Dropbox, Box, SkyDrive, and other cloud storage services (reluctantly) welcomed a new competitor today: Google Drive. The freemium service, which replaces Google Docs, lets you store files and access them from your computer, phone, or tablet, no matter where you are.
To get started with Google Drive, head to drive.google.com and enable the service. Once you have access to your Drive, you're ready to get started.
Right away, you'll notice that Google Drive looks and acts a lot like Google Docs -- you can create files, collections (folders), use the top bar to search, and upload files by dragging and dropping into the browser window.
However, unlike Docs, you can now manage your entire drive from your desktop by installing the Google Drive application. To get it, head to drive.google.com and select "Download Google Drive" in the left sidebar. After a short installation process, a "Google Drive" folder will be added to your desktop. That folder is synced with your Google Drive, so any changes you make to it will be reflected in the Web interface, and vice versa.
So, when you add a file to the Google Drive folder, it will be uploaded to your Web drive (as long as you're connected to the Internet.)
Now that you're synced up, check out these Google Drive features:
Documents are free. Google gives you 5GB of free storage space, but any docs you create within Drive don't count against your storage.
Upload up to 30 types of files. Photoshop, movies, photos -- you name it. Google Drive supports the storage and viewing of all the popular file types. So, you can upload a movie to your Drive and play it back within your browser, no matter where you are.
Share files, folders, or your entire Drive. Have a document you want to share? Or a home video stored on your drive? Just like Google Docs, you can share those files. Simply right-click a file or folder, select "Share...," and choose your sharing option. To give someone access to your entire drive, click the button with the person and a plus sign at the top.
Utilize Google Goggles. With the Goggles technology built into Drive, you can search for a photo using the search bar. Likewise, you can search for text in a scanned document. After some testing, the feature isn't totally reliable, but it's worth trying if you need help finding a file or photo.
Collaborate on videos, photos, and more. The collaboration feature from Google Docs is now available for any type of file. For example, if you upload a video to Drive and share it with someone else, you'll be able to discuss that video with the comment tool.
Install third-party apps. Third-party developers have created apps that work seamlessly with Google Drive. Pixlr lets you edit uploaded photos, HelloFax lets you send free faxes, and DocuSign lets you sign official documents, all within Google Drive. To get these apps and more, head to Google Drive > Settings > Manage apps > Get more apps.