Google Drive

  • Williams College Google Apps are a set of services provided by the Office for Information Technology that give people at Williams College access to Google’s features and tools, but with additional special protections and provisions not available with the consumer version of Google services.

    Williams College Google Drive is a cloud‐based file storage service provided by Google under this special contract.

    If you are going to store general work related files in the cloud, we recommend that you use the Williams College version of Google Apps (as opposed to the consumer version). The Williams College version includes privacy and security features not available in the consumer version.

    1. It lets you store and access your files anywhere you have web access.
    2. It makes secure sharing and collaboration much easier:
    3. Google Drive lets you choose exactly who has access to your files with easy‐to‐ use access controls. You can share just the one specific document or file with someone, or set up a folder in Google Drive so that specific people have access to an entire folder. How granular you get is up to you. That said, we recommend making security easy to maintain by keeping the permissions you set up simple, set up a folder for each different group/community with whom you want to share documents.
    4. Assuming your permissions are set up correctly, your files are safer; you don’t need to email attachments anymore.If you choose to use Williams College Google Drive, you are personally responsible for setting up security correctly. If you have questions, contact the Office for Information Technology.

    If you choose to use Williams College Google Drive, you are personally responsible for setting up security correctly.

    If you have questions, contact the Help Desk at 413-597-4090.

  • State and Federal laws and some contracts impose stringent requirements for protecting certain types of information. These restrictions are not unique to Google Drive. For example, the following locations are also off limits for these data types: Williams GAE Mail & Calendar, Personal Devices (laptop, tablet, phone), Personal Accounts (e.g. DropBox, Google).
    This type of data can be stored on local network storage (e.g. Netware), and, with Department Head / OIT approval, desktop computers, and encrypted Williams portable devices (laptop, tablet, phone).More

  • There are multiple ways data can “end up” in your Google Drive.

    • Google Documents you created via Google Drive
    • non Google Documents you uploaded from a computer. Almost any file can be uploaded, stored ,and shared. For example, it could be anything from a Microsoft Office file or JPEG image to a text file, large data set, or even a DVD disc image.
    • another Google account holder shares a Google Doc or other data with you:
    • You might have a file, a single folder, or a nested folder hierarchy shared out to you.
    • If the share provides you with editing access you can also share that item with others.
  • 1 – Google drive via web browser. We’re all familiar with this. It’s all in the cloud, nothing stored locally. You can open and edit Google docs. Non-google files for the most part would need to be manually downloaded to open and edit them, for example a Photoshop file and then re-uploaded.

    3 – Google Drive for desktop. Files are all in the cloud, nothing stored locally by default . Mounts a drive where you can double-click a file (e.x. Photoshop) and have it open in Photoshop. It acts just like the  G drive (or Files1 or Files2 for Macs) or an external hard drive plugged into your computer. Potential downside, if you have really huge files it would take a while to open them since it’s got to move the data to your machine for access. Drive for Desktop will also give you access to your Shared Drives.

  • Much like Google Mail, Drive works with Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and other browsers. However, Chrome use is highly recommended, especially as there are application enhancements available only through Chrome extensions.

    'My Drive' contains every Google Drive item of yours, as well as those shared with you that you opted to add to ‘My Drive’. Items shared with you that you didn’t add to 'My Drive' are only listed in a section named, 'Shared with Me'.

