(If you haven’t read part 1, you can do so here.)
In this article, we’ll talk about Google Drive File Stream.
Perhaps you’ve used the free Google Drive. Unless the document you create or open a Google doc of some sort (doc, sheet, slide, etc.) you have to download it, then open it in Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint, edit it, save it and upload it back up to Google Drive using a web page. You can store versions of a document but managing files is a pain. No wonder you’ve chosen to pay for DropBox or use One Drive.
G-Suite is something altogether different–it’s like “all grown up.” Google’s paid version inserts Google Drive (this time it’s called Google Drive File Stream, or Google Drive FS) right into your operating system. For Windows users, FS usually maps to your G: drive but it can also replace your “My Documents” folder as your default working folder (typically it is renamed as “My Drive”). Mac users can replace their “Home” directory with “My Drive”.
Using Google Drive File Stream to Manage Documents
Create any document using any application—Microsoft Word, Adobe Photoshop, AutoCad, a PDF, whatever—and save it to “My Drive” with Ctrl-S (or Cmd-S for Mac users). Voila! It is now saved to Google’s cloud. A link is stored on your computer and as long as you have a network connection (more on this in a moment), you can click it; FS will download a copy from the cloud; and your application will load and open it for you. Opening a file using FS is about as fast as opening a local file on your hard drive. By keeping these files in Google Drive, they take up very little space on my own computer. This makes it possible to store and work on many more files than my normal hard drive capacity would allow.
Here’s what Windows Explorer looks like with Google Drive FS on a Windows machine:
All the documents shown are in “My Drive”. “My Drive” is part of the G: Drive or Google Drive File Stream. I have all the features and details that Windows lets me see about any other file:I can:
- See its type, it’s icon, its creation and modification dates
- Drag and drop, and move into or out of folders
- Right click to delete or see properties and
- Anything else I can do with a local file or folder
Notice that some of the folders and documents have a cloud image superimposed on them. This indicates that these files are completely uploaded and available from Google’s Drive. But one folder and its contents have a green checkmark image superimposed on its icons. What’s this about?
Storing Documents Off-Line for when You Are Off-Network
FS gives users the option of storing a document or a folder both in the cloud and locally. This will of course take more local disk space but I can work on documents when I am on an airplane, on the road, at the cottage or working from locations where I don’t normally have reliable WiFi. Changes made to the local copy will be uploaded to the cloud the next time I have a network connection but the local copy will be retained. Similarly, if the cloud version changes, the next time my computer has a network connection the new cloud version will be downloaded locally.
Don’t worry if you’re editing a document as part of a team. Open a Word document and FS will let you know that someone else is also working on the same document for your information, but that doesn’t stop you from editing it at the same time (unlike MS SharePoint).
Oh, and there are SaaS products that can backup and version your Google Drive FS. No more opening a proposal for one client, editing it for another and then forgetting to choose “Save As…” Just retrieve a previous version and no one is the wiser.