Google Drive

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Google Drive
Logo of Google Drive.svg
Google Drive screenshot.png
Google Drive, showing documents
Web address
Type of site File hosting service
Available in 65 languages[1]
Users 120 million (November 2013)
Owner Google Inc.
Launched April 24, 2012; 2 years ago (2012-04-24)

Google Drive is a file storage and synchronization service provided by Google, released on April 24, 2012,[2][3] which enables user cloud storage, file sharing and collaborative editing. Rumors about Google Drive began circulating as early as March 2006.[4] Files shared publicly on Google Drive can be searched with web search engines. As of November 2013, Google Drive had 120 million active users.[5]

Google Drive is the home of Google Docs, an office suite of productivity applications, that offer collaborative editing on documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, forms, and more.


Google offers all users an initial 15 GB of online storage space, that is shared across three of its most-used services: Google Drive, Gmail, and Google+ Photos[6] (aka Picasa Web Albums).[7] Users can upgrade their free 15 GB account through a paid monthly subscription plan to get additional storage.[7] Documents using Google Docs native formats (including .gdoc, .gslides, and .gsheet) do not count towards this quota. In Google+ Photos, photos of resolution less than 2048 x 2048 pixels and videos shorter than 15 minutes also do not count towards this quota.[8]

As of 13 March 2014, storage plans offered by Google are as follows:[9]

Storage Price
15 GB Free
100 GB US$ 1.99 per month
1 TB US$ 9.99 per month
10 TB US$ 99.99 per month
20 TB US$ 199.99 per month
30 TB US$ 299.99 per month

Google Docs initially provided 1 GB of storage for free. On April 24, 2012, Google Drive was introduced with a free storage of 5 GB. Other aspects of the service were changed at the same time. Free storage for Gmail was increased from 7+ GB to 10 GB. Storage plans were revised, prices were increased and were charged on a monthly basis rather than on a yearly basis. As per the revised pricing, $2.49 per month was charged for 25 GB or $4.99 for 100 GB.[10]

Originally, Gmail, Google Docs and Picasa had separate allowances for free storage and a shared allowance for purchased storage. From April 2012 to May 2013, Google Drive and Google+ Photos had a shared allowance for both free and purchased storage, whereas Gmail had a separate but automatically increasing storage limit. As of June 2013, both free and purchased storage is shared between all the three services.[10]

In September 2012, Google announced that it was cutting the existing free storage from all paid users' accounts, so that a user buying a 100 GB plan will get 100 GB of total storage instead of adding up to the free storage.[11]

On May 13, 2013, Google announced the overall merge of storage across Gmail, Google Drive and Google+ Photos allowing users 15 GB of unified free storage between the services.[6][12]

On March 13, 2014, the storage plans were revised again and prices were drastically reduced (by 80%) to just $1.99 per month for 100 GB or $9.99 for 1 TB. This is much cheaper than competitors Dropbox and OneDrive.[13][14]


Google Drive
Logo of Google Drive.svg
Screenshot of Google Drive app for Android.png
Stable release
  • Windows, OS X
    1.16.7009.9618 (July 8, 2014; 6 days ago (2014-07-08)) [±]
  • Android (May 8, 2014; 2 months ago (2014-05-08)) [±] [15]
  • iOS
    3.0.0 (May 1, 2014; 2 months ago (2014-05-01)) [±][16]
Operating system Windows, OS X, Chrome OS, Android, iOS[17]
Available in 65 languages[1]
License Freeware

For Google Drive to synchronize files between the user's computer and Google Drive storage, the Google Drive 'client' software must be running on the user's computer. The client communicates with Google Drive to cause updates on one side to be propagated to the other so they both normally contain the same data.

Google Drive client software is available for the following devices: PCs running Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 with NTFS partitions, or Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or higher; Android smartphones and tablets with Android 2.1 (Eclair) or higher; iPhones and iPads with iOS 5.0 or higher.[18] Newest iterations of Google Drive client software do not appear to work properly under Snow Leopard (OS 10.6), returning a bad GPU message and not allowing the user to access the minibar icon. Replacing the newer client with an older version appears to fix the problem although automatic updates may mean its recurrence.

