So the rumors were true, and Google Drive has launched. Have you tried it out yet?
If you're a Google Documents user and you signed up for Drive, you may have gotten a bit of a shock yesterday when the company started redirecting Document links to the new Drive service. I know I was a bit disoriented, anyway, mostly because Drive defaulted to sorting my documents alphabetically by title, while I had Google Docs set to sort by date.
If you only access http://drive.google.com via a browser you may be wondering what's changed. Mostly you'll see some minor cosmetic changes, unless you notice that little Upload icon next to the Create button. That lets you upload any kind of file to your Google Drive.
Alternatively, if you download the Google Drive app for your OS (Windows 7 in my case) you'll find that Google Drive integrates as a virtual drive on your desktop. If you direct it to sync your Google Documents content, you'll wind up with a folder brimming with 1 KB shortcuts to your Google documents. I'm really not sure what point these serve; double clicking one launches it in your browser, same as if you clicked it from the web interface. If you have a lot of Google docs (I write my daily posts in Google docs) it can take a while for these to sync over. Be warned, though. Deleting these shortcuts will delete your documents in Google docs (found that out the hard way).
You can turn off the "Sync Google Docs" option and then watch as all those little 1 KB shortcuts vanish, leaving you with empty versions of the folders your documents were sorted into. When this happens your Google Docs do not get deleted but I found the whole process a little unnerving.
Once you've got that taken care of (or if you're smart enough not to sync Google Docs in the first place) what you're left with is a service that feels very similar to Dropbox or Zumodrive. In Windows Explorer your Google Drive directory shows up in the same list with Documents, Desktop and other standard Windows directories. Setup is super simple; basically you just run the exe that you downloaded from Google's tools page.
Google is also offering an Android app that, again, seems very much like the one Dropbox offers (apparently an iOS app is in the works). Unfortunately I couldn't figure a way to turn off the Google Documents sync with the app so once again I'm trying to sift through hundreds of document links. If anyone smarter than me figures out how to, please leave a comment and educate me.
Overall, the best thing about Google Drive is that it's 5 more GB of free cloud-based storage. If you're a Dropbox user I see no reason to switch, but the two co-exist without a problem. For $29.88/year ($2.49/month) you can get 25 GB and for $59.99/year ($4.99/month) you can get 100 GB. Buy either of these upgrades and your Gmail storage will be bumped up to 25 GB for free.
I guess I bought into all the hype during the rumors of an incoming Google Drive product because now that it's here my reaction is: "That's it?" I'm not really sure what I expected; storage generally isn't sexy, after all. So I'll just add my 5 GB of free Google Drive space to the free space I get from Dropbox and Skydrive and Box.com and be happy with it all. At least I have cloud redundancy to spare, now!
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.