10 Tips to Becoming a Google Drive Pro

"I can't find it!" That's almost the worst but not as bad as, "What's it called?" Does this sound familiar? Does file mismanagement slow down your team's ability to get into a state of flow? Then it's time to move out of the level of sophomoric use of cloud-based file storage and computing and start acting more like a pro.

google drive tips

Using Google Drive takes a little bit of practice and letting go of bad habits. Naming files randomly and not using the tools of the software are only a couple of the habits many desktop publishers need to forget.

Here are some of the things I do daily to ensure my time is used efficiently, and the people relying on me have what they need, when they need it.

1. Search Drive

I'm still amazed at how many people do not use search tools to their fullest. I know. Many people got into their current computer-using routines with slower computers that were running Microsoft Office and storing everything locally. I'll admit that I never liked waiting too long to search for a file using Windows Explorer (not the browser, of course). But it's different, now. We have faster computers and cloud storage that rocks.

It's easy. Type in the search bar above your files in Google Drive, and you'll get results that match almost instantly. If you don't use naming conventions, I suggest you start. This process can be difficult if your files are named "download.pdf", "download(1).pdf", etc. I'd keep the naming simple and searchable. If you consider the fact that you'll like to find your file quickly using the search bar, you're more likely to name it appropriately to begin with.

Pro Tip: If you run a business or manage a group, standardize the naming convention so that every file is named consistently, greatly reducing the clicks and scrolls it takes to find your documents.

2. List View

Forget about the grid view if you need to find things efficiently. Some say, "I like the way it looks. It's easier for me to find files." I get it, but that novelty will wear off if you rely on those files to earn a living or support an important cause.

Pro Tip: Use list view because it reads left to right – just like our eyes are trained in the Western world – and enjoy all of the additional information you get toward the right.

3. Sort By ...

Whether it's in Gmail, Google Search, or Drive, operators are a great way to refine your search. If you don't know how they work, you can simply click the down arrow to the left of the search icon on the right of the search bar. As you set parameters, the operators will appear in the search bar.

Pro Tip: In time, you may learn a few operators so you can skip the clicks and scrolls by typing it in yourself.

4. Star Files 

This is a simple tool that can come in handy when compiling a list of files from different locations. For example, if you want to reorganize files from several folders into one, star the files and click the starred files option in the left side navigation. This will put all of the files in one place so you can move them to the new folder at once.

Pro Tip: Sometimes I star files when I need to use certain images in a slide presentation or if I'm making a print of share list. 

5. Check "Recent"

I start here more often than not. Think about it. If you are working on files, no matter where they are, you are often going right back to them to sooner than later. The "Recent" sort also helps when printing or uploading to a blog or website, to name a couple examples. Instead of searching for the file, which may not have been named accordingly (see ProTip 1), just click "Recent" and your most recently accessed files will be at the top of the list.

Pro Tip: Lose a file? Did your Internet connect run away without your file making it into the proper folder? Just use "Recent" to find your work and proceed without worry.

6. Share Links

Sharing by granting access to particular individuals is helpful if the collaborators are long term and very few. If there are several files that you need to share or plan to share more in the future, share a folder link because then it's one share and done. Anything you add to the folder of the shared link will be available to anyone with the link.

Pro Tip: Share a folder with view only permissions to share resources, and a separate folder with editing permissions to receive resources. The separate folder with different permissions protects your files without taking away the opportunity for collaboration or creation of new documents.

7. Download As PDF

Adobe is useful when you don't know what the receiver of a file has to open the it. Since Adobe Acrobat is a standard for almost all users, it's safer than sending a link to a Google file format that may get messed up in a funky browser setting that you couldn't have predicted.

Pro Tip: Make a PDF format to "publish" a version. Do this to preserve the changes made to a document while making it more accessible to those who might not use Google apps.

8. Define and Research 

Two of the best features on Docs are the ability use a dictionary and do a Google search without leaving the workspace. I used to need an extra monitor or to use a book off the shelf to complete these tasks -- not that I don't like books or extra monitors. 

ProTip: Use Ctrl+Alt+Shift+I to research a highlighted selection of text.

9. Limit Folder Levels

People have different ideas about this issue, but I've made a lot of websites and  exchanged a high volume of files with a lot students and colleagues. The more folders that need to be searched to find something, the slower your tasks are completed. 

Plus, try being 35, clicking and scrolling for most of your life without getting carpal tunnel is unlikely. It's painful. When you work with high volume, limiting your hand motions to access files is key.

ProTip: Try to keep files stored to a maximum of two folder levels. If it's organization that you're concerned about, use alpha-numeric naming conventions and start folder names with 001, 002, etc. 

10. Convert Files to Google Format

Save space. If you're messing with Microsoft Word formats, knock it off. Make the full shift to Google and quit messing around.

ProTip: Formatting can be an issue when converting to Google format. Clear formatting once the document is Google. For extreme cases, clear formatting in Microsoft Word before converting. Tabs and tables are usually the worst. This process and frustration may teach you to not make documents with complex styling. Like tables? Fine. Keep it simple. 

For more about Google Drive or GAFE, check out these posts.

10 Things Google Apps for Education Replaces

5 Essential Google Apps for Your Students

10 Ways Google Drive Supports Learning

10 Google Drive Hacks for Education