Google Drive Features Walkthrough for Nonprofits

Google Drive LogoWe’re really excited about the new Google Drive, which has been in the works now for years, but was just released to the public this week. This post attempts to walk you through all the cool new features of Google Drive in both text and video tutorials, and is specifically geared toward how nonprofit organizations can use the tool for a more efficient back office.

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We also created a four part video series that walks you through the features we discuss in this post, which you can access using the anchor links below or through our Google Drive YouTube Playlist. The four videos total almost an hour of Google Drive goodness. You can click the hyperlinks below to go straight to those video segments.

Part 1 – Google Drive Features

Part 2 – Signing in and Downloading a Local Copy of Google Drive

Part 3 – Uploading and sharing files, collaborating in Google Drive

Part 4 – Editing files offline and Google Drive Mobile

Don’t forget to maximize the video window. Each part is shot in HD and should be crystal clear expanded to a 22″ screen.

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Google Drive Features

Essentially, Google Drive is just an updated version of Google Docs, with some cool new functionality and fantastic integration with the Google+ social networking platform. In my opinion, these features will only make Google + easier to use, and more friendly to the masses. The main features of Google Drive can be found at the Google Drive start page, and are listed below.

Storage

The biggest update here is in the areas of storage. Before, with Google docs, any user had storage up to 1 GB (1024 mb) and up to 1GB storage in Google’s photo sharing site, Picasa. Now with Google Drive, you have 5 GB free space for documents; and keep in mind that only uploaded documents count toward that space usage. For example, Google documents, spreadsheets, and drawings don’t count toward that number since they are created within the Google Drive system, just outside files uploaded and those which are not converted to the Google doc format. There are upwards of 30 file types that Google Drive can hold, including .doc, .pdf, .psd (photoshop), and a number of audio and video formats; all which it can play natively in its own browser windows. The reason we mention that is this, while 5gb doesn’t sound like a ton of space, if you can create, manage, and share documents completely in the Google format, you’ll never take up any real space, and 5GB might be enough to run your entire small office.

For those who need more space there are additional storage options, and this is where Google has an advantage over any other company offering additional storage right now. Currently, free users have 7 gb of space for gmail. This is true with standard accounts and Google apps accounts. Education users, nonprofit grant recipients get 25gb of space for gmail accounts. Everyone gets the 5gb space free with google drive, but if you want to purchase storage the prices are as follows:

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Storage Level Free 25gb 100gb
Gmail 10gb 30gb 30gb
Google Drive & Picasa 5gb 25gb 100gb
Picasa shared with Drive shared with Drive shared with Drive
Price Free $2.49 / month $4.99 / month

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Google offers up to 16TB (16,384 GB’s), which will run you around $800 per month. All the storage options can be found here: https://www.google.com/settings/storage/. Some people are saying this will put companies like drop box out of business. I’m not sure that’s going to happen just yet. Even at twice the price of Google, those companies have built some cool applications that integrate with alot of other services, but I do believe Google will make a significant dent in their businesses.

What if you are on an old (cheaper) google storage plan? No problem? As long as you don’t upgrade, downgrade, or otherwise change your billing info, that storage plan will stay active. For example, I currently have a 20gb plan and pay only $5 per year through Google. That plan will remain in effect unless I change it or try to upgrade, or change my credit card info.

For more info on Google Storage intricacies, visit their storage support page.

Emailing File Links

Again this functionality was built into google docs, but the interface has been upgraded for Drive. You can simply copy the document url and input that into a gmail email, or any other email for that matter. You can also share the file directly through the Google document interface by “Sharing” it with others or emailing existing collaborators. This basically eliminates the need to mess around with attaching large files. This will save space in your email recipient’s email box, and be delivered much faster than if an attachment existed and had to be downloaded.

Another ancillary bonus is that google documents created with the google system are very hard, if not impossible, to corrupt. When you share a google doc, your recipient knows they are getting a clean, virus free document without any spyware or malware attached to it.

Search

Search functionality has been upgraded in Google Drive, and works almost like the Mac/Apple spotlight feature, minus the drag and drop ability of course. You can search your Google Drive with the familiar google search bar, within folders, or throughout your entire document tree. Auto-fill works quickly, and allows you to instantly load the target document, or view all your searched docs in its own window. You can create folders in your google drive and drag and drop files to categorize them quickly.

