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 drive.google.com: My Drive, Shared with me, and Google Photos.
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 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?)
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 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 FileThis.com 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, but this app adds another layer of security, in case you lose your mobile device.
There are all kinds of useful Google Drive apps 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 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!