Google Drive – Why It’s Awesome and How It Makes Chromebook Sexy

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.

Google Drive Icon

 

Activation

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.

Google Drive - Not Yet Ready

 
It may take hours or days to receive Google’s welcome email, which looks like this:

Welcome to Google Drive

 

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.

Google Drive
 

Features

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.

Google Drive for Windows 
 
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.

Google Drive - Web Apps

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:

Chrome Web Store - Google Drive Apps

And you can add more web apps by clicking “Create”, choose “More” and then “Get more apps”.

Google Drive - 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!

Cloud Save on Chromebook: Save files on Chrome OS to Dropbox, Google Docs, Box.net…

Weeks ago I introduced Cloud Save Chrome extension that enables users to save files on the web directly to cloud storage spaces without first saving to harddisk.  It gives great convenience to all internet users, especially for Chromebook users who only have limited disk space.  Today I’ll introduce a Chrome extension that integrates Cloud Save with Chrome OS File Manager.

CrOS Save: Save files from Chrome OS to the cloud directly

Image from CrOS Save’s official page

CrOS Save: Adds Cloud Save to Chrome OS File Manager

After installing CrOS Save on Chromebook, you’ll find one more button labelled “Save to Cloud” on the bottom right corner in the File Manager when you select files.  Just click on it and choose the cloud storage service, you’ll be able to save the file directly to the cloud without it passing through the Chromebook hard drive.  Everything is done in the background except notifications about completed file transfer.

CrOS Save: Save files from Chrome OS to the cloud directly

Image from CrOS Save’s official page

Some users reported errors when transferring files larger than 200MB, but after all this extension is a great invention for Chromebook users.  Cloud storage services like Dropbox, Google Docs, Box.net and Amazon Cloud Drive finally works almost like the hard drive on your Chromebook.  Besides, you can upload photos to Facebook and Picasa with this extension too, making social sharing more convenient.

Install it from here.

Cloud Save: Download Files Directly to Your Online Storage Space, e.g. Dropbox

Chromebook users, your harddrive has a small size of 16GB only.  Most of you would store files online in web sites like Dropbox, Google Docs, Box.net and SugarSync.  Saving files to these online storage spaces is not the same as how you save files in Mac, Windows or Linux computer.  You firstly need to “save as” the file to the harddrive, then go to the web client of your storage space and upload.

Cloud Save: download files directly to online storage space

Today’s featured Chrome extension, Cloud Save, helps you save files directly to your online storage space.

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Web App: Droptunes – Listen to your music in Dropbox from the browser

DropTunes - flash player

There are many music web apps available online.  I’ve been using a few of them such as Grooveshark, mspot and Pandora.  These web apps allow me to listen to music on any web-enabled devices by uploading them to the service provider’s server, streaming from my own computer or simply listening to songs already provided (and only those provided by that service provider).  They work well but just lack a bit of flexibility.  For users like me who prefer a simple web-based player to play all my music anywhere, Droptunes is your choice.

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