Create and Collaborate – Nothing new here, really. This functionality existed with Google Docs, but the interface has been streamlined a bit. When creating

Apps

Google has a pretty good app extension market, featuring hundreds of thousands of apps. It’s not as robust as the App Store from Apple, nor are there quite as many developers creating android apps, but that will certainly change as time goes on. Android devices are cheaper than most Apple devices and maintain most of the same functionality. For those that use Google Chrome browser, you’re probably already familiar with extensions. Many extension developers are racing to make their apps Drive compatible, and there are a few cool ones out already.

For instance, the Chrome Extension Webstore features one of my favorite apps, Gmail Attachments to Drive, which easily uploads your email attachments into your drive folders without having to download them to your computer first. This is a great productivity app that saves a ton of time and energy searching your computer for files you recently downloaded.

Another favorite is the Smartsheet Project Management, which extends the functionality of 3 google products, gmail, calendar, and drive. This is a fantastic product for nonprofits, even at $15 per user per month. It’s easier to use than anything offered by Salesforce developers, and allows quick switches between gmail, calendar, gantt charts, and other project management functionality. It’s the perfect solution for rolling out a new project, planning an event like a walk-a-thon, or even a social media program.

To access more applications specifically enabled to work with Google Drive, visit the Drive category in the Chrome Shop.

For a video walkthrough of the Google Drive Features – watch below:

Enabling Google Drive

Enabling Google Drive is easy to do. You simply visit the Google Drive Start page and sign in with your google account. If you don’t have a google account you can create one. We have a tutorial video on creating a google account, and also one for creating a google plus account for nonprofits, which accomplishes the same goal.

Once Google drive is enabled, you can access your files by visiting drive.google.com or through gmail, in the top menu bar by clicking on the word “Drive.”

For Google apps users, if you are the administrator and haven’t monkeyed with the back-end settings Google Drive should work right out of the box. But if you have changed some of the back end settings you may need to go back in and re-enable Google Drive for it to work with your system, and for the users of your organization.  This will work with all versions of Google apps, including the education version, which you might be using if you applied for an were accepted into the Google Grant program for nonprofits.

You can enable Google Drive for your apps domain by following these steps:

  1. From within Google Apps gmail, click the cogwheel icon in the top right of the gmail window. Then click on “manage this domain.” If you are not an administrator, you wont see this option. You’ll need to contact your administrator to do this for you.
  2. At the apps admin dashboard, click on the menu for “Domain Settings.” Under the section for New User Features, make sure “Rapid Release” is selected.
  3. Then, to modify your Drive settings, click on the dashboard menu for “Settings.” Once there, in the Services menu tree on the left, choose “Drive and Docs.” * Note, “Drive and Docs” may just be called “Drive” on your system.
  4. Once there, you have several options.
    1. Web Address can be configured to customize the URL at which your drive docs are accessible. Note, if you change this you’ll need to change cname records at your host/domain company. Google provides instructions for you to do that for most major hosts.
    2. Sharing options allows you to specify whether docs can be shared with only those inside your organization or those outside your organization. For instance, at OrgSpring, our domain name uses Google apps for its domain orgspring.com. Any OrgSpring user in our domain can see our docs, and we allow users to share outside the orgspring.com domain as well. That means, we can share drive docs with people outside our organization.
    3. Document visibility – This is an important option to set. You can choose to make each new document created inside your drive private – which means it has to be configured to share each time you want to share it. Or you can make it sharable for anyone with the link, or anyone at the organization. We use private, because it allows each user to have their own private docs, which they can then choose to share if they wish. Be careful with this setting. If you choose to have the document shared automatically across the organization, that means anything you create will be visible by other team members as soon as that document is created.
    4. Offline docs is a great feature to view and even edit offline drive docs. I recommend making that option available. It allows you to edit documents even without an internet connection, and then when your connection is re-established the doc is automatically updated on Google drive. That’s a feature we dive into in much more detail in the fourth video.
    5. Drive for Mac/PC – this allows users to download drive to their computers, which allows them to sync files from their personal computers directly to their own google drives. This is also necessary for editing offline files as described in our video. Drive installs well on both systems and makes viewing, uploading, and sharing files a snap.

 

For a video walkthrough on how to enable Google Drive – watch below:

 

Uploading and Sharing Files, and Collaboration with Google Drive

Uploading Drive files couldn’t be easier, whether you use the online version or the version installed on your computer. Online, you simply click create to make a new file, or the drive upload button to upload an existing file from your computer.

Create Google Docs with Google Drive

 

New files can be organized into “collections,” Google’s fancy word for folders. The beauty of this system, which shouldn’t be overlooked is that single files can be placed into multiple folders. It’s a cross between tagging and folders.

