The Gdrive, the mythical, hypothetical Google-provided and free Web-based storage drive, took a giant step toward reality earlier this week. As most of America waddled out of its tryptophan-induced haze on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the myth could become real within a few months.
However, you don't have to wait that long to get free storage from Google. Thanks to Gspace and Gmail Drive, you can start using your five-gigabyte-plus of Gmail storage as a virtual drive right now. This second, even.
There's not much of a comparison to make between the two, unless you like setting your 1982 Walkman against your iPod Classic. The Gmail Drive is a good idea that's mostly devoid of advanced features. A standalone program, it turns your Gmail storage into a virtual drive by creating a shell namespace extension that in turn creates a virtual file system around the account. It's accessible from your preferred file-tree explorer.
It's not a bad system, and it two advantages over Gspace: you don't need to use Firefox to use it, and you can drag and drop files. Otherwise, its features are useful, if a bit boilerplate and mundane. When you add a file, it sends an e-mail to your Gmail account with the file as an attachment. If you delete a file from the virtual drive, it deletes the associated e-mail as well.
It allows for proxy authentication and secure HTTP, it preserves long filenames and it can auto-login, important for those who want to regularly use their Google account for file transfers. Beyond those, though, it doesn't use a lot of system resources. For those looking for a more full-bodied experience, Gspace is probably what you're looking for.
Gspace is a Firefox extension that's far more robust than Gmail Drive, but it also requires running Firefox. This isn't a bad thing, necessarily, but it's something to keep in mind, and your usage may affect which solution you prefer. It's also a cross-platform plug-in that works on Linux and Mac, something that Gmail Drive doesn't.
Accessible via a Toolbar button or from the Menubar, the extension opens a new tab with an FTP-style interface. You can transfer files by highlighting them and hitting the directional arrow. Drag and drop is not available, but the plug-in is still replete with goodies. Uploading a file sends an e-mail with it attached to your Gmail. By creating an appropriate filter and folder, it can be quite easy to keep track of the files you've uploaded. As in Gmail Drive, deleting the file from Gspace also deletes the email.
Gspace allows users to switch between different Gmail accounts, has an Inbox button so you can quickly jump back to the standard Gmail interface, and supports different uses of the virtual drive. These include a Music mode, which can be used with a Flash music player to create a Web-based MP3 player, and a Photo mode used for displaying photos--although I couldn't get that to work. Additional features include help buttons and a status bar that tells you which account you're using and the amount of space used.
One unexpected feature of Gspace is that it can also display files uploaded with Gmail Drive. Those files aren't accessible from Gspace, but if you do use both you can at least check what's living in Gmail Drive's shell.
Overall, the flexibility and features in Gspace trump the simplicity of Gmail Drive. In a few months, it's possible that both may be obsolete--but why wait for the future?