The Google Drive user interface (UI) is the screen you see when you visit the main Google Drive page with your web browser (located at https://drive.google.com). It's made up of seven main sections and looks something like the following screenshot:
Note that 3 – Context menu only appears when right-clicking on a file.
Heads up: The Google Drive user interface will change over time!
Google makes continual improvements and adds new features to its products in response to customer feedback. As a result, the user interface shown previously will change and evolve over time, so what you see online may not exactly match the screenshot given.
Here is an overview of each section, corresponding to the preceding numbered screenshot.
The Files list is the main list where your documents and other files show up. It is generally similar to how files are displayed on your computer, except with Google Drive your files are in the cloud.
Here are some important notes on the Files list:
Each file is displayed in a row showing its filename and an icon. The icon shows what type of file it is: text document, image, PDF folder, and so on.
To open a file, simply click on its name.
You can select multiple files by using the checkboxes on the left-hand side. Many actions, such as starring and sharing, can apply to multiple files.
You can star (or "mark") a file by clicking on the star icon, which is your way of saying this file is "special". Later, you can use the Navigation panel (discussed later) to show only starred files.
One or more labels can appear next to the file's name. If the file is in a folder, the name of the folder will be shown. If the file is currently shared with one or more people, the label Shared will appear.
To the right of the filename is a column called OWNER. This shows who owns the file, which is generally whoever created it. If you created the file, this will say me. If someone else created the file and shared it with you, it will show their name instead.
A date will appear on the end of the row. Depending on how you've chosen to sort your Files list, the date can represent the date the file was last modified or the date the file was last opened by you, and so on.
On any row, you can right-click with your mouse to bring up the Context menu, which shows some advanced actions you can perform on files. Refer to the Context menu section given later for more information.
Now that you've got your files in front of you, it's time to start working with them. Read on to learn about the toolbars and the Context menu.
The toolbars give you quick, one-click access to several important features, with additional actions you can take appearing under the More button. The following toolbar appears when you have selected a document:
Here are the file actions you can access from the toolbar:
1 – Share: Opens up the Share window that lets you share a file with one or more people. Refer to the Sharing files with other people section given in the Top features you'll want to know about section for a tutorial on sharing in Google Drive.
2 – Organize: Opens up the Organize window that lets you choose the folder in which you want to put a file.
3 – Remove: Puts the document into "Trash" if you own it, or prevents it from appearing in Google Drive if it is shared with you.
4 – Preview: Opens up the Preview panel with a side bar that appears on the right-hand side that contains additional details about a file (refer to the Preview panel screenshot given next).
5 – More: Displays a menu containing additional actions that you can take on the selected file. This is the same menu that appears if you right-click on a file to display the Context menu (described in the following section).
To the right-hand side of the main toolbar is a second toolbar with additional options:
1 – Sort menu: Lets you choose how your Files list is sorted. You can sort it by:
Last edited by me: When you last made a change to the file
Last modified: When the last change to the file was made by anyone, including you and people with whom you have shared the file
Last opened by me: When you last viewed or opened the file
Title: Alphabetically by the name of the file
Quota used: By the amount of space the file is taking up in Google Drive
2 – View type: Controls whether your Files list shows up as a row-by-row listing (in the list format, as shown throughout this book), or in a grid of larger images but with less detailed information.
3 – Settings menu: Displays a menu containing settings (configuration options) for Google Drive, as well as Help information, Keyboard shortcuts, and other options.
The Context menu appears when you use the mouse to right-click on a file in the Files list. The menu also appears when you click the More button on the toolbar.
This menu gives you access to all the actions you can take on a selected file. Here's a quick description of some of the most important actions:
Open: This option opens the file in a new browser tab. This is the same as simply clicking on the file.
Open with: This option lets you choose a specific application to use to open the file. For example, this could be an add-on program that you previously installed (refer to the Using third-party add-on applications section given in the Top features you'll want to know about section).
Share...:This option opens up the sharing screen where you can share a file with one or more people (refer to the Sharing files with other people section given in the Top features you'll want to know about section).
Add star: This option marks the document with a star.
Don't show in Activity list: This option prevents this item from being tracked and showing updates when you are in the Activity mode.
Organize...: This option opens the Organize screen, where you can choose which folder to put the selected file in.
Rename...: This option allows you to type in a new name for a file.
Mark as unviewed: When a file changes in Google Drive, it appears in bold, indicating it has not been viewed since the last time it was changed. Select this option to manually toggle whether the file should be marked as unviewed.
Manage revisions: This option opens the Manage revisions screen, allowing you to view and download previous versions of a file, as well as upload new versions.
View authorized apps...: This option opens the Authorized apps screen, showing which third-party add-on applications have permission to access the selected file.
Make a copy: This option creates a copy of the file in Google Drive.
Download: This option downloads the selected file to your computer's hard drive.
