Why should I use Google Docs and Google Drive?

Why should I use Google Docs and Google Drive?


We meet with all kinds of users in the IRC and I always appreciate how honest people can be about their confusion with technology. In a hushed tone, they will admit to me, “I know my colleagues like Google Docs, but I just don’t get it. The sharing seems nice, but I can never find anything. It’s just a mess.”

I can relate…because that’s how I felt when I first started using Google Docs. I knew that I basically like Google Docs, but Google Drive was another story. Where’s the Google Doc I’m looking for? Here’s some of the simple lessons that I learned in my journey towards understanding Google Drive.

Google Docs and Google Drive Aren’t the Same Thing

Sometimes people use Docs and Drive interchangeably, but they’re really two different things. Google Drive is a file storage system. A Google Doc is a word processing file that you store in your Google Drive.

Google Drive is Your File Storage System

Google Drive is comprised of files and folders. The files in Drive can either be from Google Apps like Docs, Sheets, or Slides or they can be files from programs on your computer like Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoints, PDFs, pictures, and videos. Much like the file storage system on your computer, you can organize your files into folders.

The Power of Google Drive is in the Sharing and Access

There’s nothing really wrong with storing your files on your computer or in your network drive, but the ability to share your files with anyone and have access to your files anywhere is what creates Google Drive fans. You can share a file with anyone that has an email address (or even just create a link to a document that anyone can access). And you can get to your files wherever you have internet access…including your home computer, tablet, and smart phone.

I Don’t Want to Mess Anything Up For Someone Else

I will admit it…I had sharing anxiety when I started with Google Drive. I had all these individual files that were shared with me that I wanted to put in folders. But what if I mess that up for someone else. Here’s the secret…if someone shares and individual file with, you can put it wherever you want and it won’t mess any one up. It won’t get that person permission to all the files in that folder. They will just have permission to view that document no matter where you store it. Folders are a different story. If you give someone permission to a folder, anything in the folder (including other folders within the main folder) will be shared. This means that moving anything from the folder will mess things up if the document itself isn’t shared with you. However, Google is great about warning you before cutting off permission accidentally.

Please note: If you don’t have sharing anxiety, then this may not make sense to you…in which case, live your life free of the anxiety that technology over-thinkers like I have.

But I Can’t Find Anything

There are some tricks for finding things in your Google Drive. First, I find two of the links on the menu really helpful: Shared with me and Recent. Shared with me is going to list all of the files and folders that have been shared with me and I can sort them by the date they were shared and who shared them. This can be really helpful is I don’t remember the document, but remember it was last fall and it was Tim who shared it with me. Recent is my favorite shortcut because it will list the documents I’ve recently worked on. This is so easy when I’m working on something and then close the browser…it takes me right where I left off.

The Search function is also a wonderful way to find a what you need. It will not only search the title of the item, but it will search the files themselves. So if I don’t remember the name of a file, but I remember a phrase or a unique word from it…I can search for it that way. You can also click the little triangle on the right side of the search box for even more options. For example, if I know I’m looking for a PDF, I can select PDF as type and it will only produce options that are…you guessed it…PDFs.

Link to a File and Update it in One Place

If you have a file that you distribute to lots of place, consider making it a Google Doc so that you only have to update it in one place. I created a help document to be used by all MBA courses. I could have created a Word Document or a PDF and then sent the file to each MBA instructor each time it was updated. Instead, I created it as a Google Doc and gave the link to all the MBA instructors. When there are changes, I just update the Google Doc and users will automatically see my changes in all those MBA classes. I’ve seen instructors use this for their syllabus and course schedule, department policies, and advising materials.


These are just some of the reasons why I like Google Drive and Google Docs. If you have questions about anything here or anything beyond what I’ve mentioned, feel free to contact me or the other folks in the IRC or ITS for help.

Leave a Reply