Even though there is no official client software for Linux, Google Drive can still be accessed through Linux via open source projects such as Grive.[19] It is additionally possible to mount space provided by Google Drive accounts directly to a Linux file system using google-drive-ocamlfuse, a FUSE based file system written in OCaml and backed by Google Drive.[20] Google developer Burcu Dogan has created an easy to use client called drive. Google indicated in April 2012 that work on Linux client software was underway,[21] but there was no news on this as of November 2013.[22]

Sundar Pichai of Google said that the Google Drive online storage service would be tightly integrated with Chrome OS version 20.[23]

Google Drive supports offline viewing and editing of documents, spreadsheets, presentations and drawings through HTML 5 web apps that run in the Google Chrome browser or on the Chrome OS. The Android and iOS apps support offline viewing of all file types. The files and folders in Google Drive ('My Drive') can be accessed offline via the Chrome app and edited via the mobile apps.[24]


Third-party apps[edit]

There are a number of third-party web applications ("apps") that work with Google Drive. To use an app, users have to sign in into Chrome Web Store and add the app. According to Google’s Developer blog, Drive apps are distributed from the Chrome Web Store and can be used with any modern browser. Some of these apps also work offline, although only on Google Chrome. Drive apps operate on the online files, and can be used to view, edit or create files of various types, edit images and videos, fax and sign documents, manage projects, create flowcharts, etc.[25][26][27]

File viewing[edit]

The Google Drive viewer on the web allows one to view the following file formats:[28]

Files in other formats can also be handled through third-party web applications that work with Google Drive, available from the Chrome Web Store.[25] The Google Drive apps for Android and iOS can use other apps installed on the device to open unsupported file types.[29][30]

File limits[edit]

Files uploaded, but not converted to Google Docs format, may be up to 1 TB in size. Created or uploaded files larger than 1 TB cannot be viewed within Google Drive.[31] Embedded images must not exceed 2 MB each.[32]

There are also limits, specific to file type, listed below:

1,024,000 characters, regardless of the number of pages or font size. Uploaded document files that are converted to Google Docs format can not be larger than 10 MB.[31]
All the limits on spreadsheets have been removed in the newer version of Google Sheets. In the older version, there could have been a maximum of 256 columns per sheet and 200 sheets per workbook, with 400,000 cells in all. Uploaded spreadsheet files that are converted to Google Sheets format can not be larger than 20 MB, and need to be under 400,000 cells and 256 columns per sheet.[31]
Presentations created in Google Slides can be up to 50 MB — which is about 200 slides. Uploaded presentation files that are converted into Google Slides format can also be up to 50 MB.[31]

Google Docs[edit]

An example of a document in Google Docs

Google Docs is a free, web-based office suite hosted on Google Drive. Prior to the launch of Google Drive, Google Docs was also an online file storage service. But since the launch of Google Drive, all files created using Google Docs are saved to Google Drive and all URLs to Google Docs are also redirected to Google Drive. The free storage space was also increased from 1 GB to 5 GB as part of this transition.[33]

Google Docs allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users. It combines the features of Writely and Google Spreadsheets with a presentation program incorporating technology designed by Tonic Systems.

Google Docs is officially supported on the two most recent versions of the Firefox, Internet Explorer (9+), Safari and Chrome browsers running on Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X, Linux and Chrome OS operating systems.[34]

Since the launch of Google Drive, the word-processing, spreadsheet and presentation programs within the service are called Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides, respectively. However, the suite as a whole is still referred to by the name Google Docs.[35]


Documents created through Google Docs can be saved to a user's local computer in a variety of formats such as ODF, HTML, PDF, RTF, Text, and Microsoft Office. Documents are automatically saved to Google's servers to prevent data loss, and a revision history is automatically kept so past edits may be viewed (although this only works for adjacent revisions, and there is currently no way to find and isolate changes in long documents). Documents can be tagged and archived for organizational purposes.

