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Save Gmail attachments to Google Drive with one click

With the Gmail Attachments to Drive extension for Google Chrome, you can add files to Google Drive directly from the Gmail messages they're attached to.

Many of the files I receive attached to Gmail messages end up in my Google Drive account. Previously this required downloading or viewing the file, saving it to a drive of the PC I'm using, signing into and opening Google Drive (formerly Google Docs), and uploading the file.

That's a lot of mileage for a file to travel just to get from one Google service to another.

Last month, Jason Cipriani of CNET's Blog Network described a technique developed by Amit Agarwal that automatically adds Gmail attachments to Google Drive.

As Jason explains, the process entails copying a document from Agarwal's Google Drive account to yours, and then granting the document permission to monitor your Gmail account. (Your private data is never accessible to the author of the shared document or anyone else, according to Agarwal.) You then create a Gmail filter that applies a specific label to messages you receive that have attachments.

You can also create filters to prevent attachments from specific people from being sent to your Google Drive account automatically. Otherwise, Agarwal's approach is an all-or-nothing affair: every attached file is added.

As much as I appreciate friends and associates sharing with me everything from pumpkin-carving tips to corporate quarterly reports, most of the attachments sent to my Gmail account don't belong on Google Drive.

That's why I prefer the selective approach to transferring Gmail attachments to Google Drive made possible by Josh Sullivan's free Gmail Attachments to Drive extension for Google Chrome.

Gmail Attachment to Drive data-access warning
Before installing the extension, you're warned that it will be privy to your personal information. Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

Add a Send To Drive option to messages with attachments
During the extension's installation you're prompted to grant the program access to your Gmail account as well as to your "tabs and browsing activity." The Google support site explains the potential danger of apps and extensions having access to your personal information on Google servers.

According to Google, just because a program has permission to peer into your Web data and track your activities doesn't mean it actually does. You can peruse the product's ratings and reviews, but ultimately you either trust the app's creators or you don't. If you choose not to trust any program with access to your account information, I don't blame you one bit.

Gmail Attachment to Drive option at the bottom of a message
The Gmail Attachment to Drive add-on for Chrome places a Save To Drive option next to attached files in messages. Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

Once the extension is installed and enabled, you'll see a third choice next to the file at the bottom of the message it's attached to: along with the standard View and Download options is a link labeled Save To Drive. When you click it the file is uploaded to your Google Drive account even if you aren't currently signed into the account.

A new tab opens in Chrome to let you know the file upload is complete. The message includes a link to your Google Drive account. Unfortunately, no attempt is made to avoid duplicate files, so if the attachment is already in Google Drive, a copy with the same name appears.

Gmail Attachment to Drive upload-complete message
A new tab opens after you click Save To Drive to confirm that the attached file has been added to your Google Drive account. Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

Apart from the potential for file duplication, Gmail Attachments to Drive worked without a hitch when I tested it. The extension promises to save considerable time when moving files from Gmail to Google Drive.

It also provides another method for uploading files to your Google Drive account without having to open the service in your browser, sign in, choose the option to upload files, navigate to and select the file on the local machine, click the upload link, and step through Google Drive's file-uploading wizard.

Note that if you have the desktop version of Google Drive installed you can simply drag the file to that virtual folder to upload it to the service. CNET Blog Network writer Ed Rhee explains how to use the Google Drive desktop app in Windows 7 to add a Google Drive option to your right-click Send To menu.