Last Friday, we began a short series about how to use Google Drive, starting with the Backup and Sync app on a desktop PC. You can use that app to manage your files in the Google Drive cloud, but that's just one way to transfer your documents and media back and forth. If you have a desktop web browser like Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome already installed on your PC, then the browser itself can be a perfectly good stand-in for basic Google Drive uploads and downloads.
The second part of our series will show you how to use Google Drive within a desktop web browser -- and maybe you'll pick up some cool new tips along the way that you didn't know before.
Accessing Google Drive
The simplest way to get into your Google Drive (download for iOS or Android) account is to point your web browser to https://drive.google.com. If your browser is already logged into your Google account, then going to that URL will automatically display the contents of your Google Drive. If not, you just need to log into your account to see everything.
Alternatively, you can access this service from within other Google web apps like Gmail or Docs. In the desktop web browser version of Gmail, for example, there is an icon in the upper right depicting a grid of nine small squares. Clicking on this will produce a shortcut menu that can take you to Docs, Sheets, Calendar, Photos and any other "G Suite" productivity web apps that are available to your particular account.
(Protip: You can click-and-drag the icons in this shortcut menu to sort them according to your tastes.)
If you have multiple Google accounts, each one will have its own separate collection of Drive files. You can choose among your Google accounts by clicking on the profile picture in the upper right and then clicking on the account that you want to switch to. This may require you to log into your other Google account, so have your password handy.
FOLLOW Download.com on Twitter for all the latest app news.
Navigating Google Drive with a mouse and keyboard
In order for Drive to feel like an app when it's in your browser, Google had to make a few tweaks to how your mouse and keyboard usually behave. For example, when you right-click on a file or folder when looking at Google Drive in a web browser, you get a unique menu. Instead of common actions like "Open in a new window" or "Bookmark this link," you get options like previewing a document, sharing, downloading and removal.
Plus, like in a desktop file manager, you can hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard and select specific files to perform a single action on, like downloading or sharing. Or you can hold down the Shift key to select multiple files in a series with one click. Pressing your Delete key will put a file in Google Drive's Trash folder.
If you want to empty your Trash folder right away, instead of waiting for Google's periodic automated deletion, click on the Trash menu item on the left, then click on the word "Trash" that appears right under the search box, select Empty Trash and click the blue Empty Trash button to confirm.
Google maintains a list of all the keyboard commands that you can use in the desktop web browser version of Drive. You can access the list from that link or by clicking on the gear icon in the upper right of the Google Drive web app and selecting Keyboard Shortcuts.
The question mark button next to the gear will open Drive's searchable index of tech support documents; if you have a personal Google One subscription, this help menu will also have links to email, call or live chat with Google's premium tech support staff.
Google Drive's other menus
At any time, you can tap on the blue "i" icon in the upper right to open a pane that gives you more info about whatever folder or file you've selected. This pane has a Details tab that will show you things like when the selected item was created, who created it and what type of web app can open it.
If you click on the pen icon, you can create a description of the file or folder, to make it easier to find later via the search tool. If you click on the Activity tab, you'll see a log showing all the actions you took with that file.
On the left side of the Drive web app interface, you'll see two items with arrows next to them: My Drive and Computers. Clicking on the arrow will open a submenu with shortcuts to your Drive folders, and clicking on Computers will show you all the devices associated with this account that are using the Backup and Sync desktop app.
That concludes the whirlwind tour of Google Drive as a web app, but we'll be following up soon with the conclusion of our series: How to get the most out of the Google Drive mobile app for iOS and Android.
- How to use the Google Backup and Sync desktop app like a pro
- Gmail vs ProtonMail: Is it time for email with higher security and privacy?
- Google Photos to end unlimited storage for some types of video files
- Google One cloud storage is now live, with 100GB for $2 per month (CNET)
- Google Chrome to add drive-by-download protection (ZDNet)
- How to silence certain notifications in Google Drive (TechRepublic)