Organizing and Searching Google Drive

How often do you stare confused and overwhelmed by all the documents you have strewn about in your Google Drive? Never? That’s impressive. For everyone else though, in the lynda.com tutorial discussed in this post about Google Drive Essential Training, specifically the third chapter – Organizing and Searching Google Drive, I will give you tips and tricks to make your life more simple, and who doesn’t want that.

I personally like to have all of my documents filed away and easily retrievable. When

Moving documents into a folder

Moving documents into a folder

watching the first Lynda video on how to “create folders and sub-folders”, my inner neat-freak came out. In Google Drive you can create folders and sub-folders just like you can on your computer, and share them or just keep them private. Just as with your e-mail, Google Drive allows you to move documents by selecting them and dropping them into folders; as seen in the image on the right. When designing Google Drive the creators really tried to make it very similar to how people use folders on their computers, in the sense that there can be folders within folders, and what really caught my eye was that you can navigate through folders and sub-folders without having to actually open them. Simply by clicking on the little triangle beside the master folder you can see all the sub-folders that it contains, as seen in the image below.

The red box surrounds the triangle that allows you to view what sub-folders are contained in the master folder.

Awesome, now we have the basics down, that’s all there is to organizing my Google Drive, right? No. Have you ever searched for something but it got lost in the masses? Because let’s face it, you neglect to use folders and who knows what you named that document as. In Google Drive you can actually sort the list to show you documents and folders that were “Last Edited by Me”, or “Title” or even “Quota Used” (as seen in the image to the right) –  so as long as you know something about the document, you should be able to find it again.

Different ways to sort your documents

Different ways to sort your documents


Being able to toggle through when you last edited something, opened it or modified it is great, but what if you just want to look through all of your documents to see everything you have in your Drive? The standard view is “comfortable”, and this means that the list of documents isn’t squished together. However, you can squeeze them even closer together with the other two settings “cozy” and “compact”. The difference between them is how many documents appear on the screen, and

Top: Comfortable view  Bottom: Compact view

Top: Comfortable view
Bottom: Compact view

the further down the list you go, the more squished it becomes. As you see in the image to the right, the screenshot on the top is of the comfortable setting, and the one on the bottom is of the compact setting. 

Though I have grown accustomed to the list view in Google Drive, they also offer to view your documents as you would in an icon format. This option is really neat because it is a much simpler way of navigating through documents and folders. So, pick either one, both are useful and have their own pros and cons, but the main purpose of having so many options in how you organize and search your Google Drive is to make it more you. To get a more in depth understanding of changing the view and sort order, check out the second video in chapter 3 of Organizing and Searching Google Drive.

You may have noticed, once or twice, that on the navigation bar on the left there are different ways to access files. There are links to folders such as My Drive, and Shared with Me, which are folders that we frequent often, but there are also links to folders such as Activity, and Recent which are probably less used. These folders are extremely useful and can be amazing ways to find documents that you’ve recently opened or edited. You should go through and explore what default folders they give you. There are also help links that Google provides when you enter those folders, because they know that only the brave and the worthy venture through those waters.

Owner, Type, More

Searching for documents through keywords or prompts.

Filtering through documents can be comparable to sifting through sand to find that one seashell you thought looked pretty – time consuming and only worth it if you find it. That is why Google Drive presents to you, their amazing new way of finding documents in your Google Drive that pertain to a set of parameters that you choose. Basically, the way we use tags to relate posts to each other to make them easier to find, uses the same logic that Google Drive uses with the “Owner, Type, More” function to find documents and folders.  And just like tags, you can tack on multiple search options, for example, I could look for all “Spreadsheets” that are “not owned by me”. Go check out more in the video titled “Using filters to find your files”.

Now, for my personal favorite- color coding. The main function of this is to make things look pretty, but you may also have a system to how you code things. By either right clicking or using the little triangle (pointed out earlier) you can skim the options until you find change color, and from there you can pick whatever you please. Fun fact, though, if you have a folder containing sub-folders, the main folder’s color will change, but the sub-folders will not.

All folders should have names, and those names should have some meaning to them, but if for some reason you messed up and typed in “asdfjrx” as the title you can still change the name of that folder. Just like you would change something in your personal documents, you can right click and go to “rename”, and name it something with meaning, for example “CIS 220 is my favorite class”. However, once you do this, that folder will now change positions on your navigation bar, because that is set up alphabetically, and since “CIS” comes after “asdfjrx” it will jump down to after whatever folder is in between A and C. If you instead chose to delete “asdfjrx”, all the documents that you created in that folder would go to the trash, however, all of the shared files would simply move to the Shared with Me folder.