    • The “people icon” indicates an item is shared with or by you.
    • One can perform several functions by right clicking on the folders and files within. These menus provide options for managing and organizing your data:
    • Creating folders, uploading folders/files
    • Opening and creating new Google Documents
    • Previewing and opening Microsoft Office documents
    • Previewing and opening images
    • Color code folders, star folders and files
    • Sharing, moving, copying, renaming, removing
    • downloading, and even managing previous versions of documents and spreadsheets
    • Files can be moved into folders within My Drive via dragging and dropping.
    • If the item is in a nested folder you will see the path listed to the right of the Drive logo. These hierarchical locations can be opened by clicking on the nested folder name.
    • For top level folders, circular icons appear displaying with whom the folder and its contents are shared.
    • Additional item details and activity can be toggled by clicking on the circular information ‘i’ . An option can be found here that, when checked, marks the file so it cannot be downloaded by the recipient if shared for view only.
    • You can sort columns by name, last modified, last edited by you, and last opened by you. Unlike Windows Explorer or the Finder, one cannot sort by size. Folders will always sort ahead of files so one must scroll down if they have a lot of folders.
    • The size of a particular file can be displayed by clicking the “Show Details” circle ‘i’ button below your username. Note, folder sizes always display zero bytes and are not accurate. Google Documents do not count against any quota and therefore do not have a listed size. In addition, there are now no longer any storage quotas.
    • You can see your storage usage and its breakdown by visiting
    • You can place existing files or folders inside multiple different folders.  Select one or more files or folders using the Control key on Windows, or Command key on Mac, to select non-consecutive files and folders. Now press Shift + Z and you’ll see an “Add to Folder” pop-up. Select the folder where you wish to place the selected files and click OK.  You have neither copied nor moved the files to that folder, you’ve merely created references to them inside the other folder. You can repeat the Shift+Z shortcut to add the selected files to any other folders in your Drive.
  • Google Shared Drives are shared spaces where groups (teams) can easily store, search, and access their files from anywhere.

    Unlike files in My Drive, files in Shared Drive belong to the team instead of an individual. Even if members leave Williams, the files stay in place so your team can continue to share information.

    Shared Drives behave and are set up differently than regular Drives. Please read Google’s helpful guide to understand how to use them.


    If you have questions about Shared Drives please contact faculty/staff support at x4090 or [email protected]

    Keep in mind, not all data is appropriate to store in Google Drive (Shared or personal). For example: Social Security Numbers Bank Account Numbers Health Information Need to be kept on the college’s file servers (Files1 and Files2). Full details on data types and classifications:

    Registered Student Organizations can request a shared drive for their group by using this form:

  • This is a list of items shared with you.

    • You can add a shared item to 'My Drive' to make it easier to organize and locate items. Adding items to 'My Drive' is also how you make them appear on your office computer’s hard drive or handheld with the use of the Google Drive application.
    • You won't see files shared to a mailing list or files set to "Anyone with the link" or "Public" unless the file has been shared directly to your email address.
  • This displays all recently modified files in your Google Drive.

    • You can sort by last modified, opened by you, or edited. You cannot sort by name, owner, or size.
    • Use the right click menu option “Locate in My Drive” to be brought to the hierarchical path of where that files lives in My Drive.
    • Folders are not listed here so this view does not display the sharing collaborators like it does in My Drive.
  • A filtered list of items you have placed a star on for importance. Starring an item does not mark it with a star for those that you share it with as star marks are user based.

    • Here you will see items that you have deleted from My Drive less than 30 days ago. You can also opt to delete items forever or restore them. Like Mail, trashed items are emptied after 30 days.If you trash a file that was shared with you:
    • It will not appear in the trash folder.
    • The owner still sees it as shared with you and doesn’t know you can no longer access it. If you want access again, ask the owner to reshare it with you.
    • If you ever opened it before you trashed it, you may still be able to access it in the Recent folder.  In this case, you can drag it back to My Drive folder and continue as usual.  But if you trash it from the Recent folder, it goes away for good.
    • If the owner reshares it with you, you still won’t see it.  The owner must either remove you as a share, click Done, and then re-add you as a share  --OR--   email the file link to you again.
    • If the owner removes you as a share, you won’t see it at all anymore (not even in Trash or Recent)
    • If the owner initially shared a file with you via email link, and you trash it, you will be able to open it again via the original email link (best practice is to archive shared file links rather than delete them from email) Then it will appear in your Recent folder (because you just opened it) Then you can drag it to My Drive and have access like you did originally.
  • Like the one in Mail, the Search Bar in Google Drive is an effective way to locate files by name, content, type, or owner. An assisted search can be had by clicking the down arrow in the search box.

  • Google Drive makes it possible to preview the contents of many file types like documents and images, video files and more.