Google Docs allows real time collaborative editing. Documents can be shared, opened, and edited by multiple users at the same time. Users cannot be notified of changes, but the application can notify users when a comment or discussion is made or replied to, facilitating collaboration. There is no way to highlight changes made by a particular editor in real time during a writing session, nor a way to jump to the changes made. However, users can usually see where in the document or file a particular editor is currently writing, since in most of the suite's products, an editor's current position is represented with an editor-specific color or cursor. Also, the revision history included in the service allows users to see the changes made to a document, distinguished by editor, using their specific color. The application supports two ISO standard document formats: OpenDocument (for both opening and exporting) and Office Open XML (for opening only). It also includes support for proprietary formats such as .doc and .xls.[36][37]

In September 2009, an equation editor was added which supports the LaTeX format; however, Google Docs lacks an equation numbering feature.[38][39]

Google Spreadsheets and Google Sites incorporate Google Apps Script to write code within documents in a similar way to Visual Basic for Applications in Microsoft Office. The scripts can be activated either by user action or by a trigger in response to an event.[40][41]

Google Forms and Google Drawings have been added to the Google Docs suite. Google Forms is a tool that allows users to collect information via a personalized survey or quiz. The information is collected and automatically connected to a spreadsheet with the same name. The spreadsheet is populated with the survey and quiz responses.[42]

Google Drawings allows users to collaborate creating, sharing, and editing images or drawings. Google Drawings can be used for creating charts, diagrams, designs, flow-charts, etc. It contains a subset of the features in Google Slides but with different templates. Its features include laying out drawings precisely with alignment guides, snap to grid, auto distribution, and inserting drawings into other Google documents, spreadsheets, or presentations.[43][44]

On May 15, 2012, Research tool was introduced in Google Docs. This allows users to easily access Google Search through a sidebar while editing a document.[45]

On March 11, 2014, Google introduced add-ons for Google Docs and Sheets which allow users to use third-party applications installed from the add-on stores to get additional features within the main services.[46]


Writely's beta logo

Google Docs originated from two separate products, Writely and Google Spreadsheets.

Writely was a web-based word processor created by the software company Upstartle and launched in August 2005.[47] It was written by Sam Schillace, Steve Newman (both of whom had previously worked on FullWrite and Claris Home Page), and Claudia Carpenter. They were trying out the then new Ajax technology and the "content editable" function in browsers, and intrigued by the idea of making a simpler version of Microsoft Word online.[48]

Spreadsheets, launched as Google Labs Spreadsheets on June 6, 2006,[49] originated from the acquisition of the XL2Web product by 2Web Technologies. Writely's original features included a collaborative text editing suite and access controls. Menus, keyboard shortcuts, and dialog boxes are similar to what users may expect in a desktop word processor such as Microsoft Word or LibreOffice Writer.

On March 9, 2006, Google announced that it had acquired Upstartle.[50] At the time of acquisition, Upstartle had four employees.[51] Writely closed registration to its service until the move to Google servers was complete.[50] In August 2006, Writely sent account invitations to everyone who had requested to be placed on a waiting list, and then became publicly available on August 23. Writely continued to maintain its own user system until September 19, 2006, when it was integrated with Google Accounts.[52]

Meanwhile, Google developed Google Spreadsheets using the technology it had acquired from 2Web Technologies in 2005 and launched Google Labs Spreadsheets[49][53] on June 6, 2006 as the first public component of what would eventually become Google Docs. It was initially made available to only a limited number of users, on a first-come, first-served basis. The limited test was later replaced with a beta version available to all Google Account holders, around the same time as a press release was issued.[54]

In February 2007, Google Docs was made available to Google Apps users.

In June 2007, Google changed the front page to include folders instead of labels, organized in a side bar.

