This post was originally posted on www.itsbenwhitaker.com on 21/09/2017.
In the previous blog post of this series, I focused on tips and tricks for using the preferred browser for all things G-Suite, Google Chrome. In this article, I aim to look at tips, tricks and ideas for using Google Drive effectively. If used as intended (and kept organised!), the Drive can be a repository of all your files, it can be fully searchable and can save time and money for schools.
Google Drive: The Hub
Despite freaking the world out in September 2017 when Google announced that Drive would be disappearing, what they actually meant was that Drive Sync - the offline version - was being discontinued. The fully fledged hub of all Google files, drive.google.com (by the way, (insert app name).google.com is the address for almost anything Google), is still alive and kicking. Below are some reasons for using it and also some useful tips and tricks for making the most of this brilliant cloud storage facility.
It is completely unlimited (for Education users) - I know I mention this in previous posts but it has to be the best news for schools around the world who are all feeling the pinch. To be able to store everything in the cloud for free is almost too good to be true. (If it is a personal account, you get 15GB of storage which is still pretty amazing as a free resource).
It can store any type of file - you can customise your settings so things becomes Google-editable files on upload (see later) but if you want to keep them in original formats (even Microsoft Office ones!), you can - PDFs, JPEGs, PSDs, PPTs, you name it...
It is easy to keep files private or to share them - the files that exist in 'My Drive' belong to me - I am the owner and sole editor until I give away permission to use them (obviously if you are within a domain, super-admins have access rights to everything as you would and should imagine in organisations). You can also share with limited permissions (i.e. view only, comment access of full editing rights).
It is easy to have communal folders - without sharing as explained above, there is another way to make collaborative areas: Team Drives (as long as your admin have turned this facility on - see here if not). Team Drives are excellent because if a member leaves you don't lose all their input, it simply stays in the collaborative drive. Similarly,
It is easy to use offline - if you are out of WiFi range and still want to work on documents, you can still work offline. Here is a link on how to do it.
It can create easy to use PDFs or PNGs from almost any document/photo - this is really useful especially if you want to share with non-Googlers or to protect files.
It creates versions of files - up to 30 days can go by where you can see revisions from any users and restore older versions. This means you can revert back to versions if you need to, which is always handy to see who has made changes.
It is the basis from where you can create all Google filetypes - by right-clicking in Drive (not on a file or folder but the empty space), you can open up a new document that saves directly into the place that you clicked (i.e. if you click an empty space when a folder is open, it saves there.). I tend to like the extension I mentioned on the Chrome post, Google Docs Quick Create, but it gives a great option.
It has a handy mobile app - I love having access to my files from my pocket and the ability to upload files (particularly photos) directly from my mobile. It has pretty much all the same features as the desktop version (although Forms, Drawings and Sites don't yet have mobile apps, as of December 2017).
It is fully searchable - you can put pre-defined filters on in terms of name, filetype, date, etc making it easier to find what you're looking for. (Additional tip for this post from Louise White @thinktechteach: Type drive.google.com in the omnibox at the top of Chrome (web address bar), Click 'Tab' and then search the Drive directly from your browser!)
It is safe and secure - again, I mentioned this in my previous post but I can't state enough how important it is to understand that the SSL encryption on Drive folders is so good that HMRC, Virgin and many British councils are using it for all their storage.
Tips and Tricks for making the most of the Drive
Back up with Google Drive - you can backup all your Contacts, Calendar and Photos from the Drive mobile app. Go to the Drive mobile app, click Settings >Backup and then follow the instructions. A nice little feature.
Folderise - this is an absolute must if you wish to stay organised. There is nothing worse than a messy storage area. Be regimented with this (even have a Miscellaneous folder if you are struggling!)
Colour-code your folders - another visual clue so it makes your area look pretty but also to remind you when you are saving files.
Create Team Drives - in order to ensure that organisations 'own' their files and to prevent issues of documents being view-only or disappearing when someone leaves an organisation, you can and should create Team Drives (in my previous role, we had lots of them - Departments, Sports Coaches, Senior Leadership Team, Governors, Faculty Areas, Year Group Areas). This is a really important feature so ensure your admin has it set up - click here for how to.
Search by Filter - by Recent, Shared with Me and then loads of type, date, collaborators filters
Create Starred files for important documents - if you need files quickly without searching, I suggest adding a Star and it ges into the Starred folder (obviously, this isn't a good idea for a lot of files or it defeats the object...)
Right-click in space - this allows you to Upload or Create new files/folders, right from in the Drive (see image below)
Right-click on a file - this allows you to work with the file - share, open, add collaborators (see image below)
Make a Copy - one of the right-click options is to duplicate a file - this is really handy when you are creating similar documents (it has the same properties as the original)
Click the 'i' to see activity on that file/folder - you can who last opened it, how it was modified, versions, when it was created, size - all the information you should need
Use keyboard shortcuts - if you click the settings 'cog', one of the options is Keyboard shortcuts, where it lists all the shortcuts you can use whilst in Drive - this is a real time-saver.
I hope this post has been useful. Up next, Part 3: Google Slides: The Reel.