    • Click the details pane revealed when clicking on the “i” icon. OR
    • Select the file in Google Drive. Then, click the preview icon above your list of items.To close the preview, click the X in the upper right of the pane or click the Eye icon again.
  • A whole host of keyboard shortcuts exist to make your use even more efficient.

  • Extends access of a stored item to one or more people. Google documentation provides excellent directions.
    Google Documents offer the greatest degree of ease when collaborating as multiple people can work on a file simultaneously.

    Did you know that you can set a time limit on folders and files that you share via Google Drive? More information can be found here:

  • Makes use of a shared file and involves one or more people modifying it, sometimes simultaneously. Most file collaboration involves documents and spreadsheets.

    • Alternatively, opening and editing files saved in the Microsoft Office format (designated with W, X, P icons) will cause a copy of the original to be created in My Drive. This does not modify the original document, nor does the owner of the original document see your new creation. In addition, this copy is of the Google Documents format.
    • If one is interested in modifying and updating a Microsoft Office file while maintaining the Microsoft Office file format (.docx, .xlsx, .pptx) they can download the file, open the file, make their changes, and then upload the file. The file should be uploaded  by right clicking on the named entry in Google Drive on the web and choosing “Manage versions”. Google Drive will retain these file iterations for 30 days or 100 revisions. You can use the ‘more actions’ option of ‘keep forever’ to make a revision exempt of the aforementioned retention.
    • The Google Drive application removes the need for you to download and upload revised documents as it automatically performs that process in the background. When working with a file shared with you you’ll just need to locate it in ‘Shared with Me’, right click on it, and add it to My Drive. The file will be synced to your computer’s Google Drive folder. Once there, you can double click it to work on it with Microsoft Office applications, for example.
    • Files and folders shared with you can be added to your Drive and organized in any method you choose. However, if you are not the owner the nesting you create is only relevant to your view of Drive.
  • Using Google Documents can be for personal or collaborative use. Your documents are easily available to you from any computer with an Internet connection and even from handheld devices. In fact, there are even options for working with Google Documents offline without an Internet connection.

    • Files created in Google Drive are Google Documents. The Google Documents (often referred to as “Google Docs”) applications consist of
      • Docs - a word processor like Word
      • Sheets - a spreadsheet like Excel
      • Slides - a presentation maker like PowerPoint
      • Forms - a web survey that populates a Sheet
      • Drawings - diagramming
      • Jamboards -  whiteboard
      • Other third party applications exist and can be added, but are not the focus of this documentation.
    • files can be renamed just by clicking on the name in the upper left corner
    • files are constantly and automatically saved as you edit
    • support for revision history
    • support for comments
    • suggestions can be made in place of actual editing
    • ability to download as Office format, PDF, rich text, plain text, csv/tsv
      • 4/3/2015: The download function removes spaces from the filename of Google Docs.  So a doc named “This is a test” will download as thisisatest.docx. This only happens with Docs and not sheets or slides or pdf.
    • easily share from within document or Email as attachment
    • a whole host of add-ons also exist to extend the functionality of your Google Documents
    • option to automatically convert uploaded files to the Google Documents format
    • Google has online documentation and an online Help Center on the use of Google Documents.
  • Converting your existing documents to the Google Documents format makes it possible to collaborate in realtime. When you convert a file, the original file will remain intact and accessible from Google Drive. A copy of the file in a Google format appears in My Drive in Google Drive on the web. After syncing or manually uploading a file to Google Drive on the web, here's how to convert it to Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides.

    1. Sign in to Drive at
    2. Right-click the file you want to convert.
    3. Select Open with..., and then choose an app. Depending on what type of file you're trying to open, Docs, Sheets, or Slides will be listed there

    Alternatively, you can change a setting via the gear icon in Google Drive to automatically convert document to the corresponding Google Documents format upon upload. Once you are confident you want your documents in this format choosing this option is desirable as it reduces clutter and confusion on your Google Drive as you no longer have a Google Documents and near identical non Google Documents version.

    These are the file types that can be converted to a Google document, spreadsheet, or presentation.

