Google Drive review: First impression, features, the good and the bad

Google Drive - Logo

Google Drive is already live! In case Google owning your searches, emails and online collaboration at work, wasn’t enough. Now they can own your online storage too.

After many years of waiting and speculations, it’s finally here, the search giant released its cloud-storage solution for the everyday to the most storage space demanding user. Just visit drive.google.com to start, if you haven’t signed up yet, when you land on the page you can click Create account to roll out this service to your account.

The service integrates with Google Docs, it allows you to access files anywhere, and you can collaborate in real-time with documents.

First impression

There is a lot of familiarity with DropBox, box.net, and iCloud; you can look at your drive from any web browser. And there is a software too, of course, that you can download for Windows, Mac and Android that will automatically sync your files across devices. At the moment there is not a Linux or iOS version, but they are in the works.

When you open the Google Drive folder in your computer, this is how it looks like:

Google Drive folder Windows

Because now the search giant integrates Drive with Google Docs, all of your files that you’ve created in Docs, they will also appear in your online storage, which is a really great feature if you are already using Google Apps and other services from the company. Having storage built right in to them is more convenient that, for example, have to go a third-party or deal with somethings like FTP or some other way to collaborate with your data — seamless integration is good!

The good

A big + is that Google is making this service an open platform where third-party developers can create feature and products around Drive. For example, send faxes, build websites, and more.

The company is offering 5 GB for Drive, 10 GB for Gmail and 1 GB of storage for Picasa. This is all standard that every user gets for free. Then for $2.49/Month users will get +25 GB for Drive and Picasa and Gmail storage will also be upgraded to 25 GB. For $4.99/Month, users will get +100 GB of space for storage and photos. And if even more space is needed, Google is crushing the competition with a whooping total of up to 16 TB (Tera Byte), but that is going to cost about $799.99/Month.

Features highlight

Adding to the free and paid space plans, the cloud solution also offers:

  • Client application for Windows and Mac OS X with drag & drop functionally.
  • Unlimited storage for photos uploaded to Google+ and videos up to 15 minutes.
  • Impressive 10 GB limit on files or folder — Remember that you’ll still limited to your storage capacity.
  • Select what folders to sync between devices.
  • Access and upload files from any web browser.
  • Easy access to your images and videos in Google Drive from Google+.
  • Powerful search filters.
  • Capability to view over 30 different types of file formats online in a web browser, including: Office, OpenOffice, videos, Adobe, AutoCAD, PDF, SVG, TTF and many more.
  • Create, edit and share documents right from Google Drive with compatible Chrome apps.
  • Collaborate and share in real-time with Google Docs.
  • Get access of previous version of the file for up to 30 days, with the option to roll back.
  • Convert files to Google Docs formats.

Web interface

The search giant is keeping things simple, the user interface is consistent as with all other Google services. If you ever used Google Docs or Gmail, you already know how to use Drive. You can browser and view/edit in the web interface most your files, and it also includes a video player, which looks a lot like the YouTube player.

Advanced search Google Drive

All the features and options in Docs still accessible in the same way in Drive. You can select to convert certain files to Google Docs formats and uploading remains the same way too.

Google Drive home page

The bad

This may or may not be a problem depending on how you access your data, but if you go to your Drive folder from the desktop application, you cannot edit your Docs files (e.g., gsheet, gdoc, etc.) without an internet connection, even though you have a copy in your computer. So let’s hope this changes soon with an offline solution.

It is worth to mention that Docs files in your desktop drive are actually pointers to the online files and not the actual files themselves.

Also, many users will be disappointed that there is not a client available for Linux just yet. However a it is in the works together with version for iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch) and not word in a version for Windows Phone.

And MP3 audio playback directly from the web browser, like in Google Music, is not supported.

The difference among others

Now we have DropBox, Box.net, SkyDrive, iCloud, and several other big players, so the question arise: What Google Drive has that sets it apart from the competition? Well, the big thing is that it is Google, it is the best product that integrates with other Google services, massive storage capacity for demanding users (16TB), and it is all about search. The company is clamming great search inside the cloud service — “Search by keyword and filter by file type, owner and more. Drive can even recognize text in scanned documents using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. Let’s say you upload a scanned image of an old newspaper clipping. You can search for a word from the text of the actual article. We also use image recognition so that if you drag and drop photos from your Grand Canyon trip into Drive, you can later search for [grand canyon] and photos of its gorges should pop up.” — the company said.

The search giant has also pointed out that this new product still in its early stages. You can now store files in the mighty cloud and attach files to post in Google+, soon you’ll be able to attach files directly to Gmail, which will be pretty nice feature to have, and more features are expected in a near future.

Even though you get a lot stuff for free, it would be nice if the company and other players would allow to share documents with other users without forcing them to create an account.

If you already have a Gmail or a Docs account, you should start playing with it, just visit drive.google.com and create an account, specially if you don’t already use a SkyDrive, DropBox, or Box.net account.