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Toolkit Tuesday: Google Drive Basics for Beginners

A quick overview of some Google Drive basics. This tutorial will show you how Google Drive works and how to get started with this set of tools.

google drive basics

Our team uses Google Drive a LOT. While Dropbox is our main tool of choice to store and share files, we are using Google Drive more and more for a lot of our “working” documents and spreadsheets – files that are constantly being updated, edited and/or shared with clients. For instance, we create Media Trackers for each of our clients where we can add media opportunities as they happen. We also use Google Drive for editorial calendars, drafting social media posts, project calendars and drafting pitches to media members.

Today I’d like to offer a quick overview of some Google Drive basics. If you’ve never used Google Drive or are intimidated by all the different features, this tutorial will show you how it works and some of the different ways you can use this set of tools.

How Does Google Drive Work?

google drive basics

Google Drive is a suite of free cloud-based tools for creating, sharing, storing and collaborating on files. Just like Microsoft Office suite, Google Drive offers different file types for different functions. We’ll look at some of these in more detail in future Toolkit Tuesday posts, but here’s a quick overview:

Google Docs – A word processing tool, like Microsoft Word or Pages for Mac. It contains everything you need for drafting and editing documents – you can format your text and paragraphs, insert links and images, and use tools like spellcheck and word count.

Google Sheets – The Excel spreadsheet of the Google Drive family. Perfect for working with data, or for organizing just about any set of information. Includes formulas and the ability to create charts and graphs from your data.

Google Slides – For creating presentations, this is Google’s version of PowerPoint or Keynote. And since it’s cloud-based, you don’t have to email yourself a huge file or worry about hooking up your laptop at the place where you’re giving the presentation; you can access your presentation from anywhere with an internet connection (or use offline mode).

Google Forms – Need to send out a survey to your customers, or have a new client answer questions about their business? Google Forms makes it super easy to create polls and surveys or collect info from people. The responses automatically get put into a spreadsheet so you can easily review them.

Google Drive Basics: Getting Started and Tips for Beginners

To use Google Drive, you can sign in with an existing Google account or create one. Since it’s cloud-based, you can access your files from any device just by logging into your Google account and going to drive.google.com.

Creating Files

google drive basics

Click the red “New” button in the left sidebar and choose which file type you wish to create. Your file will open in a new browser tab and you can start working on it immediately. Give your file a name by clicking where it says “Untitled Document” (or Spreadsheet, etc) in the upper left corner.

google drive basics

Organizing your Drive

Just like on your desktop computer, you can create folders to organize your files. Click the red “New” button from your My Drive page and select “Folder.” Then, just drag and drop files into that folder.

You can also choose how your My Drive page is displayed. Click the icon in the upper right to switch between list view and grid view.

Google drive basics

Sharing Files

To share a file, click the blue “Share” button in the top right corner while your file is open. Then, you can either copy and paste the link to share with others, or invite people directly. If you invite them directly by typing their email address into the box, they will get a notification via email and will have the option to add the file to their own Google Drive.

google drive basics

You get to choose the level of access of the people you share files with – whether you want them to be able to edit the file, add comments, or to view only.

Sharing Folders

You can also share an entire folder with someone else, and they will gain access to all files within that folder. To do this, open the folder you wish to share and click on “Share” in the drop-down menu under the folder name.

google drive basics

File Storage

Google Drive isn’t just for creating new files. You can upload any file to store it in your drive, including photos, documents, videos, PDFs and more. Since it’s cloud-based storage, your files will be safe there even if they get deleted from your computer’s hard drive.

google drive basics

Converting Files

A really handy feature in Drive is that it’s compatible with Microsoft Office tools. You can open Word, Excel and PowerPoint files in Drive, and there’s an option to convert the files into their Google Drive counterparts so that you can utilize the sharing and collaboration features. To do this, click “Upload Files” from the drop-down menu on your My Drive screen. To convert a file, open it and click the “Open” link at the top.

google drive basics

Auto-Save

Ever had your computer crash and realize you didn’t save that Word document or PowerPoint presentation you had been slaving away over for hours? One of my favorite features in Drive is that it saves your work almost instantaneously every time you make an edit, so there’s no need to save your work, ever. It does it automatically.

Just Scratching The Surface

There are so many different functions and features within Google Drive, we could probably write dozens of blog posts to cover them all. Let us know what questions you have about using Drive and we’ll do our best to give you the answer or cover it in a future post. And if you’re a seasoned pro who uses Drive for everything, please share your tips!

Heather Allen

Belle's first employee. Lover of great food, good books and spreadsheets. Mom of three. Native Floridian and city girl residing in the cornfields of central Illinois.