Wednesday, 16 July 2014

5 tips for using the new Google Drive interface

The new Google Drive is starting to roll out across Google accounts. It delivers a more streamlined look, but also reduces the amount of options, settings and features in the main interface. To help you navigate the new look and adapt to the changes, we’ve put together five top tips for using the new Google Drive.

Tip 1: Changing the display density of the list view

The display density is the amount of white space between and around items in the Drive list view. The default density has the list very spread out, so you don’t see many items on your screen. In the old Google Drive interface there was a display density setting you could configure. However, in the new interface, this setting has been removed. Fortunately, you can still configure the density using a keyboard shortcut (phew!).

To change the display density, press q q on your keyboard.

You can continue pressing this key sequence to toggle between the three different display densities.

Note: This only works if you are using the list view. If you are not currently using this view, you can switch to it by clicking the list icon in the top right corner.


Tip 2: Putting files in multiple folders

In a previous blog post, we explained how to put Drive files in multiple folders using the old interface. This is now changed in the new interface, but there are still a couple of methods to do it.

Method 1: Open the file first, then use the move-to box

1. When you have the file open, click the Move to folder button to the right of the document title.


2. Select the first folder you want the file to be stored in.

3. Hold the control (Windows) or command (Mac) key and select the other folder(s) you want the file to be stored in.


Method 2: Use the Shift-z keyboard shortcut

1. Click the file in the Google Drive list to select it.

2. Press Shift-z on your keyboard to bring up the Add to dialog box.

3. Select the first folder you want to add the file to.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for each folder you want to add the file to.

Note: If you want to move a file to a folder (instead of adding it) you can press just the z key to bring up the Move to dialog box. You may want to do this for the first location the file needs to be stored in, and then add it to the other locations using Shift-z.

Tip 3: Find items shared with you and move them to My Drive

All files and folders that are shared with you by others can now be found in the Incoming view of Google Drive.This replaces the ‘Shared with me’ view in the old interface.


To move them to your My Drive, simply hover over the file and click the Add to My Drive button.


Tip 4: Star a file

Stars are a good way to tag files you are working on, are important, or need following up. In the previous Drive interface it was very easy to star a file and see those that had been starred. However, things have changed in the new interface. But there are still a few different ways to star a file, including a quick keyboard shortcut.

Method 1: Using the More actions menu

1. Click the file once to highlight it.

2. Click the More actions menu (three dots button in the top right of the screen).

3. Select Add star.


Note: Repeat the process to remove the star.

Method 2: Using the s keyboard shortcut

1. Click the file once to highlight it.

2. Press the s key to apply a star to the item. You will see a message at the top of the screen confirming that a star has been added.
Note: To remove a star, press the s key again.


Method 3: From within a file

1. Open the file you want to star.

2. Click the star icon to the right of the file name to apply the star.


Note: None of these methods will actually show you a star next to the item in the Drive list or grid (unlike in the previous interface). To view starred items, you will need to use the Starred view.


Tip 5: Converting files to Google format

Converting uploaded files to Google format (Docs, Sheets or Slides) allows you to obtain the full functionality of Google Docs, Sheets and Slides. Previously, Google Drive could be configured to convert all files automatically on upload, or prompt you to convert each file you uploaded. This has now changed in the new Google Drive, with the prompt functionality removed. However, there are still a few ways to convert files to Google format.

Method 1: Configure all files to automatically convert
If you want all your uploaded files to automatically be converted to Google format, configure the setting by following these steps:

1. Click the Settings cog button > Settings.


2. Tick the option to Convert uploaded files to Google Docs editor format.


3. Click Done.

Note: If you do not want to convert all documents automatically, use method 2 or 3 below instead.

Method 2: Convert files after upload using Open with

1. Upload the file.

2. Right click the file and select Open with > Google Docs.


Note: If the file is a spreadsheet or presentation, you will see Google Sheets or Slides as the menu item.

Method 3: Convert files after upload using Save as

1. Upload the file.

2. Open the file.

3. Click the File menu and select Save as Google Docs.


Note: If the file is a spreadsheet or presentation, you will see Google Sheets or Slides as the menu item.

Many of these five tips involve using keyboard shortcuts. You can view a full list of keyboard shortcuts for Google Drive here, or press Shift-? while in Google Drive to view them.

We’d love to hear how you’re finding the new-look Google Drive, so do share your experience and tips in the comments!


  1. Not having the star next to the items as it used to work is the worst move they made.... i wish there was a way of getting it back.

  2. Simplify Solutions16 October 2014 at 00:36

    Yes, it definitely made it easier having the star you could click on. I have noticed they are not displaying a star next to items that are starred, but you can't click on it to add/remove.


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