7 Ways to get more out of Google Drive

by Kayla Matthews | July 16, 2017

Google is one of the best companies out there in terms of the number of free tools it creates and offers.

With just a Google account, you can get free access to tons of extremely helpful tools and programs, not the least of which is the Microsoft Office-like suite that is Google Drive.

With Google Drive, you automatically get 5GB of storage space for free, and you can purchase (or occasionally win) more space should you need it.

Just by itself, Drive is pretty powerful. However, if you want to do even more with Drive, you can use the following extensions and additional features to really unlock this tool’s secret powers.

1. Use forms to create surveys and collect data

Want to poll your blog readers and find out which book or article of yours they like best? Need to collect information for a college project?

You can set up forms to collect data from parties — anonymous or otherwise — that gets automatically compiled and sorted into a Google Sheets document. Yep, this all happens with minimal input from you. How awesome is that?

In Google Drive, just select the “create” button and choose the “form” option. Once that’s done, you’ll need to assemble your form and fill in the necessary fields and details. You can create questions and allow your audience to answer with typed responses, numeric grades, dropdown options and more.

You name it, you can do it! After it’s set up, you can easily share it with others via email, social networks or even just copying and pasting the direct link.

2. Use speech recognition instead of typing

Typing is so yesterday. There are a variety of tools you can use to dictate your words, allowing you to speak and have them translated into type or text. If you have a “digital assistant” such as Siri or Google Assistant, you’re probably already familiar with this concept.

Nothing works better than the Speech Recognition extension for Google Chrome, however. It integrates directly with Google Docs, too. So, whether you’re writing a letter or business proposal, or creating the next bestseller, you can simply talk to get it all jotted down.

Even if you’re a keyboard master whose fingers fly over the keyboard, you’ll never meet the efficiency of using speech recognition tools. Did you know voice dictation is three times faster than typing?

It’s even harder to believe you can do all of this without ever downloading or installing anything — unless you count adding the Chrome extension. You can dictate away using Google Docs right in your browser!

3. Sync your files automatically

If you have the desktop application of Dropbox installed, you probably know how well it syncs all your files across devices and computers. The sync happens automatically, in the background, any time you make changes or revisions to a file.

You might choose Dropbox over Google Drive for this feature alone because it’s so handy. But did you know you can use Drive just like this too?

Just download the Google Drive desktop program, and it works exactly like Dropbox, syncing your files automatically in the background. You have to leave the app running for the sync to work, but you would need to do the same with the Dropbox application, too.

4. Power up Google Sheets

The Google Sheets tool is great, but there’s no denying the fact that sometimes it would be nice to extract just a little more out of it. Want to merge two sheets? What about finding and removing duplicate values or entries? How about using a tool to generate random values?

Traditionally, you’d have to come up with the formula to do all this yourself. But with Google Docs, you can simply install one of these adds-ons from Ablebits.

In particular, some of the basic add-ons are a godsend. The option to finally merge two sheets in Google Docs, for instance, is beautiful!

5. Easily manage multiple Drive accounts

If you have a personal Gmail account and a business account — sometimes even more than that — it’s a pain trying to manage all your files. It’s frustrating to create or edit a document on one account, and not have access on one of your other accounts.

With the Drive Migrator extension, you can eliminate this problem by cloning or migrating various files between accounts.

If you don’t have or use multiple accounts, move on. If you do, you need this extension now.

6. Edit code from within Drive

There are some amazing desktop applications to work with syntax or code — like Notepad++. Sadly, Google Drive doesn’t offer native support, at least not the way you might be used to.

You can change that by installing the Drive Notepad extension, which turns your docs hub into a full-fledged code editor.

If all else fails, write your own add-on

Disappointed because you don’t see a tool or extension on this list that solves your problems?

No need to worry. You can write your own add-ons for Google Drive to ensure it offers just what you need.

With so many options and the ability to create your own custom add-on, the extra features available to Google Drive users make this cloud platform one of my favorites.

Know of  another neat extension or feature for Google Drive? Tell me about it on Twitter @KaylaEMatthews.

Images by Bram Naus, Artem Sapegin, Pexels



Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a writer and tech blogger, talking about connected devices and smart tech on websites like MakeUseOf, VentureBeat, Motherboard and...