Google Drive logo.

Many people take Google Drive for granted. You store files there and go get them when you need them. But there’s more to Google Drive than meets the eye. Here are some of those useful features you may have missed.

Find Files With the Advanced Search

The more files you upload to Google Drive, the more you have to look through when you need one. Luckily, you have advanced search options that make the task easier.

RELATED: How to Quickly Search Google Drive

Enter a keyword or phrase into the Search in Drive box at the top of the main page. Then, click the Show Search Options icon on the right side of the search box.

You’ll see many options you can use to find your file. Choose the file type or owner, use keywords within the file or file name, pick the location, select a date-modified option, or use one of the other fields you see.

Search options in Google Drive

Select “Search” and then view your results. If you know which folder a file is in, you can also perform a search directly in a Google Drive folder.

Link Directly to Files

Another handy Google Drive feature is obtaining a direct link to your file. You can do this without even opening the file. Then, save it to your notes for quick access or with a collaborator.

Right-click the file and choose “Get Link.”

Get Link in the shortcut menu

You can then choose “Copy Link” to place the link on your clipboard and paste it where you like. You can also use this box to share the link by entering your contact’s email address.

Copy and sharing options for a Google Drive link

At the bottom of the window, use the General Access section to control who can open the file with the link. You can pick “Restricted” to only allow access to those you share with or “Anyone With Link” to let anybody who clicks the link open the file.

General Access for a file link

Work With Microsoft Office Files

You don’t have to own Microsoft Office to work with Office files if you have Google Drive. You might receive a Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file that you need to view or edit. You can open these files in the corresponding Google app, Docs, Sheets, or Slides.

RELATED: How to Download Files and Folders From Google Drive

Additionally, you can download Docs, Sheets, and Slides documents in Microsoft Office formats.

To open an Office document, upload it to Google Drive like any other file. Then either double-click or right-click, move to Open With, and pick from Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides.

Open With Google Docs for a Word file

When the file opens in the corresponding app, you’ll see the file format retained at the top. Your changes save automatically, and you can then download the file in its original Office format.

Word document open in Google Docs

If you have a Docs, Sheets, or Slides file that you want to export and save in the Office format, this is just as easy. Open the document and go to the File tab. Move to Download and pick the format in the pop-out menu.

Download a Google Doc in Word format

Manage File Versions

Similar to obtaining a link to your file without opening it, you can manage its versions. This feature works with PDF and Microsoft Office files as well as images.

Right-click the file and choose “Manage Versions.”

Manage Versions in the shortcut menu

You’ll then see a pop-up window with each version of the file, including the current version.

Manage Versions window in Google Drive

As you can see at the top of the window, older version may be deleted after 30 days or 100 stored versions. If you want to avoid losing a previous version, click the three dots to the right of it and pick “Keep Forever.”

Keep Forever in the Manage Versions window

If you have a newer version saved to your device that you want to use, select “Upload New Version.” Then, browse for the file and pick “Upload.”

Upload New Version button

Two more actions you can take are to delete or download any of the versions you see. Use the three dots to the right of the version to pick “Delete” or “Download.”

Download or Delete a file version

View a File’s Activity, Details, and Description

While it may seem like such a simple thing, being able to view the activity and details for a file might be exactly what you need to do. Additionally, you can take advantage of the descriptions in Google Drive to add your own details.

RELATED: How to Change the Owner of a File in Google Drive

Open the details sidebar one of these ways:

  • Right-click the file and pick “View Details.”
  • Select the file and click the View Details icon (small letter “i”) on the top right.
  • Select the file, click the three dots at the top, and pick “View Details.”

You’ll then see the sidebar with two tabs for Details and Activity. With Details you can review the file type, size, owner, date created, and more. With Activity, you’ll see things like when the file was uploaded or when it was edited.

Details and Activity for a file in Google Drive

To add a description to the file, use the Details tab in the sidebar. Enter your text into the Description box at the bottom and hit Enter or Return. This is a good way to distinguish between files with similar names.

Description box for a Google Drive file

Add Comments to Files

Another convenient Google Drive feature is the ability to add comments to files. This is useful for notes for yourself or collaborators.

Open the file in Preview mode. You can do this by selecting the file and click the Preview icon (eye) at the top or right-clicking and choosing “Preview.”

Select the portion of the file you want to comment on and then select the Comment icon on the right or at the top.

Type your comment in the box that appears and click “Comment.”

Comment box in Google Drive

Notice you can use the @ (At) symbol to mention a collaborator if you like. As a bonus, you have the ability to assign your comment to that person. Check the Assign To box and click “Assign.”

Comment box to assign a note in Google Drive

Upload Files With Your Mobile Device Camera

If you use the Google Drive mobile app, you have an additional feature that can make uploads easy. You can use your device camera to capture a file or other item and upload it as a PDF (Android) or an image (iPhone.)

RELATED: How to Upload Files and Folders to Google Drive

On Android

Open the Android Google Drive app and tap the plus sign to upload a file. Then, pick “Scan.”

New document and scan in Google Drive on Android

Tap the shutter button to scan the item and then use the checkmark to save it. You can pick the trash can icon to recapture the scan if necessary. Select “Save.”

Checkmark and Save option for a scanned item

Choose the location to save it within Google Drive and then tap “Save” again. You’ll then see your scanned file as a PDF.

Save a scan in Google Drive on Android

On iPhone

Open the iPhone Google Drive app and tap the plus sign to upload a file. Then, pick “Use Camera.”

New document and Use Camera in Google Drive on iPhone

Tap the shutter button to capture the image select tap “Use Photo” to upload it. You can also pick “Retake” to recapture the shot if needed.

Use Photo to save to Google Drive on iPhone

After a few moments, you’ll see your image in Google Drive.

Sometimes features are obvious, especially if they’re ones you use often. But then there are others you don’t realize exist and would find super helpful. Hopefully at least one of these Google Drive features is useful to you.

Profile Photo for Sandy Writtenhouse Sandy Writtenhouse
With her B.S. in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She learned how technology can enrich both professional and personal lives by using the right tools. And, she has shared those suggestions and how-tos on many websites over time. With thousands of articles under her belt, Sandy strives to help others use technology to their advantage.
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