Prevent viewers from downloading: If you own the file (if it was created by you), this option will appear and selecting it will prevent people you have shared the file with from downloading a copy to their computer.
Remove: This option puts the document into the Trash if you own it, or prevents it from appearing in Google Drive otherwise if it was shared with you. Refer to the Deleting files section given in the Top features you'll want to know about section.
The Navigation panel appears on the left-hand side of the screen, and serves two main purposes. First, under My Drive, your personal system of folders will appear. This is the folder hierarchy or tree that you may have created (or not—the choice is yours!). Think of it as a filing system that you use to keep your files organized.
Secondly, the Navigation panel lets you quickly change "views" of your files. For example, you can click on Starred and only those items that you have starred will appear in the Files list.
Using the Navigation panel is very easy:
Click on any folder to show the files in that folder.
Reorganize folders by dragging-and-dropping them where you like (for example, under a different folder).
Put files in a folder by dragging the files from the Files list into the folder of your choice.
Star a file by dragging it from the Files list onto the Starred label.
Put a file in Trash by dragging it from the Files list onto the Trash label.
There are many items in the Navigation panel that you can click on that will change the "view" of your Files list. (Note that some labels are initially hidden underneath the More label.) Here are some of the labels you can click on, and what they do:
My Drive: This is where all the files you create are stored. Click on the small arrow to the left-hand side of My Drive (or, you can double-click on the My Drive label) to expand this root folder and to see all of the folders underneath it.
Shared with me: This is where files and folders that were created by someone else, but have been shared with you, appear.
Starred: This will show only those files that you have previously Starred.
Recent: This lists all the files that have recently been edited or opened by you. It's an effective way to get to your most frequently used files.
Activity: The Activity view lists all files, in order of the most recently modified, as well as information about who last modified the file. It's a useful view when collaborating with others on a group of documents. For example, in the workplace or in a school setting, use this view when multiple people may be making changes to documents shared with the larger group.
Offline Docs: Lists those files that are available for you to view offline without an Internet connection. If you don't have this feature enabled, clicking this will give you details on how to enable it. Offline Docs are supported only when using the Google Chrome web browser.
All items: Shows a listing of all the files in your Drive, no matter what folder you created them in or whether they're shared with you. If you're sure you have a file but can't find it, use this view (also useful in conjunction with the Sort function).
Trash: When you choose to remove a file that you created (via the Remove option in the toolbar or the Context menu), the file will be placed in the Trash. Use the Trash view to see all files that are in your Trash. For more information, refer to the Deleting Files section given in the Top features you'll want to know about, 1 – Working with files and folders section.
Owner, type, more: This opens up an advanced search options pop up that allows you to search for files using a variety of criteria, such as file type. For more information, refer to the Searching for files section given in the Top features you'll want to know about section.
Download Google Drive: This section takes you to a page where you can download the Google Drive sync program to your computer, which will keep files in sync automatically between Google Drive and your computer. Refer to the Using the Google Drive sync program section given in the Top features you'll want to know about section.
The Preview panel appears on the right-hand side of the screen and shows you additional details about a selected file. Note that the Preview panel is not shown by default. To show it, first select a file, and then click on the Details icon in the toolbar.
Here's an overview of the information shown about a file when the Preview panel is open:
Filename: The name of the file appears at the top. Click on the filename to open the file.
Thumbnail: If available, a small picture or thumbnail will be shown for the file.
Sharing: This option lists the owner of the file, and all the people who have access to a file. If you created the file, the owner will be you, and the people with whom you have shared the file will each be listed here.
Description: Every file can have a description, which you can provide. To add or update the description, simply click on the current description text and start editing.
Folders: This option shows the folder in which a file appears.
Revisions: This option shows the previous versions that have been recorded for a file.
General Info: Information about when a file was last modified, and by whom, will appear here.
The search bar appears at the top of the screen in Google Drive:
It contains several key parts such as:
Links to other Google Properties: At the very top are links giving you one-click access to several of the most prominent Google services such as Search, Images, Maps, Gmail, Google+, and more. These will open in a new tab when you click on them.
Search box: Type in a search query in the search box to search for files in Google Drive that contain the specified text. Refer to the Searching for files section given in the Top features you'll want to know about section for more information on searching.
Account information and Google+: This shows you information about the currently logged in user (you), allowing you to switch accounts or sign out as needed. This is also where you can share to Google+, and also check your Google+ notifications.
The CREATE and upload buttons appear on the left-hand side just above the Navigation panel, and are the starting point for creating new documents and files in Google Drive.
Clicking on the CREATE button will display a menu that allows you to choose the type of file you would like to create. To the right-hand side of the CREATE button is the upload button, which you use to upload files from your computer's hard drive directly into Google Drive. The following section shows you how to use these buttons to create new files in Google Drive.