Google Drive—formerly named Google Docs—is Google’s online productivity suite. It’s long been a popular choice for collaborative writing and editing of documents, especially among teachers and students, so I won’t dwell on the excellent collaboration features others have written about at length for years. More recently, Google added cloud storage space similar to what Dropbox offers. If you use any of Google’s products like Gmail or Calendar, you already have access to at least 15 GB of file storage space on Google Drive. This new addition dramatically changes the ways in which you can interact with Google Drive.
Google launches new features and add-ins all the time, so if you’re still interacting with Google Drive exactly the same way you did in 2010 in the early Google Docs days, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Here are five powerful new ways to make the most of Google Drive.
1. Scan classroom documents in seconds using your tablet or smartphone.
The Google Drive team recently launched a document scanner feature for its Android app, and presumably, iOS will follow shortly. Just snap a picture of any document—whether one page or many pages—and it will be uploaded as a black and white PDF to your Google Drive. Once it’s uploaded, Google runs the document through an Optical Character Recognition process so that you can find the document later by searching for key words. Collecting physical homework digitally lets you provide incremental feedback while simultaneously letting students continue to work on the original document.
2. Retrieve old versions of documents—even the ones on your computer.
It has long been the case that Google Drive has let you view the revision history and retrieve old versions of documents written using the Google Docs productivity suite. More recently, Google Drive launched a computer application which lets you back up your local files to the cloud and view them online in a manner very similar to Dropbox’s service. What you might not know is that every time Drive detects that you’ve changed a file locally on your computer, it not only uploads the new version, but it keeps the old version, too! You can access the version history on the “Manage revisions” page for any file. If you accidentally modify last year’s test directly and lose the old version, Google Drive has your back. Just check the revisions page to get your old work back!
3. Send large file attachments to students or parents.
Email has traditionally limited attachment sizes to between 5 and 25 MB, which is much too small to share videos and other multimedia files. Gmail’s new Google Drive integration lets you attach files as large as 10 GB to your emails.
4. Work with new kinds of documents using third-party apps in Drive.
Google Drive is a productivity suite which includes many built-in apps. However, Google lets you install third-party apps to your Google Drive, too. These often-free apps include things like diagramming tools, photo and video editors, PDF annotators, graphing calculators and other math visualizers, note-taking programs, mail merge tools, music players, and many dozens more. Once you install one of these apps to your Google Drive, you can open your Google Drive files with the app straight from the Drive web interface. We all have different needs and workflows as teachers, but there’s something useful for everyone in the third-party app market. For example, if you scan student work to Google Drive (see tip #1 above), you can use a third-party PDF annotator within Google Drive to mark up those papers directly online.
5. Archive just about anything you see on the Internet to Google Drive.
A new Chrome extension called Save to Drive lets you right-click on any webpage or image and save it to your personal document archive. Because Google Drive is in the cloud, you can access your clipped pages and images from any computer or device. Teachers can use this tool when developing materials, especially if you’re working on the same material on multiple computers. Students could also use this extension to help them work on research both in school and at home because the same files and the same information will be visible from any computer.
What other ways do you use Google Drive? Share your tips in the comments!