Google Drive

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Not to be confused with GMail Drive or Google driverless car.
Google Drive
Logo of Google Drive.svg
Google Drive screenshot.png
Google Drive, showing documents
Web address drive.google.com
Type of site File hosting service
Available in 68 languages[1]
Users 190 million (June 2014)
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 June 2014, Google Drive had 190 million monthly active users.[5]

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

Storage[edit]

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 all charged exclusively in US$ so any customer outside of the US will need to pay exchange charges, 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 competitor Dropbox.[13][14]

Client[edit]

Google Drive
Logo of Google Drive.svg
Screenshot of Google Drive app for Android.png
Stable release
  • Windows, OS X
    1.17.7290.4094 (August 12, 2014; 48 days ago (2014-08-12)) [±]
  • Android
    1.3.144.25 (May 8, 2014; 4 months ago (2014-05-08)) [±] [15]
  • iOS
    3.0.0 (May 1, 2014; 4 months ago (2014-05-01)) [±][16]
Operating system Windows, OS X, Chrome OS, Android, iOS[17]
License Freeware
Website tools.google.com/dlpage/drive/

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 be mounted directly to a Linux file system using gdrivefs or google-drive-ocamlfuse, which are FUSE based file systems backed by Google Drive.[19][20] Google Drive can also be accessed through Linux via open source projects such as Grive.[21] 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,[22] but there was no news on this as of November 2013.[23]

Sundar Pichai of Google said that the Google Drive online storage service would be tightly integrated with Chrome OS version 20.[24]

Google Drive can be accessed offline on the Google Chrome browser via a Chrome app, which can be installed from the Chrome Web Store. Documents, spreadsheets, presentations and drawings can also be viewed and edited offline through standalone Chrome apps. The Google Drive app for Android and iOS supports offline viewing of all file types. Offline editing for documents and spreadsheets is supported through standalone mobile apps.[25]

Features[edit]

Sharing[edit]

Google Drive incorporates a system of file sharing in which the creator of a file or folder, is by default, its owner. The owner has the ability to regulate the public visibility of the file or folder. Ownership is transferable. Files or folders can be shared privately with particular users having a Google account, using their @gmail.com email addresses. Sharing files with users not having a Google account requires making them accessible to 'anybody with the link'. This generates a secret URL for the file, which may be shared via email, blogs, etc. Files and folders can also be made 'public on the web', which means that they can be indexed by search engines and thus can be found and accessed by anyone. The owner may also set an access level for regulating permissions. The three access levels offered are 'can edit', 'can comment' and 'can view'. Users with editing access can invite others to edit.

Third-party apps[edit]

There are a number of external web applications ("apps") that work with Google Drive. These apps are available from the Chrome Web Store and are compatible with all supported browsers. To use an app, users are required to sign in into Chrome Web Store and add the app. Some of these apps are first-party, such as Google Docs, Sheets and Slides. Drive apps operate on the online files, and can be used to view, edit and create files in various formats, edit images and videos, fax and sign documents, manage projects, create flowcharts, etc. Drive apps can also be made the default for handling file formats supported by them. Some of these apps also work offline, although only on Google Chrome and Chrome OS.[26][27][28] All of the third-party apps are free to install. However, some have fees associated with continued usage or access to additional features. Most Drive apps have the permission to access users' files outside of Google Drive. Saving data from a third-party app to Google Drive requires authorization the first time.[29]

In February 2013, the 'create' menu in Google Drive was revamped to include third party apps, thus effectively granting them the same status as Google's own apps.[30] On March 19, 2013, Google released an API for Google Drive that enables third-party developers to build collaborative apps that support real time editing.[31]

File viewing[edit]

The Google Drive viewer on the web allows one to view the following file formats:[32]

Files in other formats can also be handled through third-party apps that work with Google Drive, available from the Chrome Web Store.[26] The Google Drive apps for Android and iOS can use other apps installed on the device to open unsupported file types.[33][34]

File limits[edit]

Files uploaded, but not converted to Google Docs format, may be up to 5 TB in size. Created or uploaded files larger than 5 TB cannot be viewed within Google Drive.[35] Embedded images must not exceed 2 MB each.[36]

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

Documents
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 50 MB.[35]
Spreadsheets
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.[35]
Presentations
Presentations created in Google Slides can be up to 100 MB — which is about 400 slides. Uploaded presentation files that are converted into Google Slides format can be up to 50 MB.[35]

Save to Google Drive[edit]

Google offers an extension for Google Chrome Save to Google Drive that allows users to save web content to Google Drive through a browser action or through the context menu. While documents and images can be saved directly, webpages can be saved in the form of a screenshot (as an image of the visible part of the page or the entire page), or as a raw HTML, MHTML, or Google Docs file. Users need to be signed in to Chrome to use the extension.[37]

Google Drive for Work[edit]