    • For documents: .doc, .docx, .dot, .html, plain text (.txt), .rtf
    • For spreadsheets: .xls, .xlsx, .xlt, .ods, .csv, .tsv, .txt, .tab
    • For presentations: .ppt (if newer than Microsoft® Office 95), .pps, .pptx
    • For drawings: .wmf
    • For OCR: .jpg, .gif, .png, .pdf

    There are size limitations that you should be aware of.

    • For documents: 1,024,000 characters, regardless of the number of pages or font size
    • For documents: 50MB for New Drive / 10MB for Classic
    • For Spreadsheets: in New Google Drive Sheets has an even greater capacity than before and boasts the ability to support up to 2 million cells. The following limitations apply only to Classic Google Drive.
      • 400,000 cells, with a maximum of 256 columns per sheet. Uploaded spreadsheet files that are converted to the Google spreadsheets format can’t be larger than 100 MB, and need to be under 400,000 cells and 256 columns per sheet. There are more details on spreadsheets listed here.
    • For Presentations: Presentations created in Google Slides can be up to 100 MB. Uploaded presentation files that are converted to Google Slides can also be up to 50 MB.
    • Drawings - a limit has not yet been discovered.
    • For other formats - Files that you upload but don’t convert to a Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides format can be up to 5 TB each.
  • Transfer Ownership of a Single Document

    In the document's sharing settings:

    1. Go to the document's sharing settings
    2. First make the desired owner an Editor (if they are not already)
    3. Save
    4. Change their role to Owner

    Detailed Instructions are available in the Google support article: Transfer File Ownership

    Transfer Ownership of Multiple Documents

    From your document list at, check the checkbox next to the documents you'd like to transfer, then click the sharing button. As with an individual document, first make your colleague an Editor, and then you will be able to switch their role to Owner as described in the Single Document section above.

    To more easily find all files YOU own, use the advanced search in Drive by clicking on the little triangle on the right inside corner of the search box. You will see an option "owned by me".

    You can also create a folder specifically for this purpose, move files into it, then select them all and change ownership.

  • There are add-ons to the Chrome browser made by both Google and 3rd party developers that can add features to Google Drive by enhancing Chrome.

    One such extension enables you to edit and save Microsoft Office files via Google Drive while keeping them in their native Microsoft Office format. This extension is called “Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides” and is natively active on devices using Chrome OS. Instead of previewing Microsoft Office files, when clicked, they will open in a Google Documents editor window that allows you to view and edit Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files -- without even needing Office installed on your computer. You can save each file back to its original Office format, or convert it to Docs, Sheets, or Slides to unlock more features, like inviting others to edit with you, commenting, chat, and more

  • Items shared via Google Drive may be done with those inside and outside of the College. They might be shared between faculty, staff, and students. In recent years we have seen a number of our clients making greater use of web accessible services like Google Drive and DropBox. Some of that file storage would have once occurred on our NetWare file server environment. Unlike the NetWare environment, services like Google Drive afford one easier remote access, user initiated sharing, and unlimited storage quotas. It is only natural that the use of NetWare file services will decrease for some departments as the reliance on the offerings of Google Drive and Google Documents increases.

    As expected, files/folders created and uploaded that do not have ownership reassigned prior to account deletion are removed. Those items with ownership reassigned, remain. The solution is to instruct and train users to make items shared with the share owned by the departmental account via a change of ownership assignment post upload OR potentially author a FlashPanel script that makes items located in a departmental share owned by the associated departmental account on some automated interval.

    A second challenge lies in existing test results revealing items shared to a group exclude those that are added to the group after the share was made to the group. This is an issue as it was our hope that in addition to having an account for each department that would act as owner of the share, we would have groups for each department that could be used to ease the assignment of access to those departmental shares. This would make it easy for new hires to gain access to existing departmental shares as long as they were made a member of the group by an administrative assistant or department head. Current test results suggest the new hires would have to be added to the shared folder as adding them to the group after the group has been extended access to the shared folder has no effect. The solution to this issue is to educate users to add new hires, for example, to the group and then extend shared folder access to the group again, but without notification being sent.