On September 17, 2007, Google released a presentation program for Google Docs.[55]

On July 6, 2009, Google announced on its official blog that Google Docs along with other Google Apps would be taken out of beta.[56]

On January 12, 2010, Google announced on its official blog that Google Docs would allow storage of any file type, with 1 GB of free space and $0.25/GB for additional storage.[57]

On March 7, 2010, DocVerse, an online document collaboration company, was acquired by Google.[58] It allows multiple user online collaboration on Microsoft Office compatible document formats such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.[59] Improvements based on DocVerse were announced and deployed in April 2010.[60]

In June 2010, it was reported that access to Google Docs had been blocked in Turkey.[61] A Google employee confirmed the problem saying that it "appear[ed] to be linked to the ongoing ban on YouTube."[62]

As of September 29, 2011, Google Docs supports offline viewing through an opt-in beta HTML 5 web app.[24]

On April 26, 2012, Google launched Google Drive, which supplants Google Docs. It incorporates the Google Docs office suite into Google Drive along with improved storage functionality.[63]

In June 2012, Google announced that it had acquired acquired Quickoffice, a leader in office productivity solutions.[64]

Ownership and licensing[edit]

Google has one unified set of terms of service and privacy policy for all its products. According to CNET, unlike competing services Dropbox and SkyDrive, Google has broad rights to reproduce, use, and create derivative works from content stored on the Google Drive, via a license from its users. This license is perpetual even after the user removes the material. Although the user retains intellectual property rights, the user licenses Google to extract and parse uploaded content to customize advertising and other services that Google provides to the user, and to promote the service.[65] Google's broad license to uploaded files also allows it to make usability improvements, such as creating modified versions of uploaded content which are more suitable for various uses. For example, Google might transcode an uploaded video into formats more suitable for viewing on a handheld computer or a certain browser than the original.

A report from The Verge, however, finds that Google's terms are quite comparable to those of its competitors, and slightly better in some cases.[66]

Data safety and privacy[edit]

In a cloud environment, data security issues and national interests mean that on-line document storage (e.g. electronic mail), and processing (e.g. Gmail) can be unsuitable for use by governments or commercial organizations, especially where sensitive data (e.g. electronic mail) or confidential data is being stored, edited or shared on systems and infrastructure that are outsourced (e.g. by senior US government officials to Google) and shared with many other organizations, individuals, users (e.g. the Internet).[67][68]

  1. In a mid-2011 attack from Jinan, China, (a city with a military command center), the passwords were stolen for the Gmail accounts of hundreds of senior US government officials in a phishing attack.[67] The Gmail address and password would have given the attackers the ability to access other areas of Google for these user accounts (Apps, Docs, etc.). Other systems where the username and password pair were the same could also have been accessed. Also, some systems using a password recovery feature could be accessed. (If a password is forgotten a new one is sent to the registered email address. See Password notification email.)
  2. On 10 March 2009, Google reported that a bug in Google Docs had allowed unintended access to some private documents. Google believed that 0.05% of all documents stored via the service were affected by the bug, and said the issue had already been fixed at the time of the announcement.[69]
  3. Google has a close relationship with the US intelligence agencies[70][71] and provides information to intelligence agencies around the world upon request via established protocols (e.g. RIPA in the UK). Google is primarily a US company, and therefore, to protect perceived US national interests, non-US citizens may have their safety or privacy compromised as a result of using Google Drive and other Google services.[72]

Some of the issues that have to be considered to see if Google Drive is "enterprise-ready" include

Google provides optional free two-factor authentication for greater account security.[73] To log in, users must provide a short random code sequence sent to their phones via SMS or generated by the Google Authenticator app for Android or iOS.[74][75] Google has also switched to using secure sockets layer communication (HTTPS) by default, preventing common man-in-the-middle attacks.[76][77][78] In addition, third party Google Drive plugins exist which enable at rest encryption of data stored on drive, adding a further layer of security.[79]

Mobile access[edit]

The Android Google Drive app, which is available for free on Google Play,[80] allows users to view, edit, and create Google Docs documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. The Android Google Docs app can also take a photo of a document, sign, or other text and use Optical Character Recognition to convert to text that can be edited.[81] The iPhone Safari Browser also allows users to view documents, spreadsheets, and presentation and to edit and create Google Docs documents and spreadsheets.[82] Furthermore, the Google App for iPhone allows users to view and edit Google Docs. Most other mobile devices can also view and edit Google Docs documents and spreadsheets using a mobile browser.[83] PDF files can be viewed but not edited.

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]