Google Drive’s austere interface can trick you into thinking what you see is all you get. But it’s actually packed with powerful productivity features that aren’t immediately apparent. And we’ve gone back to uncover even more. Here are five you probably aren’t using, but should be.
Normally when you want to upload a file to Google Drive, you go hit the big red New button, select File upload, and then navigate the folders on your computer to grab the file you need.
Here’s a simpler way: Just drag the file(s) from Windows Explorer or the MacOS finder into your Google Drive file list. Google’s drag-and-drop icon will appear and you’ll see a progress bar showing you the upload status.
Bookmark “quick creation” links
Here’s another shortcut, and one that doesn’t even require you to open Google Drive.
If you want to create a new word document, spreadsheet, or slideshow, you can do it from any browser window by using “quick creation” links. Drag the following links to your browser toolbar, and click the appropriate one whenever you want to start a new project:
- Document: https://docs.google.com/document/create
- Spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/create
- Presentation: https://docs.google.com/presentation/create
Search by sender
Google’s collaboration capabilities probably have you working on a number of shared documents at any given time. But it can be hard to keep tabs on who sent you which doc, and what spreadsheet you’re working on with whom. Scrolling through hundreds of documents in the Shared with me folder isn’t an option when you’re in a hurry. At those times, type the collaborator’s name or email address in Drive’s search bar, and within seconds you’ll have a list of every document you’re collaborating on with that person.
Convert PDFs and images into text
While you’re probably taking advantage of Drive to store all kinds of files, you may not be aware you can use its built-in OCR technology to convert non-text documents like images and PDFs into editable text.
Right-click on the file you want to convert and select Open with > Google Docs. A new browser tab will open with the image or PDF within a document surrounded by a blue border with the raw text beneath it. Resize the blue border to capture only the text you want, then use any of Docs' tools to edit and format it. When you’re done, delete the original image/PDF from the tab and save the new text document.
Given the global nature of business today, you may find yourself occasionally working with documents written in another language. You could cut and paste the text into the Google Translate web tool. But a better way is to upload it to Google Drive where you can translate and save it as a new document in your preferred language.
Once the document is uploaded, right-click it and select Open with > Google Docs. Once it’s open, go to the Tools menu and click Translate document. Choose a language from the dozens of options in the drop-down menu, click the translate button, and Voila! (That’s French for “there you are.”)