How To Use Google Drive To Capture Your Great Ideas & Never Lose Them

Danny Stieben 27-03-2014

Google Drive already ties all your favorite Google services together and adds a whopping 15GB of free storage. With all this right at your fingertips, you can’t help but feel like you need to make good use out of it all. Why not start by using Google Drive to make your ideas stick and make them more effective?


Move over Evernote — here’s how you can use Google Drive to keep and grow your ideas.

Why Use Google Drive?

It may be easy to quickly dismiss Google Drive as a good way to keep track of your ideas, but I don’t think that should be the case. With Google Drive, you won’t have to depend on any desktop apps that you’ll need to install on your computer (and any others you’re working on).

With the multiple Google tools available for free, you can approach an idea from several angles.

You also won’t have to worry about losing anything due to software crashes or hardware failures. Everything is in the cloud, and you can find any misplaced items with a quick and simple search.

Did I mention that you get 15GB for free? If you ever happen to need more, extra space has become dirt cheap Google Starts Encrypting Search, Slashes Storage Prices For Google Drive There's big news coming out of Mountain View as Google gears up to take on the governments as well as rival online storage companies like Dropbox. Read More . You can pay just two bucks a month for a massive boost to 100GB.


Tools At Your Fingertips

Without even attaching a third-party application, you get a ton of features in Google Drive that you can use to capture your ideas.

For example, you can use Google Keep, the handy note-taking service, to jot down your ideas for later review. You can even record voice memos using it, in case you feel like typing isn’t enough.

If you need more room to elaborate on your ideas, creating a Google Doc is the way to go. The document editor gives you or your team the formatting options to work on ideas in detail and also in real time. Again, you won’t need to rely on local storage and locally-installed programs.

Technically speaking, you could also create spreadsheets and presentations instead of documents, but those will only be better choices in very rare occasions.


If you’re someone who loves to create mind maps, you can create a Google Drawing, a way to collaboratively create drawings The Google Docs Drawing Tool Makes Collaborative Drawing Easier Read More . You have plenty of freedom to create your mind map however you’d like, which is good for those really like to hammer out their ideas visually.

This ultimate freedom to create your mind map is nice, but it also means you’ll need more time to create your masterpiece. If you’d like to use a dedicated app designed for mind maps, then MindMup is a great online service that integrates into your Google Drive Try MindMup Mind-Mapping Via Google Drive If you've ever tried to create a mind-map for your brainstorming sessions, you'll know that using the right tool is essential. There are many sites with mind-mapping tools to choose from, and choosing between them... Read More . Best of all, you can connect it to your Google Drive so that it can store the mind map files in the same place where you keep everything else.

Similarly, you can also use a Google Drive supported service like Conceptboard, an online collaborative whiteboard service, for concept generation and collaboration on your ideas. This integration allows you to access Google Drive files from within Conceptboard and work with them using the service’s features. The free plan gives you enough space to chalk out your ideas.

There are also concept generation templates in the Google Docs Template Gallery — a lot of them. I’d not going to recommend a template simply because there are so many and most are for specialized purposes. It’d be a good idea to search through them yourself and find one that works for you individually or for your type of work.


Once you have an idea, you may want to poll other people on their opinions to see which of your ideas work best. For this you can use Google Forms, which allows you to easily create survey forms that users can fill out and submit them to you. We at MakeUseOf use Google Forms regularly to poll our own staff on ideas. We also use it to allow you to submit your own ideas to us for future articles that you’d like to see.

We’ve also written about Google Forms quite a bit. We’ve talked about 10 advanced tricks 10 Advanced Google Forms Tips and Tricks If Google Forms isn't your go-to form maker yet, these advanced Google Forms tips and tricks may change your mind. Read More , 5 reasons to use it 9 Awesome Reasons to Use Google Forms Need to create a quick survey but can't afford to pay anything? Here are several reasons why you should use Google Forms! Read More , and an example on how to create a self-grading quiz How To Use Google Forms To Create Your Own Self-Grading Quiz Are you a teacher or trainer? Someone involved in a hiring process? Do you need to check somehow that other people have the skills or knowledge that you expect them to? Well, you're going to... Read More .