Once editing a file, changes are automatically saved every few seconds. Major revisions will show up a revision history section of the file menu, which you can access at any time. If you want to save a specific version of the file for later use you can do that too. This is much like Mac OS file system, which allows different versions of the file to be saved. Except with Google Drive, the system accepts many more file types and is much easier to upload, download, and access your files in the cloud. Once you wrap your head around the ability to have one file with multiple versions you really get a sense of the power of this system. Essentially you can create a drive for yourself in which any major file revision that you might want to go back to at some time can be restored. This is great for tracking changes, or for reverting back to a file’s previous glory. This virtually eliminates making mistakes with file copy over-writes.

Sharing Files in Google Drive

Google Drive, much like its predecessor Google Docs, makes sharing files an easy task. You can share from within the Google Document itself by clicking on the blue share button at the top right of any google drive/doc page. You can also share from the File Menu within the document itself. A third way to share is in the Drive file/folder view, by selecting the check box next to the document(s) you wish to share and clicking on the share icon in the menu that appears above the files. Either of those methods will bring up a window similar to what you see below:

Google Drive Sharing Window

Using this window you can share the document with anyone that has a valid email address. It taps into your google email and contacts automatically to fill in email addresses for people you know and interact with often. You can also add other emails in that box. You have the option to restrict functionality for those with whom you share. You can allow full editing, or just viewing.

Collaboration Tools

Should you choose to allow others to edit your files, those files will be emailed to them via a link. They can access that file in their own Drive system and begin editing right away. If you access the file at the same time, you can see the edits made by each person in real-time. You can also access the Google Drive revision history here and restore previous versions of files should your other editor delete an important piece of the document.

I’ve used collaboration tools on everything from grant writing to taking meeting notes with OrgSpring users half way around the country. It has helped boost our productivity and provide real-time document editing and updates. We write articles in half the time, and approve document changes much quicker than before. We spend quite a bit of time showing you collaboration features in the video below.


Social Networking and Accessing / Editing Files Offline with Google Drive

One of Drive’s coolest features is it’s sync-ability (is that a word?) with google’s social media network, Google +. Google already has great functionality between mobile apps and Google plus, but Drive takes it a step further. Inside your google + stream you can add photos directly from your Drive. You can also share links to any other google drive file without having to attach the actual file itself. Of course that file will have to be openly shared with an access level set to at least – Shared with anyone who has the link. Otherwise the file wont be viewable by the end user.

Currently photos taken on your mobile device can be uploaded automatically to Google + network. You simply need to enable that functionality within Google + and your phone. But drive goes a step further with its own stand alone android app which allows you to automatically take files from your android devices and upload them to your online drive. This is great for quick photos on the run. The Drive app also lets you view and edit any of your online files, directly on your phone or android device.

Offline File Editing

The offline viewing and editing of documents is one of my favorite features of the new Google Drive. By installing the Google Drive file structure locally on your computer you can view all your google drive files even when offline with no internet connection. Since google doc type files exist only online, your offline functionality there will be limited only to viewing – not editing. But, every other file type will be editable offline too.

In the fourth video you’ll see how we uploaded a mac pages document to google drive through our google drive folder on our mac hard drive. We made some changes online, and then went offline and still was able to open the file locally from within the google drive folder. We made changes, which were automatically saved locally through apple pages. Once we re-established an internet connection the file was automatically synced live to Google Drive again. We opened it in Google drive and saw the changes we made just moments before on our local system.

In my opinion, this is the easiest to use application on the market which allows offline viewing and editing of online documents. Google Drive really makes this seamless.

For a video walkthrough on how to edit Google Drive files offline – watch below:

Summary

Google Drive is a great productivity add-on for the Google Suite of products and services offered to individuals and organizations.  By integrating its powerful features, one can accomplish virtually all back-office word processing and spreadsheet functions, all without needing to use a byte of space on your own computer.

As we show in this cool infographic, online speed is important to us; and the cloud enables our computers to run lean, execute quickly, and with less space taken up on the client side. Google Drive is a big jump forward in that regard, bringing affordable cloud computing with great functionality and interactivity to an already cool computing experience.

 

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Craig Grella

Founder and Executive Director at OrgSpring
Craig is the founder and executive director or OrgSpring, a nonprofit dedicated to helping other nonprofits achieve their missions online. Through tips and tutorials, Craig's goal is show nonprofits how to use technology to become more efficient, grow their list of supporters, and increase online donations.