Google Drive

Brief Description

Google Drive is a platform powered by Google which allows users to create, edit, store and share files online. Text documents, spreadsheets, forms and presentations can be created, edited, stored and shared on Google Documents. The tools are useful for when a team with good internet access wants to collaborate on the creation and maintenance of such files and easily share them with others online. You can download the documents for editing offline and then upload and synch using Google Gears and the FireFox browser.


Google Drive (released in April 2012) is the latest incarnation of Google Docs, which launched in June 2006. The associated products are Google's attempt at the "software as a service" model, which hosts both the software (tool) and data on the cloud. As opposed to the traditional model that requires each user to maintain a copy of the software on
his/her own computer, Google Docs requires no software download and files can be created, edited, stored and shared entirely online (files also can be downloaded and re-uploaded as per user preference). Thus, Google Drive essentially can be viewed as a free online version of Microsoft Office (with more basic layout/formatting features and enhanced online sharing functionality).

When to use

  • When you work on multiple computers and devices and want access to your all your important documents and files from anywhere
  • When you are sharing files with a group for collaborative editing and you want to make sure that everyone's changes are included in the latest version (Note: also allows multiple authors/editors to work on a file at once)
  • When you would like to embed content on another website (e.g., a table or graph) that is easy to update online and/or has multiple contributors
  • Here's a nice introductory video from Google:

  • Note: some users complain about Google Drive automatically synching files from their personal computers and placing them online against their wishes. Essentially, there are two versions of Google Drive: the web version and the desktop version. If you're worried about or have experienced issues with unwanted synching, simply turn off the synching function altogether or uninstall the desktop version and only use the online version.
  • Note: Google Docs and Spreadsheets have more limited formatting options than Microsoft Word and Excel, respectively. Also, Google Docs allows for commenting, but the overall functionality does not approach the robustness of Word's "Track Changes." For spreadsheets requiring advanced formulas, highly customized graphs and "macros," you're also better off sticking with Excel (assuming you have the software).

How to use

  • Go to your Google account page
  • Create your account (or use your Gmail account if you already have one)
  • Create new documents or upload documents already stored on your computer
  • Share the document to either let other people see and/or contribute to it
  • Invite your friends and colleagues to contribute to the document (there is a utility built into the application that sends these emails)

Tips and Lessons Learned

  1. Allows a community of practice to share various documents online. There's only one version of the document which stays online. Collaborators are invited to make changes to the document online.
  2. Word processor interface is very much like MS Word (just slightly more basic for formatting purposes).
  3. You can create a new document in Google Drive or work from your regular computer and upload it when the document's ready to be edited.
  4. You can collaborate on several documents with different communities of practice from a single Google account.
  5. You can create a print version, a web version, a .doc, .pdf and other extension files at any time straight from Google Drive.
  6. You can follow the history of changes like in a wiki: go to Tools/Revision history or File/Revision history. Then tick the versions of the document you wish to compare and click on "Compare checked".
  7. You can change the language setting of your google doc interface (all buttons and commands).
  8. You get to invite people to view or collaborate so that document A stays confidential within community A while document B you're also involved with stays within the circle of community B.
  9. The "Hide" function enables you to remove documents from your Google Documents main page once you have assigned them to classifying folders. You can thus use the main page as the page that shows the documents you are currently working on when those documents that are finished have been classified in folders or been hidden.

  1. You must access the service via yet another login and password. If you already have a Gmail account, you'll be able to use all Google applications using that one login and password but all emails you exchange related to the shared documents will use gmail. You can create your new account with an email address you prefer to use and correspondence will then go to that email address.
  2. Google Drive follows the language setting of the Google home page that is set as default on your computer. One way to solve the problem: when asking for on your web browser, google will reorient you to the "most appropriate" google depending on your computer setting. Below the search bar, there will be "Google.your-country-code in English" and below-right " in English". Choose either one if you want to make sure your interface ends up in English language.
  3. When tracking changes, there is no function to accept or reject changes. You have to copy original text from an old version of the document in the Revision history file and paste it back into the document.

Examples & Stories

Who can tell me more?

  • Tania Jordan (t.jordan [at]
  • Pete Shelton (p.shelton [at]

Related Methods / Tools / Practices


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