Google Drive, or “GDrive” (originally) had become an almost mythological enigma, with reports and speculation about the service from Google reappearing periodically since 2006. It was to the point where every time it was mentioned in the “geek press,” people simply tended to disregard it as a digital unicorn – A thing of legend and myth.
It finally launched yesterday morning, and as you can imagine, I was one of the first “on-board,” anxious to see how this new service fits into my Operation Cloud project.
How Google Drive Compares
For the purpose of this post, I’m going to compare Google Drive with Dropbox, which I’d settled-on as my standard file sharing service before the launch of Drive. I realize there are plenty of other competitors, but Dropbox is what I’ve been using, and am most familiar with.
I realize this is a “first pass” from Google, and that the product will mature with future releases, but when it comes to desktop syncing (with a Windows 7 computer in my case), the desktop experience is lacking.
What I like better About Dropbox
If you don’t share files with others, this probably won’t affect you, but Dropbox does a really nice job of letting me manage sharing from my desktop. Its integration with the Windows shell is great.
For example, its folders clearly indicate which are already shared, any by right-clicking on any of them, I can easily find who they’re shared with:
Sharing Sucks in Google Drive
On the other hand, Google Drive displays as a fairly spartan set of folders. In the screenshot below, for example, some of the folders are shared with specific people, but there’s no indication of that, and no way to know with whom they’re shared.
This is where I was surprisingly disappointed by Google. They are (in my opinion) “the grand masters” of sharing control and granularity, yet I can easily (and accidentally) drop a file into one of those shared folders, and completely unbeknownst to me, be sharing it with someone who shouldn’t have access to it.
Google really failed on that, although I suspect it will be corrected in a later version.
Initiating shares with Google Drive is a hassle, too.
I’ve become so accustomed to just right-clicking on things inside Dropbox on my PC that it literally “feels natural” at this point… Right-click, specify who to share with, and it’s done.
Again, given Google’s pedigree with great sharing, I naturally assumed the Drive offering would be on-par, but sadly, that’s not the case.
What lives on my PC (the synced folders) simply mirror the folders in the Drive web app. To actually do anything with them (with respect to sharing), I have to stop what I’m doing, fire-up my browser, and go to Drive online, where all of the sharing controls are located.
And once that share is established at their web site, it’s never represented visually in my local folder(s).
All around, the shell integration (on Windows, at least) is a huge disappointment.
Oh, and those odd icons you see in the screenshot (above) are documents created in Google Docs. Click on them, your browser opens, and you’re editing (or viewing) within the familiar Google Docs interface, which seems totally illogical… If you can only use them in the cloud, and since they’re in the cloud, already, why sync them to my desktop at all?
Fortunately, you can turn that off when you install the desktop client, and have it only sync “non-Google” files.
The last big irritation I have in this initial release is the lack of on-screen notifications for new (or changed) files.
When I share a Dropbox folder with someone, and they change (or add) a file within it, I’m notified with an on-screen popup.
With Google Drive, there’s no sign at all.
I guess you could always call or text the person on the other end to let them know you changed the file, but what kind of workflow is that, especially from a collaboration pioneer, like Google?
My Personal Conclusion
I’m really excited to think about where Google Drive can go in the future, but seriously, it slows me down with its “missing basics.”
I’ll be keeping an eye on it as it evolves, but for the moment, am continuing to count on Dropbox for my online storage & synchronization.