Identify how your
organization and your users work with Google Drive, then configure apps and
settings to support their needs.

Here’s a
one question vocabulary quiz for you:

The term “Google
Drive” means __________.

  1. Storage, as in “the Google
    Drive file storage system”.
  2. Browser apps, as in “create a new
    document by logging in to Google Drive at”.
  3. A file syncing
    app, as in “open
    Google Drive on Windows/Mac to access your files”.
  4. A mobile app, as in “create and edit
    documents with the Google Drive app on your phone”.
  5. All of the above

course, “5” is correct. Google Drive might refer to any of these four

Ending the confusion

multiple definitions of “Google Drive” may cause confusion. If you
instruct a person to “Open the file with Google Drive”, should they
open a browser or an app? Both actions open “Google Drive”, but leave
the user in different environments. The distinctions matter little to a user
attempting to work. The difference does matter, though. Opening a native Word
file with Google Drive in the browser displays the file, and lets the user
create an entirely new, converted file in the Google Docs format. There are now
two files, instead of one. One in Google Docs format and one in Word format; this
may cause more confusion and frustration.

people use Google Drive in one of two ways:

  1. To store Microsoft Office documents, or
  2. To create, edit and store native Google (or
    web) documents from a browser.

that have moved beyond Microsoft Office have it easy. Google Drive stores the
organization’s files, and provides access to the apps needed to create and edit
documents. Without Microsoft Office installed, there’s little chance for

challenge arises in organizations that use Google Apps for email and shared
calendaring, yet still use the Microsoft Office suite for documents. In these
settings, Google Drive functions simply to store Microsoft Office documents.
That’s where the multiple meanings of “Google Drive” might cause

If you’re
unsure how people are using Google Drive, ask a user to create a new document.
If they open Microsoft Word, they’re probably using Google Drive as storage. If
they use a browser, they’re using the full power of Google Drive apps. (I’m
aware that some organizations use both: Office for formatted documents, and
Drive for collaboration. Users who do so are quite technically proficient.)

how to minimize potential confusion and problems in each of the two

Office document users should access Drive from the Drive desktop app or
Quickoffice mobile app

1. Store Microsoft
Office documents

If your
organization uses Google Apps for Business for email and calendaring and the
Microsoft Office suite for documents, here’s how I suggest you setup your
system to work with documents.

a. Install Google Drive
on Mac/Windows systems for file syncing

the Google Drive app (available for Mac
and Windows
Teach users to access Drive when opening or saving Office documents: on Mac
systems, by using the Mac Finder; on Windows systems, by using the “Start
Menu” (or tile, if using Windows 8).

b. Use QuickOffice for
Google Apps Business on smartphones and tablets

mobile apps (available for Android and iOS) enable users to edit Office
documents, without converting the document into native Google Document format.
This helps users avoid the “multiple document” problem detailed
above. Files created on the device will be in Microsoft Office or plain “.txt”
formats, all of which may be opened with Microsoft Office on Mac or Windows

without Microsoft Office should access Drive from the web or Google Drive
mobile app

2. Work with native
Google documents

are simpler if your organization has removed Microsoft Office entirely, and
rely fully on Google Apps for Business for email, calendaring, and document

a. Use a browser for all
file activities on Mac/Windows systems

edit, and share files in a browser at (I recommend you use the Chrome
browser.) Google provides a helpful interactive tour of Google Drive and Docs
features at

(Note for
advanced users: remember that the “More” menu provides users with
access to any administrator-installed apps from the Google Marketplace. For
example, this is how I access the MindMeister mind-mapping web application.)

b. Use Google Drive apps
on smartphones and tablets

Drive mobile apps (available for Android and iOS) enable users to edit Google
documents on smartphones and tablets. Files created on the device will be in “native”
Google document formats, and may be shared with others for viewing or editing.

A note for power
users: Of course, nothing prevents users from working with files everywhere
(i.e., in the Google Drive Windows/Mac app, in QuickOffice, in Google Drive
mobile apps, and in the browser app). Technically proficient
users should have no problem working with each of these tools, switching among
them as needed.

Bottom line

In an ideal world, file formats wouldn’t matter: Google
Drive users would be able to open and edit Microsoft Office and native Google
doc files without creating “converted” copies. There are signs that
Google is working toward that world. (In June 2013, François Beaufort posted that the developer channel of
Chrome OS allows native editing of Microsoft Office files
.) Until
then, choose the right Google Drive tools for your users, so they’ll know what
you mean when you say, “Save it to Google Drive.”

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