How to Organize Your Google Drive Like a Pro

Dann Albright 23-03-2016

Google Drive can be a fantastic productivity and collaboration tool. Once you start using it a lot, however, it can get hard to keep everything organized. Fortunately, Google foresaw this problem and made it easy to find what you’re looking for and make sure you don’t lose it again.


1. Basic Google Drive Setup and Adding Files

Like standard file explorers, Google Drive allows you to organize your files in folders, which is handy if you’re working on multiple distinct projects. What makes it a little more complex is that your files can originate from up to three different sources, listed in the sidebar under My Drive, Shared with me, and Google Photos.

Google Drive Shared with Me

If you’re looking for a file, it could potentially be in any of those categories, making it difficult to browse your way to a file. To make it easier, you can add any file or folder to your own Drive. If you click and drag a file to your drive, that removes the file from its current location and relocates it to your Drive.

To avoid confusing other people by making their files and folders disappear, use the Add to My Drive option from the right-click menu. Adding a file to your drive essentially adds a shortcut to the file or folder to the top level of your drive. That way, you can find it faster, but you don’t have to move it out of its original location,

2. Sort by Different Factors

This is a really basic one, but it bears explaining because it’s not immediately clear where to find this option. The Sort options button is on the right side of the toolbar, and shows the letters A and Z between two arrows. Click that icon and you’ll be given the option to sort by name, last modified date, last modified by me date, and last opened by me date.



It seems exceedingly simple, but it can be extremely useful!

3. Select Files Faster

Another very simple tip, but did you know that you can SHIFT + click or click-and-drag to select multiple files in Google Drive?



Some online services don’t support this functionality, but Google Drive does, and it lets you select files and do batch operations on them much more quickly, than if you had tried to make changes to each one individually.

4. Use Advanced Search Tools

Searching for a file using the search bar at the top of the screen is definitely the best way to find something that you’ve lost, and using the advanced tools that are only a couple clicks away will make it even more effective.


When you click into the search bar, you’ll see that you can click on any type of file to limit your search to that type of file. When you click on it, “type:[filetype]” will appear in the search bar, and you’ll see a list of all of those kinds of files that you have in your Drive. Scrolling through this list is a good place to start looking.



You can also enter “[your search term] type:[filetype]” to search for a document, spreadsheet, PDF, presentation, or other filetype to make your search faster.

In addition to searching by filetype, you can click More search tools at the bottom of the filetype selection menu to get access to more advanced search options, like date modified, words contained in the file, owner, and shared with.



These options will be a lot of help to people who store a ton of files in Google Drive, especially if you keep many different filetypes around (students who use Google Drive 7 New Google Drive Features Every Student Must Know School is in session and Google is ready to make things easier for students with Google Drive. New features have been introduced and old ones refined. We have the details. Read More may find these tools useful).

5. Use Colors and Stars to Create Categories

You can create complex hierarchies of folders, but sometimes it’s easier to have a more visual system. By right-clicking on a folder, you can select Change color and select a new color for the folder.


Instead of the standard (and rather uninspiring) grey, you’ll now have a brightly colored folder that you’ll be able to find among the masses of other folders in your Drive.


You can also star items by selecting Add star in the right-click menu, and every file and folder that you’ve starred will show up when you click Starred in the left-hand menu.


It’s just like using stars in Gmail, if you’re familiar with that practice.

6. Preview Documents to Scan Them Quickly

If you’re not sure what your document is called, or you just want a quick reminder of what’s in a file, you can make good use of the preview button — it’s in the menu bar at the top and looks like an eye.


Click on a file, hit the the preview button, and you’ll get a quick look at what’s in the file, giving you a reminder of what’s in it. It’s not lightning-fast, but it could be faster than actually opening the file in a new tab to see if it’s the one you’re looking for.


If you only need a very small look at your document, you can use the grid view to see thumbnails of each document in your Drive (the Grid view button is next to the Sort options button in the toolbar).


It’s probably not as useful as the list view, but knowing it’s there could save you some time if you come upon a situation where it could help.

7. Check Revision and Edit Histories from My Drive

A quick right-click can show you who has made revisions and when they made them on any document, even if it’s not a Google Doc. (In this image, I’m using this on a PDF—did you know that Google Drive is also great for working with PDFs 10 Tips to Do More With Your PDF Files on Google Drive Google Drive is a full-featured office suite. Some of its key features include the PDF capabilities built into the cloud app. Read More ?)


To see this information, just right-click and select Manage revisions…

To see the edit history for a Google Doc, right-click and hit View details. This will open the details panel on the right side of the screen:


You can now select other files to see their revision and edit histories or click Details to see things like created and modified dates, size, location, owner, and who has access to the file.

8. Add Items to Multiple Folders

Google Drive used to have a tagging feature that would let you find related files, even if they weren’t stored together. That functionality was removed. However, it can be replaced by a Google Drive app that will let you add a single file to multiple folders.


To connect this app, click on any file, mouse over Open with, and select + Connect more apps. Use the search bar to find Multifolder, and add it to your Google Drive. Now, just right-click a file or folder, hit Open with > Multifolder, and you’ll be able to add it to multiple folders.