Google Drive for Work was announced at the Google I/O conference on 25 June 2014 and was made available immediately. The service features unlimited storage, advanced file audit reporting and eDiscovery services, along with what Google calls "new fine-grained controls that let admins customize the Drive experience, such as which employees can install the desktop sync client". Users can upload files as large as 5 TB. The storage limit is fixed to 1 TB per user for companies with less than 5 members. A press release posted on Google's Official Enterprise Blog assured businesses that Google will encrypt data stored on its servers, as well as information being transmitted to or from them. Google will deliver round-the-clock support to premium users and has guaranteed 99.9% uptime for its servers.[38]

Google Docs[edit]

Main article: Google Docs
An example of a document in Google Docs

Google Docs is a free, web-based office suite offered by Google and integrated with Google Drive. It allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users. Since October 2012, the word processing, spreadsheet and presentation programs within the suite are named Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides, respectively. The three apps are available as web applications, as Chrome apps that work offline, and as mobile apps for Android and iOS.[note 1] The apps are compatible with Microsoft Office file formats. The suite also consists of Google Forms, Google Drawings and Google Tables (beta). While Forms and Tables are only available as web applications, Drawings is also available as a Chrome app. Google Docs is tightly integrated with Google Drive. All files created with the apps are by default saved to 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 in April 2012, all files created using Google Docs are saved to Google Drive and the Google Docs' URL (docs.google.com) redirects to Google Drive.[note 2] The free storage space was increased from 1 GB to 5 GB as part of this transition.[39]

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.[40] Upstartle was acquired by Google on March 9, 2006.[41] Google Spreadsheets was first launched as a limited test on Google Labs on June 6, 2006, following the acquisition of 2Web Technologies.[42] A presentation program was added to the suite on September 17, 2007 following the acquisition of Tonic Systems on April 17, 2007.[43][44] Google Docs was made available to Google Apps users in February 2007 and the service was taken out of beta in September 2007.

In October 2012, following the launch of Google Drive, Google Documents, Spreadsheets and Presentations were renamed Google Docs, Sheets and Slides respectively.[45] Standalone mobile apps for the three products were announced in April 2014.[46]

Offline support on Chrome and Chrome OS was first introduced for documents in June 2012[47] and was subsequently extended to presentations in January 2013[48] and to spreadsheets in December 2013.[49]

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.[50]

Features[edit]

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 serves as a collaborative tool for editing documents in real time. Documents can be shared, opened, and edited by multiple users simultaneously and users are able to see character-by-character changes as other collaborators make edits. 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, an editor's current position is represented with an editor-specific color/cursor, so if another editor happens to be viewing that part of the document they can see edits as they occur. A sidebar chat functionality allows editors to discuss edits. Also, the revision history included in the service allows users to see the additions made to a document, with each author distinguished by color, but the entire document must be manually searched to find these changes. The revision history feature only displays one edit at a time, i.e. only adjacent revisions can be compared, and users cannot control how frequently revisions are saved. A new collaborative feature introduced in June 2014 allows any user with commenting access to make edit suggestions. However, this feature is currently available only for documents.[51][52]

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 viewing proprietary formats such as .doc and .xls.[53]

In September 2009, an equation editor was added which supports the LaTeX format; however, Google Docs lacks an equation numbering feature.[54][55]

Google Docs includes a web clipboard tool that allows users to copy and paste content between Google documents, spreadsheets, presentations and drawings. The web clipboard can also be used for copying and pasting content been different computers. Copied items are stored on Google's servers for up to 30 days. For most copying and pasting, Google Docs also supports keyboard shortcuts.[56]

Google offers an extension for Google Chrome Office editing for Docs, Sheets and Slides that enables users to view and edit Microsoft Office documents on Google Chrome, via the Docs, Sheets and Slides apps. The extension can be used for opening Office files stored on the computer using Chrome, as well as for opening Office files encountered on the web (in the form of email attachments, web search results, etc.) without having to download them. The extension is installed on Chrome OS by default.[57]

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.[58][59]

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.[60]

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.[61][62]

On May 15, 2012, a research tool was introduced in Google Docs. This allows users to easily access Google Search through a sidebar while editing a document.[63]

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.[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 Google Drive app on Android and iOS supported editing of documents and spreadsheets until April 2014, when the capability was moved to the newly released standalone apps for Docs, Sheets and Slides. The Google Drive app on Android allows users to take a photo of a document, sign, or other text and use Optical Character Recognition to convert to text that can be edited.[80][81] The Safari browser on iPhone allows users to view documents, spreadsheets, and presentation and to edit and create Google Docs documents and spreadsheets.[82] 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]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Google Slides has not yet been made available for iOS, as of July 2014, although Google had announced on 25 June 2014 that the app would be released in the "coming weeks".
  2. ^ Since the introduction of individual home screens for Google Docs, Sheets and Slides towards the end of July 2014, the URL docs.google.com now directs to the Google Docs home screen.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]