Google launched Google Drive on 24 Apr. I believe it is a significant step that takes cloud living and working into a new era. In this article I shall briefly introduce what Google Drive is, how to use it and what killer features does it have.
Currently Google Drive is not fully opened to all users. If you go to http://drive.google.com, chances are you would see the following screen. Note the “Your Google Drive is not ready yet” message and the “Notify me” button (top right corner). From here you could ask Google to send you an activation email.
It may take hours or days to receive Google’s welcome email, which looks like this:
Basically Google Drive is an upgrade of Google Docs. It doesn’t look much different from Google Docs. You can use it the same way as Google Docs, there is not much of the user interface to learn.
But Google Drive is not simply a Google Docs with a larger capacity (Google gives you 5 GB storage for free). I see a few improvements.
Firstly, Google Drive has a built-in OCR function, meaning that if you search for a phrase in your Google Drive, not only would text-based files containing the phrase would come up in search results, pictures which the phrase would also be searched. Google recognizes the text in graphics form. Similarly, Google Drive also integrated Google Goggles the image search engine. So it you try to find “the great wall” in Google Drive, even if the file name does not contain the words, Google Drive could recognize the photo you took in Beijing in your last trip to China.
Secondly, just like Dropbox and Skydrive by Microsoft, the desktop app of Google Drive automatically synchronize your files between your Windows PC or Mac and your Google Drive. There is also an Android app and an iOS app is in the pipeline. This level of synchronization was not available in the previous Google Docs.
Thirdly, Google brought web apps into Google Drive. When I first entered Google Drive, I was asked if I wanted to use Pixlr Editor as the default image viewer and editor.
This is a smart move by Google. There are way too many online storage competitors in the market, the most famous ones include Dropbox, Box and Skydrive. Why should we use Google Drive if other companies provide the same (or more) storage space? By adding web apps to web storage, Google created not only a storage space but an online working space!
There is a growing collection of Chrome web apps that support Google Drive. You can identify these web apps by the Google Drive icon in chrome Web Store:
And you can add more web apps by clicking “Create”, choose “More” and then “Get more apps”.
I see huge potential in integrating Google Drive with web apps. Image editor, word processor, music player and editor, spreadsheet editor… All web apps could be ran on the same Google Drive platform, this makes online working and collaboration much easier. The Google Docs in the past was primitive, it only had basic editing function. Now when third-party app developers could create web apps that have direct access to Google Drive, more possibilities are created.
The launch of Google Drive with web apps also makes Chromebook a much more attractive product. Users can store all their files online in one place and have them viewed and edited in the same one place. Chrome OS + Google Drive + web apps is an integrated, independent and complete system. As long as you have web access, you have access to your files and apps to view/edit your files. I think Google Drive filled the missing piece of a complete cloud system. The cloud era has come, now in a more desirable way.
Finally watch this introductory video, know what Google Drive is and try it now!