Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) is an online service offered by Google that allows documents (including text, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings) to be shared, edited, and published with a web link. Since up-to-date files are stored online, anyone with permission can access the same file from any computer connected to the Internet.
Files can be uploaded to Google Drive or created from within Google Drive, then shared with other users who can edit, comment, or view, depending on the access the creator grants. Collaborators can view and edit the document simultaneously, allowing for real-time collaboration. Documents can be emailed from Google Drive as attachments.
A history of every change to the document is kept along with who made it and when. This enables editors to see all the changes ever made, restore deleted sections, and even revert to a previous version.
Types of documents
Drive can convert to and from most file types for text documents, spreadsheets and presentations, including most types of Microsoft Office documents (Word files, PowerPoint presentations, and Excel spreadsheets). Drive can also be used to store and share many types of files (e.g., InDesign, QuarkExpress, Zip) that can’t be edited or viewed within the web interface.
The applications within Google Drive serve most common uses but may not be suitable for advanced layouts for print documents, statistical analysis and modelling, presentation animations, and the like. For these more advanced needs, separate specialized software may be required. However, the collaborative features of Google Drive are often seen as the main benefit. Since Drive is compatible with most specialized software, you can usually download your collaboratively produced document for refinement in another application.
Google Drive has many of the formatting features such as font size, typeface, color, margins, and spacing options common to word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet programs. However, it lacks the fine-grained control and advanced features of most stand-alone applications.
Access and sharing
To create or edit documents in Google Drive, you need to have a Google account. You can access your documents from any computer on the Internet. Documents in Drive can be made public, in which case people without a Google account can view (but not edit) it.
When sharing a document with specific people, anyone with editing permission can specify what each person is able to do: edit, comment/ask questions, or just view the document (unless restricted by the original author or creator). Only the document creator can delete a document.
Google Drive allows creators to share the document (“doc”) with a link. The creator can select the level of privacy for the doc:
- Public: anyone on the web can view the document.
- Anyone with the link: the viewer must click on the link to access the document.
- Restricted use among groups: co-workers, collaborators, classmates, etc.
- Private: only people specifically identified can edit, comment or view.
On the sharing screen, the document creator ("owner") can also elect to grant viewers access to view, edit, or comment on the document.
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