Lastly, using stars has always been a foreign concept to me, but Lynda.com really explained what starring could be used for in Google Drive. If you’re working on a project and you wish to use multiple documents from different folders you could simply star all of the important documents and essentially create a new folder that you won’t have to delete and won’t have to name. Starring a file or folder is almost like creating a personalized folder of items you wish to work with or think are important for future reference and don’t wish to search for them individually. The way it is explained in the video “Using stars to group files” has gotten me hooked.

Despite most of what has been said above being common sense, a lot of what is mentioned is tips to help you customize your Google Drive so that you use it as your computer storage away from your computer. What are some ways that you guys organize your Google Drive? Is it a mess with documents everywhere and crazy names, or do you have a system? Let me know in the comments.

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14 Responses to Organizing and Searching Google Drive

  1. B. Taylor says:

    I would go crazy without folders (and color coding) in my Google Drive, and even though I’m pretty good at organizing my documents and naming them well, I still find myself searching for a document that I’ve “misplaced.” Thanks for the reminder about ways to search and sort files to make finding them easier.

  2. Sara R. says:

    Kelly, I really enjoyed that your post was written in such a colloquial manner–it allowed for very easy reading. Your post was very informative! I agree with Professor Taylor in that I find organization to be more than necessary. I, too, tend to forget to name my documents and then have trouble finding them later. However, once this comes to my attention, I name my document, organize it in the appropriate folder, and color it appropriately. Thanks for the valuable information!

  3. Tabitha C. says:

    Your intro made me laugh! I also didn’t know that you could make folders in Google Drive. This year, all my teachers are really into Google Drive so I have a lot of documents floating around. I am a little Type A and like to have lots of folders and subfolders, so I am definitely going to update my Drive! Thanks so much!!

  4. Steph G. says:

    I loved this post! I really like your writing style. I can’t stand to have my so messy and chaotic, I’m constantly looking for new ways to organize my electronic documents. This is so helpful, I will for sure use this. Thank you so much!

  5. Maria H. says:

    I think it is so crazy how much I thought I knew about Google Drive before your posts and the others in this category, and I am learning so much! I am going to make folders for all of my documents as soon as I have a bit of free time. I love the Search tool that is available as well. You did a great job with this post, Kelly!

  6. Laura H. says:

    The icon format for viewing is super cool. I think I’ll use that from now on! The ways to search are also helpful and could save me the time I spend scrolling through my Drive! Great post!

  7. Winna P. says:

    Kelly, thank you so much for sharing such valuable information. I used to struggle trying to find documents in my Google Drive and have gotten better recently. But your post has opened up a whole new aspect of Google Drive for me! Who knew you could organize your drive so easily? I am so excited to finally sort all of my documents into folders. Thanks so much for such a well written and informative post!

  8. Sydney R. says:

    This was a really informative post, Kelly! Putting my documents in folders has never occurred to me for some reason, so thanks for sharing. This would make searching for things in my Google Drive so much easier and save me a lot of time. I can’t wait to start customizing my folders and subfolders, thanks again!

  9. Alexia M. says:

    Kelly, I loved the way that you wrote your post! It made me very interested in the content of it, and even made me laugh a few times. I never knew that you could have folders in Google Drive. That probably would have helped me in the past, and I am definitely going to look into how it works. I always have so many files all over the place, and it’s awesome that you can sort all those files into folders and even subfolders!

  10. Mary F. says:

    I loved how you wrote your post – it was made very personal and fun to read! It also contained a ton of helpful information. I know that I already had made folders for my classes but I was unaware that you could make folders within folders. Your post made it very easy for me to organize my drive even more than I knew you could and for that I am so thankful! Great post!!

  11. Angie E. says:

    Well done Kelly! I’ve been trying to figure out how to organize my Google Drive all semester, but have never gotten around to it. Your post has given me a second wind and I’m ready to get in there and go crazy with folders and colors and stars! Hooray!

  12. Victoria B. says:

    My google documents, especially those shared with me, are incredibly disorganized. I am the most organized person ever so this makes me crazy! I didn’t realize that I can organize everything in folders. I will definitely take advantage of this feature!

  13. Katie H. says:

    Kelly, your post was fantastic! You should totally write more blogs because this was very informative, while still being entertaining. My Google Drive is basically a mess because I never organize it nearly as often as I should. I waste so much time searching through things to find what I need, when I could have it organized in the first place. I love how many tools Google Drive provides you with organize your documents however you want. I will definitely customize my Google Drive after this because it needs a good cleaning. Thanks so much for the great information!

  14. Chelsea S. says:

    I’ve only really started to use Google Drive this year to be honest and just over the past 2 months I have accumulated so many documents already! I love to be organized. All of my e-mails are assigned to color coordinated folders based on what clubs they are from and I use my google calendar religiously. The past week I have been telling myself I need to start organizing my Google Drive but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. I am so happy to know that I can color coordinate my documents as well! I have been putting this off just because I’ve been intimidated by it but after reading your post I’m not! Thank you so much for teaching me all I need to know!

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