Easy Google Drive Tricks

Google Drive is an online word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation app from Google. It's full of features, and here are ten easy tricks you can do right away.

Share Documents

Google Docs & Icon
Google Inc.

One of the best features of Google Drive is that you can collaborate by simultaneously editing a document. Unlike Microsoft, there is no desktop word processing app, so you do not sacrifice features by collaborating. Google Drive doesn't limit the number of free collaborators you can add to a document.

You can choose to have documents open to everyone and allow anyone and everyone editing access. You can also restrict editing to small groups.  You can also set your sharing preferences for a folder and have all items you add to that folder automatically share with a group.

Make Spreadsheets

Google Docs started out as a Google Labs product called Google Spreadsheets (now called Sheets). Google later purchased Writely to add the documents into Google Docs. Meanwhile, the features in Google Sheets grew and were merged into Google Drive. Yes, you can probably make Excel do something you can't get out of Google Sheets, but it's still an excellent and straightforward spreadsheet app with nice features like scripted actions and gadgets.

Make Presentations

You've got documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. These are online slide show presentations, and now you can even add animated transitions to your slides. (Use this power for good and not for evil. It's easy to get carried away with transitions.) Like everything else, you can share and collaborate with simultaneous users, so you can work on that presentation with your partner in another state before you offer your presentation at a conference. You can then export your presentation as a PowerPoint or PDF or deliver it directly from the web. You can also deliver your presentation as a web meeting. It's not as full-featured as using something like Citrix GoToMeeting, but Google Presentations are free.

Make Forms

You can create an easy form from within Google Drive that asks different types of questions and then feeds directly into a spreadsheet. You can publish your form as a link, send it in an email, or embed it on a webpage. It's very powerful and very easy. Security measures might force you to pay for a product like Survey Monkey, but Google Drive sure does a great job for the price.

Make Drawings

You can make collaborative drawings from within Google Drive. These drawings may be embedded into other docs, or they may stand alone. This is still a relatively new feature, so it tends to be slow and a little quirky, but it's great for adding an illustration in a pinch.

Make Spreadsheet Gadgets

You can take your spreadsheet data and insert a gadget powered by the data in a range cells. Gadgets can very from simple pie charts and bar graphs to maps, organization charts, pivot tables, and more.

Use Templates

Documents, spreadsheets, forms, presentations, and drawings all have templates. Rather than creating a new item from scratch, you can use a template to give you a head start. You can also create your own template and share it with others.

I find it useful sometimes to just browse through the templates to see some of the creative ways people use Google Drive.

Upload Anything

You can upload just about any file, even if it's not something recognized by Google Drive. You've got a finite amount of storage space (1 gig) before Google starts charging, but you can upload files from obscure word processors and download them to edit on a desktop computer.

That doesn't mean you should underestimate the types of files you can edit from within Google Drive. Google Drive will convert and allow you to edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. You can also convert and edit files from OpenOffice, plain text, html, pdf, and other formats.

Google Drive even has a built-in OCR to scan and convert your scanned documents. This option may take a little longer than regular uploads, but it's worth it. 

Edit Your Documents Offline

If you like Google Drive, but you're going on a trip, you can still edit your documents on the plane. You need to use the Chrome browser and prepare your documents for offline editing, but you can edit Documents and Spreadsheets. 

You can also use an Android app to edit your docs from your phone.