9. Use Apps to Help You Organize

In addition to Multifolder, a number of other great Google Drive add-ons 5 Google Drive Add-ons You Need to Use Google Docs and Google Spreadsheet are both amazing free services, but when you include some of the add-ons listed here, it can breathe new life into these tools. Read More and apps can help you stay organized — choosing which ones to use just depends on what you’re trying to do. For example, FileThis is a super useful app that will automatically pull bank statements, invoices, and utility bills into a folder in your Google Drive.


The free account from lets you connect up to six accounts and updates them once a week.

Another potentially useful app is called Hidden Folder, and it allows you to prevent other apps from seeing specific files in your Drive. Google Drive is pretty secure How Secure Are Your Documents In Google Drive? Read More , but this app adds another layer of security, in case you lose your mobile device.


There are all kinds of useful Google Drive apps Make Google Drive Absolutely Awesome with These Tools Google Drive comes packed with smart features. And you can greatly expand its potential with third-party tools. Here we have compiled some of the best tools that plug into Google Drive. Read More out there — you just have to find them. Hit + Connect more apps and do some exploring to see which ones could help you!

Your Favorite Google Drive Tips

These tips should help you get your Google Drive under control The Only Google Drive Guide You'll Ever Need to Read Google Drive is the perfect combination of online file storage and document management tools. We explain how to best use Google Drive on- and offline, by yourself and in collaboration with others. Read More and make it much easier to navigate.

Among all the great strategies to organize Google Drive, which ones are your favorites? How do you make sure you can find the files you need in Google Drive? Do you use other apps, or just a solid organizational system?

Share your best tips in the comments below!

Related topics: File Management, File Sharing, Google Drive, Organization Software.

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  1. Mike
    June 2, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    I have a Pixel Phone, which is great. It's also great that automatically, when I connect my phone to my PC for charging, my photos are uploaded to "Google Photos". The photo quality is amazing. No one in history can take worse photos than I can, and Pixel corrects that. My challenge is that I no take a lot of photos and accumulated 3GB of photos in my "Google Photos". When I "MOVE" them to a folder under "My Drive", the photos now appear in the "My Drive" sub-folder, but also still show in Google Photos.
    When I had only one photo, this was fine. Now I have 3GB of photos, hundreds, maybe thousands of photos that won’t go away when filed. It is impossible to manage, especially since the Google Photos website cannot handle scrolling through more than a few pages of pictures, which is usually only the last few days of picture taking, and it freezes up so that you cannot scroll through the rest of the photos to preview / manage. First question is who is the axxhole that set up the design to ‘Move’ photos that can’t be moved? And why did he/she think it was wise to set it up so you cannot manage your photos?
    The only way I can think of to ‘manage’ your photos is to download them to your PC, the upload them separately to My Drive.
    This system should have never been released and the process is a failure. If you MOVE a picture from Google Photos to My Drive, then delete the photo in Google Photos, it deletes the copy in My Drive making it completely useless as a file management system.
    Am I the only one who is completely annoyed with the fact that you cannot manage the images in Google Photos? They all just sit there, for ever, until you delete them. Yeah, that makes sense. NOT!

  2. Joe Houghton
    December 29, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Thanks for all of this information. Well written and not too long. It was also easy to understand/comprehend.

    • Dann Albright
      December 31, 2016 at 1:09 am

      Glad you thought so! I hope it helps you get your cloud storage life together. :-)

  3. Clarke
    August 16, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    I'm trying to organise my folders in other ways, than the four options showed above (name, last modified, las modified by me, last opened by me)... Is that possible?

  4. Daudz
    April 28, 2016 at 3:02 am

    I am trying to organize my files in google drive. So, tried to use Shift+Z to add a file that was share to me to a folder in My Drive. However, I got a warning that "People will lose access." Is this suppose to happen?

    If this is not possible, please advise how to organize files in google drive. thanks

    • Dann Albright
      May 3, 2016 at 1:30 pm

      I just tried the same thing and didn't get that message. Does it happen if you try to add it to the top level of your Drive, or only if you use a folder?

    • Dave
      July 31, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      All that means is that the folder you are moving it from is shared, so moving the document to a different folder might put it in a location with different sharing permissions and some people may not be able to see it.

      It's a nice way of reminding you to Check yourself before you wreck yourself. :)

      • Dann Albright
        August 11, 2016 at 2:55 pm

        Thanks for chiming in with an explanation! Makes a lot of sense.

  5. René Stout
    March 23, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    Even Better for 8: I just found out that you even don't need zo Shift-Z anymore.
    Just open de file, click on the folder and use ctrl-Click on the folders you want to relate the file to.

    • Dann Albright
      March 23, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      Nice! That's a great tip. Thanks for sharing!

  6. krossbow
    March 23, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    For number 8 - use the keyboard shortcut Shift-Z instead. No need to install anything.

    Use Shift-? for all of the keyboard shortcuts.

    • Dann Albright
      March 23, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      Thanks for the tip! I wasn't aware of that one. I'd looked at quite a few of the shortcuts, but I hadn't seen that one. Good call.