“Save to Google Drive” Extension for Chrome

It’s a good idea to put every link, picture, and anything else in the same place as all the other stuff you’ve found or made. Of course, you could save these things to your computer first and then upload them to your Google Drive.

But if you’re a Chrome user, you can also use the Save to Google Drive extension. With this, you can just right-click something you want to save, and choose it rather than “Save As.” It’s a different button, but the workflow is identical if you kept everything on your computer.


Suggested Workflow

Great, so you can use all these tools, but how exactly can you make them work together for super effectiveness? For a group, Insightster [Broken URL Removed] is a great way to consolidate ideas and choose the best ones. However, the service is considering shutting down or requiring payment in the near future. Instead, consider this workflow using just Google Drive:

  1. Jot down any ideas (or from anyone else) in a Keep note for quick storage.
  2. Once there’s more time, you (or anyone else) can create a Document to expand on that idea and elaborate with details.
  3. Consider having a single Document. You can share it with all of your group members where they can directly type out their ideas and details, or copy and paste from their own Documents.
  4. Create a Form and send it to all the group members to poll on which idea they like the most.
  5. Use a Drawing, MindMup, or Conceptboard to collaborate on how to execute the chosen idea and share it accordingly.


As you can see, Google Drive’s multipurpose tools are great for ideas. Of course, this entire article is just a suggestion on how you can use Google Drive for this purpose — your own workflow using the same tools may work better for you. In any case, many of you already have Google accounts, so why not use these tools?

What’s your preferred method of working with ideas? Let us know in the comments!

Related topics: Google Docs, Google Drive, Mindmapping.

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  1. KeithN
    April 25, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Great article - I'm just getting into Google Drive, so this is really handy. Thanks!

  2. Frank Henderson
    March 28, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Who was that masked man?

  3. kevn
    March 28, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    There are a few drawbacks. I recently moved all my videos from google drive because google told me I was running short on space. I have tried to share files via my google drive but most of the time they were not able to open it. Also google spreadsheet does not semem to be compatible with what people are used to. These are a few drawbacks. Evernote never told me I am running out of space.

    • Danny S
      April 1, 2014 at 6:25 pm

      I believe Evernote does have space restrictions, whether it be total space or the size of uploads in a month. Simple text notes are so tiny though that they barely use that space.

  4. Dan
    March 28, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    I'm sure this will work for some people, but it largely depends on which platform you are committed to, I think. For instance, on iOS (and other platforms) the Evernote app allows me to quickly and simply input virtually any kind of information I want with a click or two. From voice notes to text notes, from pictures to videos, it's very easy and quick for me to upload these notes. I may be mistaken, but I have not seen a Google Keep app for the iPhone. I think the system probably works better for people who are on the Android/Google ecosystem. Even then, though, I think Evernote offers far more.

    Also, with Evernote I can snap a quick photo of a passage in a book or whatever, and have that text made searchable. That's another huge time saver when doing research or just coming across some poster or flyer or card I want to remember. Of course, there are numerous other features of Evernote that you won't get with Google Drive and Keep, but that's a big one.

    I think the real problem with this post is the title which I consider misleading. Google Drive and Evernote are two different animals, and to suggest that Drive can replace Evernote is a big stretch. : )

    One more thing (since I see someone just posted about this above), OneNote is also an option. Again, however, this depends on your platform. While I am thrilled to see that OneNote is finally moving more into the Apple arena, the apps are still lacking big time. For a Windows user, OneNote IS a legitimate alternative to Evernote (or at least much more of one than Drive), but this is not the case for Mac users (though it may be mores over time).

