How to Use Google Drive With Linux

Getting the most out of Google Drive on Linux


Working with Google Drive on an operating system like Windows and macOS makes using the cloud storage service particularly easy, but it's just as easy to use Google Drive on Linux.

Using Google Drive on Linux With a Web Browser

Considering Google Drive can be used with any modern web browser, it would make sense that Linux enjoys that same feature. Well-known web browsers like Firefox, Chrome, and Opera all work beautifully with Google Drive, as do lesser-known web browsers like Epiphany, Midori, and Vivaldi – even with accounts that use 2-Factor Authentication.

The one feature that suffers is the ability to work offline with documents in Drive. The only web browsers this feature works in are Google Chrome and Chromium, the open source version of Chrome. To make this happen, do the following:

  1. Open Google Chrome.

  2. Go to Google Drive.

  3. Select the Gear icon.

  4. Select Settings.

  5. Check the box associated with Offline. 

    Working Offline With Drive in Chrome on Linux.

    You will not find the offline setting in either the Firefox or Opera web browsers.

  6. You may be prompted to install the Google Docs Offline extension. If so, OK that installation.

Using Google Drive on Linux in GNOME

If your distribution happens to use the GNOME Desktop Environment, you can add your Google Drive account to the Online Accounts feature. Doing this will integrate your Google account with the GNOME Calendar, the Evolution Groupware Suite (email, to-dos, calendar, tasks, contacts, etc.), and more. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Open Settings from the GNOME Activities Overview.

  2. Select Online Accounts.

  3. Select Google.

    Adding your Google Drive account to the GNOME desktop.
  4. Walk through the account sign-in process.

  5. With the sign-in process complete, you can select what Google services you want to connect to the GNOME desktop. Close that window and the Settings window.

    Selecting what Google services to add to GNOME.
  6. Open the GNOME file manager and you should see a new listing in the left sidebar with your Google account. Select the account and your Google Drive will be mounted and ready to go.

    The Google Drive account ready to use in the GNOME file manager.
  7. You can open, edit, create, and delete files from that location as if they were local to your drive.

Because Google Drive is mounted as a remote file system, it can take a significant amount of time before the directory is ready to use based on how many files and folders you have saved to Google Drive. Furthermore, every time you reboot the desktop, you'll have to remount the Drive account by opening the file manager and selecting the Google Account entry.

Using Google Drive on Linux With a Third-Party Solution

Unfortunately, Google has refused to create a Drive client for Linux. Fortunately, there are a few such tools available from third-party developers. Insync is one such tool for syncing Google Drive to Linux.

Insync is a cross-platform Drive-to-Desktop sync tool that enables you to backup and sync Google Drive to the Linux desktop. There's a cost associated with Insync, though; a single Insync license will cost $29.99 USD per user account, but if you’re a Google Drive power user who happens to work on the Linux desktop, the software is worth the cost.

To install Insync on Linux, do the following:

Instructions below are demonstrated using the Elementary OS, which is based on Ubuntu Linux.

  1. Download the latest release of Insync.

  2. Save the file to /home/USER/Downloads, where "USER" is your Linux username.

  3. Open a terminal window.

  4. Change to the directory containing the file with the command:

    cd ~/Downloads
  5. Install the new file with the command:

    sudo apt install ./insync*.deb
  6. Allow the installation to complete.

    Starting Insync from the installation.
  7. Start an instance of the newly installed Insync from your desktop menu.

  8. Once you start Insync, you'll be prompted to OK Nautilus (file manager) integration. When prompted, select Yes to add sync integration with the GNOME file manager.

  9. A terminal window will appear, prompting for your user password (for the installation of the necessary Nautilus integration components). During this installation, you’ll be prompted to type y, then press any key to continue.

  10. Another new window will open, where you can start the Insync Service. Select Start Insync. Then press Close.

  11. Finally, you'll be presented with the Insync window asking you to add a Google account. Select the Add a Google account button, then proceed through the account sign-in wizard.

    Adding a Google Account to Insync.
  12. This will open your default web browser, where you’ll need to sign into your Google Account. If you’ve already taken care of that, you'll also be required to give Insync permission to access your Google account. Select Allow.

    Giving Insync permisson to access your Google Drive account.
  13. With permissions given, you're ready to start using Insync. The Insync window will walk you through the process of choosing a default location to sync Drive to your desktop.

    Changing the default sync location for Insync.

    By default, this location will be /home/USERNAME/GOOGLEACCOUNT, where "USERNAME" is your Linux username, and "GOOGLEACCOUNT" is the email address associated with your connected Google Account. Should you want to change that, select the Change button on the last screen of the wizard and select a different location for the sync.

  14. You're now ready to enjoy an outstanding Google Drive-to-Linux-Desktop sync experience.