Drive your Android tablet to the cloud with Google Drive

Jack Wallen explains how to install and use Google Drive on an Android tablet.

The Google Docs app has undergone a bit of a face lift and now goes by the name Google Drive. It might take a bit of poking around, but Drive does differ from Docs in a few ways -- especially on the tablet. Google has made a rather smart move with Drive and evolved it into an office suite and Dropbox competitor.

What does that mean for tablets? Simple. It means that Android tablets now have a seamless (almost built-in) cloud storage product that enjoys a powerful, associated office suite. Users are allotted 5GB of space for free. If you want more space, you'll have to purchase a subscription -- but the prices are insanely cheap: $2.49 (USD) per month for 25GB, $4.99 (USD) per month for 100GB, and $49.99 (USD) per month for 1TB.

Here are some cool new features of Google Drive:

  • Create a document from a photo
  • Easy collaboration using the built-in Google Docs
  • Search everything on your Drive (even text in scanned documents using OCR)
  • Drag and drop photos into your Drive
  • Work with Drive documents offline


In order to make use of your Google Drive, you have to install the Google Drive app from Google Play. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open up the Google Play Store
  2. Search for "google drive" (no quotes)
  3. Tap the entry for the official Google Drive app
  4. Tap Download
  5. Tap Accept & download
Once it's installed, you can access the app either from your homescreen or (if the app icon didn't automatically add) the Application Drawer. When you first open Google Drive, you should already be authenticated to your Google Account, so it will immediately take you to the main Drive window (Figure A). Figure A

Here you see the Google Drive main window on a Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy Tab.

As it appears, Drive is little more than Google Docs for the tablet form factor, but you'll soon discover that it's much more. For example: Tap the "add" button (top right corner, second icon from the right). A new overlay will open with the following "Create New..." options:

  • Document
  • Spreadsheet
  • Document from photo
  • Upload
The Document from photo option will immediately open the tablet camera, where you can take a picture, and then (once the photo has been taken) click the Save button. After saving the photo, the Upload photo to Drive screen will appear (Figure B). This is where you enter the new document title, associate the document with a Google account, and select to convert the file to a Google Docs document (default). Figure B

If you have more than one Gmail account associated with the tablet, they will all appear in the drop-down list.

Once this is complete, that document-from-photo will be available on your Drive account.

Using documents offline

One of the nicer features of Drive (besides cheap storage) is the ability to use documents offline. This is very handy, seeing the limitations of tablet storage space.

Here's how to enable a document for offline usage:

  1. Open up Drive
  2. Long press the desired document
  3. Select Make available offline from the resulting overlay

That's it! All offline documents will appear in the Offline tab of the Drive main screen. Once you're done using that document, you can remove it from offline use by long-pressing the document and selecting Remove offline from the resulting overlay.

You can also make a document available offline by tapping the arrow to the right of the document name and checking the box for Available offline in the resulting right pane (Figure C). Figure C

You can also open the document from here by tapping the document icon in the right pane.

Sharing a document is also incredibly simply from Drive. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Open Drive
  2. Select the document to be shared
  3. Tap the Share button in the upper right corner
  4. Enter the Gmail address of the user for sharing

That's it! Collaboration has now been enabled on the document.

Google Drive is a great step forward on the Android tablet. It helps make collaboration, offline document editing, and interaction with your Google apps account even easier. Do you use Google Drive? Share your experience with this app in the discussion thread below.

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....