    Lastly, one needs to take into consideration the number of apps that integrate with one's system. Tons of the apps on my phone, iPad and Macs have built in support for Evernote. Far more than have support for Drive, Keep or OneNote. This has to do with which ecosystem one is committed to, again, but it's worth pointing out. It's also why people will only rarely switch from an iPhone to "the next big thing" (or the other way around), unless they are willing to change virtually everything in their ecosystem. I'm not getting an HTC because it has a better camera if it won't work well with the five or ten other devices in my household. : ) Same with organizational apps (if to a lesser degree).

    • Aaron Cirilo
      August 26, 2014 at 1:56 am

      using Google Drive > Camera... converts image to searchable PDF

  5. James
    March 28, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Nothing here I cant do in Onedrive better. Also have you ever heard of Onenote? its now free! Checkout It's waaaayyyyyy better than evernote! I used evernote for years till my office switched to office 365, I felt like I went from the stone age to the space age over night. Freaking awesome!

  6. Rick Shortt
    March 27, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    In the end, everyone has to decide who they trust, who they don't, what they trust them with, and what level of overall trust they place in them. You make your own decision, hopefully based on available information, general consensus, reviews, and your own instincts and gut feelings. If you are going to use the internet, you are going to put a certain amount of trust in others. Even if you don't use the internet or computers at all, you are still trusting others with your data and data about you, like your bank and the government. FWIW, this is an interesting article that touches on Google access to your email:

  7. Don Gateley
    March 27, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    There is also one really good reason not to use this. The terms of service give Google the right to view any and all of your data and do whatever they want with what the information. That's how they monetize it and make it so cheap.

    Would you give them snoop access to your hard drive? Someone needs to provide an encryption wrapper that efficiently and certainly makes your data for your eyes only. That would be easy enough to do but you would need it installed on any device from which you want want the ability to access it. I'm not sure a third party web app is possible that allows secure browser or other web access.

  8. Srivatsan V
    March 27, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    I use Drive since it pairs well with my Nexuses (Nexi?) 5 and 7 devices. I can quickly upload/convert a Word or PowerPoint file to Drive from a Windows computer and then I have access from my phone and tablet. And a lot of collaborative work I do with my coworkers is done on Drive because it's so easy to use - just make a document and share it with them. Then their cursor pops up on your screen and you can talk on Skype (or Hangouts if you want that Google feel) and get your work done.

    • Danny S
      April 1, 2014 at 6:23 pm

      Exactly! You get some extra benefits from Google Drive that you wouldn't get from Evernote.

  9. Jon G
    March 27, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    ...and you can hand Google all your ideas and dreams, for them to monetise and pass onto any governmental authority that's interested.

    Note also, in their Privacy Policy:

    "We use the information that we collect from all of our services [...] to develop new ones."

    Think carefully about that. There's nothing within the Privacy Policy that prevents Google from ripping your ideas, source code and other intellectual property to use for themselves. The Terms of Service expand on this:

    "When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights that you grant in this licence are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting and improving our Services, and to develop new ones."

    Which gives Google a licence to help themselves to any source code you write and store within it, so long as they're using it for themselves.

    Uncomfortable yet?

    • Duke Bradford
      March 27, 2014 at 4:42 pm

      Ugh. What are you, the privacy police? Everyone knows that there's no privacy on the web. Why do people like you feel the need to blather on about it constantly? How do you think all these services are free? We know they're selling and targeting us with ads. We've decided to accept the terms. Now shut up about it.

    • Paul Cairns
      March 29, 2014 at 6:49 am

      Great response and very noteworthy. Well done and thank you!

  10. Rick Shortt
    March 27, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Good article with some interesting ideas. I use Google Drive and Docs a lot already, more and more as time goes by in fact, and I like the service a lot. I am already using some of what you discussed, and find the "Save To Google Drive" extension particularly handy - as much so as the Evernote Web Clipper in its own way. But I am also heavily invested in Evernote, and think it would be difficult (though not necessarily impossible) for Google Drive to replace it for my uses. As a supplement though, I see some great possibilities. What I really seized on though were the allusions to the files being in the cloud and the comment "you won’t need to rely on local storage and locally-installed programs".

