Google Drive is awesome for collaborating on documents online. If you aren’t using it, we highly recommend giving it a try, especially if you’ve never used cloud storage before. But even if you’re already comfortable with an alternative cloud storage service, do consider making the switch.
For starters, Google Drive is secure enough for most users. Also, if you’re already integrated with Google Docs, then Google Drive is a natural and convenient complement. And the good news is, if you’re coming from elsewhere, migrating to Google Drive is pretty simple.
Ready to get started? Here’s how to get signed in and get your files set up. And if you want to share any of your files with non-Google users — which is actually a big selling point of Google Drive — we can get you started on that, too.
Signing Into Google Drive
Start by visiting http://drive.google.com in your browser of choice. If you don’t have a Google account, you’ll have to create one to use Drive. When prompted, enter your login credentials:
If you have two-factor authentication enabled on your Google account, the next step will be to wait for the confirmation code. Once received, enter it to continue:
And that’s pretty much it. New accounts will automatically have Drive set up upon first login, and the drive starts off empty except for one single file: How to get started with Drive. Feel free to give it a read by double-clicking on it.
If you ever get lost and can’t find your way back to Drive, just visit the Google homepage. Along the top navigation bar, click on Drive and it’ll take you where you need to go. (If you don’t see Drive, click on More.)
Sharing Google Drive Files
Now that you’re logged into Google Drive, we can move onto shared files. First, to see which files have been shared with you by others, click on Shared With Me in the left sidebar. Very simple.
What’s great is that these files don’t count towards your storage quota; instead, your actual files are stored under the My Drive section. You can share these files with others using one of two methods.
Every Google account has Drive storage associated with it. Right off the bat, Google offers 15 GB free to all users, but you can increase this amount by purchasing extra space for as little as $1.99 per month for 100 GB.
Email Documents as Attachments
From your Google Drive home page, find the file you want to share and open it by double-clicking it. Depending on the file format, Google will open up the relevant web app to handle it (e.g. Google Docs for word processing, Google Sheets for spreadsheets, etc).
Once the file is opened, go to the menu bar at the top and select File > Email as Attachment.
A form shows up where you can fill out a few details before the file gets emailed. Fortunately, Google doesn’t automate the entire email on your behalf.
The most noteworthy option is the Attach As option, where you can pick the format of the file you’re sending. For example, even though my document started as a simple DOC from Word, Google can convert it on-the-fly into PDF, ODT, RTF, HTML, or leave it as plain text.
The rest of the form is self-explanatory. As you can see, sending a file to someone is surprisingly easy this way.
Allow Others to View & Edit Documents
To be honest, I rarely use the Email as Attachment option. (By rarely, I mean never.) There’s a far more versatile method that provides more power and control both to you and to the receiver, and this method is my preferred mode of sharing.
Open any file in Google Drive, using the steps mentioned above, and look for the blue button labelled Share at the top right of the screen. It’s quite visible and hard to miss. Click it. (Or hover over it to see the current sharing status of the document.)
A form pops up where you can enter individual email addresses. Any email addresses entered will be notified with a link that leads back to this document along with an optional note that you can provide.
There’s also a dropdown menu where you can select between Can Edit, Can Comment, and Can View. These determine how much control the invitees have over the document. Editing grants full control, Commenting grants the ability to add annotations, and Viewing grants read-only mode.
If you want to share with a lot of people and find it too cumbersome to enter individual email addresses, click on Get Shareable Link at the top right of the form. Anyone who gets this link will be able to access the document.
Fortunately, the shareable link can be limited in the same way using Can Edit, Can Comment, and Can View permissions. If your Google account is part of an organization — such as mine being part of MakeUseOf — then sharing will be restricted to that organization.
Lastly, there are a couple of advanced options that can only be accessed by clicking Advanced at the bottom right of the form. The advanced form shows all of the above options at once, plus a few more.
For example, every person you invited to the document has their permission level listed next to them. In the advanced view, you get a fourth permission level of Owner, which you can use to pass a document off to somebody else.
The owner of a document can toggle two extra settings: 1) whether editors can invite new people and change access of current invitees, and 2) whether commenters and viewers can download, print, and copy the document.
Other Things You Should Know
Everything above is pretty simple once you’ve done it a few times, and it won’t take long before Google Drive becomes your preferred service for sharing files with colleagues, friends, and family.
That being said, there are a few more things to know before you dive in.
One of the greatest things about shared Google Drive files is that multiple users can access the same file at the same time, making it very convenient as far as collaboration goes. However, there is a limit of 50 simultaneous editors and commenters at any given time.
If you’re going to use the “Invite by Email Address” method, you should be aware that there is a limit of 200 max invitations per document. If you need to exceed this limit, your only choice is to use a Shareable Link instead.
Lastly, sharing is even easier if you use Google Drive on Android. A recent update included a feature that notifies you when a file upload to your Google Drive is complete, and those notifications have easy one-tap buttons for inviting and sharing.
If you decide to stick with Google Drive, here are a few tips and tricks for getting the most out of it.
Did this help? Let us know in the comments below! Do you use Google Drive? If so, what for? If not, what would convince you to try it out?