If you want to create some safety measures to protect your important files, putting them in the cloud confers a number of advantages: You can access these files from anywhere, on a variety of devices; share and sometimes collaborate in real time; and restore files if something happens to your computer or its storage devices.
So with Google Drive as the biggest consumer cloud storage service around, we've been spending some time helping the uninitiated familiarize themselves with its capabilities, starting with the free Google Backup and Sync desktop app, followed by a guide to using Google Drive in a desktop web browser.
Once you've installed the app and logged into your Google account, there will be two main menus to navigate around your Drive storage. The hamburger menu in the upper right provides shortcuts to different sections such as recent files, your trash folder and your notification settings.
Tweaking some of the default app settings
There are few toggles in the Settings section that we recommend taking a look at right away. If you scroll down to the bottom of this section, you'll see an option to transfer files only over Wi-Fi. Enabling it will conserve your mobile data, but if you have a sizeable data plan, unchecking this will let you upload your files at any time.
If you leave this setting enabled and you're not connected to Wi-Fi, the app will pause your uploads. Either way, note that downloads from Google Drive to your device will automatically proceed regardless of connection type. So if you have limited mobile data, make sure you're on Wi-Fi before grabbing a large file from your cloud storage.
If you choose "Available offline" for a file or folder, this actually isn't the same as a conventional download; offline mode will sync any changes you made to the file when you were offline, as soon as you get re-connected.
Then for your notifications, be aware that there are settings for the app as a whole, and settings that apply to specific Google accounts. The Google Drive mobile app accommodates multiple Google accounts, which you can choose between by tapping your profile picture at the top of the hamburger menu. (Tap it a second time to hide the account selection tool.)
When you tap Settings in the hamburger menu and tap Notification settings, these toggles apply to all accounts you use in Google Drive. To adjust notifications for specific Google accounts, tap "Additional settings in the app" to get a subset of toggles. The toggle at the top of this screen will turn all notifications for that account on or off, while the three toggles below that are for specific types of notifications.
Note that not all mobile devices have an indicator light on the front that can make use of the app's "Allow notification dot" option.
Using Google Drive's three-dot menus
Each file in Google Drive has a menu button in the lower right, depicted as a stack of three dots. Tapping this menu will open a set of actions so long that you may need to drag it up to see everything you can do. At the top is your Share tool, which is tied to the people in your Contacts app.
These recipients do not strictly need to have a Google account or Google Drive app, though it can help with certain functions like live collaboration. You can send your files to pretty much anyone with a working email address.
However, be aware that the app will default to letting the recipient edit the file that you share with them -- and be aware that sharing a file is not the same as actually sending it. So if you don't want any alterations, tap the pen icon to the right and choose "Can comment" or "Can view" instead.
If you want to send a copy of your file instead of sharing access to it in Google Drive, tap the three-dot menu next to the file and select "Send a copy." This will open your device's sharing tool where you can send the file via an email app, a workplace chat app, a text messenger or whatever else you have installed on your phone that's capable of moving a file from you to someone else you know.
Last but not least, if you are using a G Suite corporate account, you may have fewer actions available in the three-dot menu, depending on your administrator's security policies.
The three-dot menu in the upper right of the app contains frequently used actions; the Refresh action updates your view of your Google Drive's contents so that you can see all the latest changes, and tapping on Details will show you an activity log that lists all of your recent uploads and downloads.
Managing files and folders with Google Drive's touch interface
If you long-press on a file or folder, that will automatically select it and open a compact menu on the bottom of the screen. Tapping the star will add this item to the Starred section that's accessed from the hamburger menu; it's basically like a bookmark, but for files.
The folder icon with an arrow will open the tool that lets you move this item to a specific Google Drive folder -- or instead of moving to a pre-existing folder, you can tap the folder icon with a "+" sign in it to create a new folder.
Alternatively, if you long-press a file or folder to select it, you can just drag it into your destination folder. When you long-press, your folder icons will get circles around them. Tapping on these circles will let you select those folders as well, if you want to perform an action on a batch of items.
The trash can icon will move this item into your Trash folder, which Google periodically empties automatically. If you want something to be truly and fully erased, you'll need to open the hamburger menu, tap Trash, then tap the trash can icon with an "X" on it. If you want to restore a file from the Trash folder, tap the clock face icon that's bordered by a circular arrow.
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Using Google Drive with other apps
One of Google Drive's best features doesn't actually get triggered within the app itself. Instead, it kicks in when you use the sharing tool in another app. For example, if you're looking at a PDF in a web browser on your mobile device and you open the browser's share tool, your own Google Drive account will be one of your sharing options.
Because of this functionality, you don't necessarily have to download the PDF to your phone or tablet -- where it could be accidentally deleted, or the device itself could be lost or stolen -- if you want to keep it. Just sling it over to your Google Drive, and it's now available in your cloud, wherever you go, for as long as you want to hold onto it.
This ability to share to your Google Drive can also extend to the desktop version of Google Chrome via this browser addon. The desktop version of Mozilla Firefox used to have such an addon, but development on it was halted some years ago.
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