    Since I have been preparing myself for some time for trying to make Chrome OS my primary desktop computing system and just bought a Chromebox towards that end, that got me to formulate and share a few more thoughts that I decided to share.

    First of all, both Google Drive and Evernote have desktop applications for Windows and Mac that store your files locally, as well as in the cloud. The Evernote application also has a lot of major functionality, while the Google Drive application has almost none except for syncing files - much the same as the Dropbox desktop application. Almost all of Google Drive's real power is in the webapp. That said, if one is comfortable with only having (or mostly so) their files in the cloud, they don't really need to install Evernote any more than they do Google Drive, because the Evernote webapp has also actually become quite impressive in its capabilities.

    If one uses Android or iOS devices, both services become even more capable thanks to being able to use the camera to "scan" documents and to "pin" files for offline use in Google Drive or in Offline folders for Evernote. Unfortunately, the latter is only available to premium users (of which I am one).

    Also, it is simply not possible to make Offline folders with the web version of Evernote. This brings up a couple more things of interest to anyone using a Chromebook, or who doesn't want to pay for Evernote Premium to have offline access to files on mobile devices. Pinning files in Google Drive on Android (or iOS?) is free. In a Chrome browser or Chromebook, one can make Google Docs available offline too. And with Chrome OS devices, you can even make other files besides Google Docs avaiIable offline. I guess where I am going with this is that even if one is committed to Evernote, but only has mobile and Chrome OS devices, it might make sense to keep stuff you might need offline access to in Google Drive instead of Evernote.

    • Danny S
      April 1, 2014 at 6:22 pm

      Great thoughts, Rick. Ultimately, this article wasn't necessarily trying to get everyone to switch from Evernote to Google Drive, but to open people's minds on the possibility of using Google Drive for such purposes.

  11. Scott B
    March 27, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    When I saw this article and the promise of using Google Drive instead of Evernote, I immediately started reading. But after reading this, I really can't see how this can work out in reality. Got to agree with Sobe, Google Keep is nowhere near Evernote in its capabilities. I use both, but Keep is simply note taking and reminders. I use Evernote more extensively for notes, idea, articles, etc. I've been having problems with Evernote recently (the desktop version) and was looking at maybe using OneNote, but have even run into problems with that just trying to log in (on the desktop version), too! But I'm still waiting for the next step to try from Evernote Support, so will see. It would be nice to have a complete Google Cycle for all my stuff and wish that Keep could be extended in its functions, and it would definitely be a Keeper (!) I think the article above has use for groups, but for a replacement for Evernote...not quite.

  12. Nahla D
    March 27, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    I didn't know there is Google Keep!

  13. Sobe
    March 27, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Proximo, I use Evernote as well and do not see any of this replacing it, but Google Keep is in no way or meant to be, as you said an "Evernote clone". Keep is just a simple note taking app, nothing else, unlike Evernote which does a whole lot more.

    • Danny S
      April 1, 2014 at 6:21 pm

      I never said that Google Keep was an Evernote clone. Of course it isn't. It's the combination of Google Drive apps that can be effective for you.

  14. Proximo
    March 27, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    I love Google Drive, but I don't see it as a way to replace a much simpler tool for capturing my ideas which is Evernote. In your article you mention using Google Keep which is an Evernote clone. Google Drive is simple a fantastic online cloud hard disk that allows you to access your files. Evernote on the other hand is an idea capturing monster with tags, search hand written text, search text on images, and many other great features designed to quickly retrieve your ideas. Capturing your ideas with Evernote is almost endless with so many great apps, extensions, etc.

    I use them both daily but I do not consider Google Drive to be as easy and effective in capturing my ideas. If I have a Google Doc, Presentation, or Spreadsheet I want to retrieve easily for future reference, I save it on Google Drive. If I am taking notes, capturing web articles, Clipping a paragraph from a website, or wanting to archive an email I received with good reference material, I use Evernote.