shortcut from your favorites instead of copying it.
Encrypt Sensitive Files
Cloud storage services like Google Drive are a great way to keep copies of important documents, even if your house burns down or all your hardware fails. Still, putting this sensitive data under someone else’s control can be a concern. Before you upload important documents, consider encrypting them with a password. If your account is compromised, no one will be able to view the files without your password – Google themselves can’t even view the encrypted data.
We’ve covered a variety of ways to encrypt files, but one of the easiest is to create an encrypted archive. Be sure to use a program with strong encryption support. 7-Zip is a good, free option – when creating your archive,create a .7z file (just like a ZIP file) with AES-256 encryption.
Be sure to choose a strong password that you can remember – if you forget the password, you’ll lose access to your files.
BoxCryptor also supports Google Drive. It will create a secure, encrypted drive letter that you can drop files in. The files sync over Google Drive, but you’ll need BoxCryptor and your password to access them.
Setting up two-step authentication is another good way to boost the security of your entire Google account, including your Drive.
Move User Folders
You can move your user data folders, including the Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos, and Downloads folders by right-clicking them and using the options on the Location tab. Move a folder to your online drive to synchronize it between your computers.
Do this on each computer you use and you’ll have the same files in your Documents, Downloads, and other folders on all your computers.
Customize Windows Libraries
You don’t have to move folders to easily save files onto your online drive — use the Windows libraries folders instead. From a library folder, click the “locations” link at the top of the window.
You can add folders from Google Drive to a library and even set it as your default save location. When you open the library in Windows Explorer, you’ll see files from all included folders. When you move or save a file to the library, Windows will place it in the default save location.
Empty The Trash
Files in the trash (and previous versions of files) take up storage space. After deleting files, you’ll have to empty the online drive trash to reclaim your storage space.
You can only clear the trash from the Google Drive web page. It’s a bit hidden – click the “More” link in the sidebar and you’ll see the Trash option.
Restore Previous Versions
Google Drive stores the previous versions of files for 30 days or 100 revisions – whichever comes first. You can’t view these from your desktop, though — you’ll have to visit the website, right-click a file and select “Manage Revisions.”
These previous revisions take up storage space, just like files in your Trash do – you can delete previous versions from here if they’re taking up too much space.
Google Drive isn’t just a folder that synchronizes across your computers – Google clearly envisions it as a web-based hard drive for web apps. The Chrome Web Store contains a category for Google Drive apps.
You can launch files in web apps directly from Google Drive. The web app can also save files directly back to your drive. The service provides a much-needed location where you can store your files, instead of scattering them across multiple web apps.
Do you have any other tricks to share? Be sure to leave a comment and let us know about them.