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Accessing your Google Drive

Drive is the heart of your telecomputing world and is where all our files and folders live. Once you get used to being able to access your folders and files from anywhere, you’ll begin to realize the limitations of desktop computing.

By the end of this guide you’ll be familiar with either some or all of the following features:

  • Drive: Access your Google Drive
  • Folders: Create, delete, color, share, move, and email
  • Files: A brief introduction to Drive files, creating. Deleting, renaming and moving
  • Folders and files: Send to trash and restore to Drive
  • Suggestions: Quick access to your most recently created and edited files

Sign in to your Google account or follow the create a Google account guide. If you’ve followed previous guides to getting started with Google and the Chrome browser, when you first open your Chrome browser, it may open in a preconfigured website.

The icon in the Chrome browser for opening the Drive apps dropdown

Open up a new empty tab and click on the apps icon in the top right. The dropdown that opens up will give you access to all the areas of your Google account. Feel free to drag and drop any of the app icons to place them nearer the top.

Find and click the Drive icon. This will open up your Drive root folder. We’ll deal with managing folders later, along with a brief introduction to creating files.

Welcome to your Google Drive home

Having navigated to your Drive, you should now be presented with an empty root folder and a simple notification, which will disappear once we add a file or folder.

To be honest, I rarely create or store files directly in the root folder. Instead I create folders and subfolders to hold them.

Whichever way we structure our folder and file system, it isn’t written in concrete. We can rename and move them around to our heart’s content.

Instead of reeling off the entire list of Drive features, I’ll deal with them as we go along. For example: while this guide concerns Drive and Folders, I’ll also give a quick intro to creating files. Future guides will cover formatting files in more detail.

Likewise: the concept of sharing will be covered briefly here and in more detail in other guides. So now let’s create!

A working example of Google Drive

To give you a better idea of what an active Google Drive looks like, I made this mock up of the Drive root page

The top row shows shortcuts to the most recently edited files. Below that there's a row of folders, and finally a document.

There is another type of layout where the folders are stacked vertically. You see that as you scroll down.

A glance at what a browser based desktop looks like

Creating and managing Drive folders

We don’t just create files and dump them on our desktop, then comb through every file we own to find the one we want. Instead we use folders, which is exactly what we do In Drive.

So for those of you who are new to Drive, I’ll begin by showing the two ways of creating folders. If you’re planning to follow all the file creation guides, this new folder would be the ideal place to store all your practice files.

Creating your first folders

I’m going to be creating a few folders. As well as helping you get to grips with folders, you’ll find them useful in the guide that features accessing folders while offline. So feel free to follow along with what I do.

A word to the wise: Unlike desktop applications such as Microsoft Office, it is possible to have two folders or files with the same name nested in the same folder.

Right-click and create a folder

popup that appears when you right click to create a new file or folder

Yes! It’s as easy as that to create a new Drive folder. All you have to do is right-click on an empty space and select New folder. Then you’ll be prompted to name your folder. Don’t worry, changing a Drive folder name is as easy as it gets.

Create a Drive folder from the sidebar

Click the New tab in your Drive sidebar and select Folder, where you’ll go through the same process to name it.

Both when using this method, and the one previously explained, you’ll also notice options to upload files and folders, along with the ability to create files. I cover these in more detail in later guides. For now, let’s stay focused on folder management.

Managing your Drive folders

Many of the functions we apply to folders are accessed by right-clicking on the folder, as shown on the image below.

popup that appears when you right click a folder

How to rename a folder

While in your Drive folder, or the parent folder containing the one you want to rename: hover over the folder in question and right-click. In the dropdown that appears: select Rename and then edit the input field that appears.

Nested folders

Folders can be placed within folders. The main folder is often referred to as the parent, and the subfolder as a child.

Child folders can themselves contain subfolders and themselves become parents. However deep you want to nest them is up to you, there is no limit.

How to move a folder or file

Depending on where the folder or file is in relation to the folder we want to move it to. This works for both folders and files.

Dragging a folder to move it

If the target folder or file is in the same parent folder, it can be dragged and dropped. One thing to be aware of is that you have to right-click on the actual folder or file name, not the icon to the left of it.

The other method involves right clicking on the file or folder to be moved, selecting Move to. Then navigate to the destination folder.

How to colour Drive folders

To help easily identify them, folders in Drive can have their own colour

right click on the folder in question and hover over Change colour. Then chose a colour from the palette.

Folder change colour popout

How to delete and restore files and folders

Firstly: be aware that deleting a folder will also delete everything it contains and that any deleted items will only remain available to restore for thirty days. After this period they’ll be gone forever.

To delete an item, right-click on it and select Remove, as shown at the bottom of the previous image. This will send the item(s) to the Bin, which is essentially another folder.

The Bin can be accessed from the sidebar visible from the root or any other folder. Once opened you’ll see a list of all the recently deleted files. To restore a file, right click on it and select Restore.

A little about sharing folders

With Drive, Google brings us the concept of sharing. We can share files we create with others, and in doing so, grant them privileges such as edit, comment, or view only.

When sharing a folder, it's important to remember that when doing so, we also give them access to all the files we put in that folder. While this is ideal for team collaboration, it may not be your intention.

Drive folder and file practice

Now we have an understanding of the concepts, let's put what we know into practice and play around with a few folders and files.

I’m going to begin with five folders, which will also come in useful for the next guide in the series about working offline. As long as the folders are distinguishable, the names aren’t important. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

Now, while still in the root folder, I’m going to right-click and select Google Docs to create a document.

Notice when creating a file, unlike a folder, the file opens immediately without us having to name it, clicking on Untitled document in the top left will allow you to name the file to something more descriptive.

The Drive suggested section

Navigate back to the Drive root folder, and after refreshing your browser you’ll notice the Suggested section has appeared at the top. This is a holder for shortcuts to recently created and edited files.

While the suggested section can be removed, as the next guide shows, it can be useful. To turn it off: click on the gear icon in the top right and select Settings.

In the popup that appears, scroll down to Suggestions and uncheck the box to the left of Show suggested files in my Drive.

Moving Folders and files around your Drive

In this exercise we’re going to use the two methods to move one of the folders and a file to another folder.

We’ll set the ball rolling by moving the “nested” folder to another folder. Left-click-hold the title, not the icon, of the folder named “nested” and drag it over to the target folder. Once the target highlights, release.

Double-click on the target folder to open it. There you’ll see the nested folder. Right-click on it and select Rename. There! Two birds with one stone. Now click on My Drive just below the search box to navigate back to your root folder.

Now let’s move the document using the right-click method and selecting Move to. Then select a destination folder from the list you are presented with.

That was too easy! To see how we can navigate our folders, locate the document and the Move to feature.

This time you’ll notice there’s no folders to choose from. Instead we have to use the back arrow at the top of the popout to get out of the current folder.

Now let’s delete and restore

From your root folder, choose one of the folders , right-click and select Remove. Now in the left sidebar select Bin to open the trash folder.

Here you’ll see the previously deleted folder. Right-click on it and select Restore. This will restore it back to the folder it originally came from.

Winding up

So now we’ve covered the basics of working with Drive. Obviously I haven’t covered everything, but the remaining guides will explain other features as and when we need them.