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Google Drive Tips and Tricks: 9 Features You May Have Missed



Google Drive cloud storage

Google Drive has some hidden features that make it even more useful.

Sarah Tew / CNET

I use Google services every day, including Google Drive. I use them for work. I actually wrote this story in Google Docs. I use them at home, whether I use sheets to map out my kids’ summer schedule, or add the ever-growing folder of recipes – it makes it easy to share favorites with friends or access necessary ingredients on my phone when I’m in the grocery store . It’s hard to imagine my digital life before Google.

I’ve been using Google Drive long enough to discover some hidden gems along the way that make Google’s cloud service an even better tool. Here are nine features I use that can help you too.

Configure offline access

Do you need to work during your commute or other times when you are not connected to the internet? No problem. Google Drive lets you access your files while offline, and then syncs your changes when you return online. You need to use the Chrome browser and be signed in to your Google Account.

First, install the Google Docs Offline extension for Chrome. Then sign in to Google Drive, open Settings and select the checkbox Create, open, and edit your recent Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides files on this device while offline.

google-drive-offline-access

Screenshot by Matt Elliott / CNET

Convert files to Google Docs format

You can edit Microsoft Word documents in Google Drive, but sometimes the formatting looks weird. If you’d prefer to convert a Word document you add to Google Drive to the original Google Docs format, you can set it up with a few clicks. Open Settings and select the check box Convert uploaded files to Google Docs format. Done and done – no more Word documents in your Google Drive library.

See who made what edits

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Brett Pearce / CNET

Sharing is baked into Google Drive: Up to 100 people can work on a Google Doc, Sheet or Slide at once. I doubt you’re close to reaching triple digits for the number of simultaneous collaborators, but with another handful of people editing the same document at the same time, it can be difficult to see who’s changing what.

Go to to keep track of the various changes made to a Google Docs File> Version History> View Version History to open a panel on the right side showing who has updated the document and when. You can click on each version to see what changes were made, and you can click on the triple dot button to rename an earlier version to make it easier to keep track. You can also make a copy of previous versions, if you want to keep a draft you are afraid of losing track of.

Turn off suggestions

Formerly called Quick Access and now marked Suggested, there is a thumbnail belt above the top of the My Drive view that shows your recently modified files. I think it’s a huge time saver, but let’s say you use Drive at work and updated your resume. You may not want your boss to look over your shoulder and see that you recently worked on your resume. You can hide this belt with thumbnails in the Drive settings. Scroll to the end of the General Settings page and uncheck the box next to Suggestions Make relevant files useful when you need them in Suggested and hit Done.

google drive suggestions

Screenshot by Matt Elliott / CNET

Send links to files instead of attachments

There’s a small Drive icon at the bottom of Gmail’s writing window. It allows you to attach files you have stored in Drive or just send a link. For Google Drive formats – Docs, Sheets, Slides and so on – your only option is to submit a link to the file. For other file types – such as PDFs, Word documents and images – you have the option to send them as an attachment or a Drive link, allowing you to share files larger than Gmail’s 25 MB attachment size limit.

Filter your searches

This is clearly hidden. In the search box at the top of Google Drive, there is a filter button along the right edge. Click on it and you will get a panel with search options to filter the search results with. If you’ve been using Google Drive for years and have amassed a large library of files, these search options are very useful in narrowing down the results. You can filter by file type, date changed and owner. For shared documents, you can filter by someone you shared a file with. And so that you do not leave anyone hanging, you can also filter for files that have been assigned an action item or that have suggestions waiting for you.

google drive filter

Screenshot by Matt Elliott / CNET

Quick formatting

You have a few options to clear the formatting for text you paste into Documents. You can select the text and select Normal text from the toolbar at the top. Or you can go to Format> Clear formatting. (For the latter, you can use the hotkey Ctrl- , or Command- for Mac.)

You can avoid the format removal process by holding down Shift when pasting text. Yep, Ctrl-Shift-V glue without formatting. It is Command-Shift-V for Mac users.

One-touch phone copy

Do you want to back up your phone’s important data to Drive? You can! And with a single tap. Go to the mobile app Settings> Backup and choose what you want to back up – contacts, calendar events or photos and videos (or all three). Just press Start backup button to get started. It will probably take a while, so you may want to start the process overnight. Your phone must be connected and connected to Wi-Fi.

google-drive-backup

Screenshot by Matt Elliott / CNET

Back up folders on PC or Mac

With the Google Backup and Sync app, you can back up your content to your Mac or PC – or just select folders. And you can go the other way and sync the files you’ve saved on Google Drive with your computer for easy, offline access.

To get started, download Backup and Sync to your Mac or PC and follow the instructions to install it and sign in. The app installs a folder on your computer called Google Drive, and you can drag photos and documents to the folder to sync it. content with Google Drive on Google’s servers. To sync other folders on your computer with Drive, open the backup and sync settings, and select the folders you want to sync, such as Documents or Pictures.

For more, check it out 10 Gmail Tricks You Use Every Day and our list of the best Android phones to buy for 2021.


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