And they’re serious about that. As Whitson Gordon points out in Lifehacker’s Dropbox versus Drive showdown, the Windows and Mac syncing clients will “put” Google Docs in your system’s Drive folder, but when you click on them, it launches your browser. If you’re offline and using Chrome, you’ll be able to view a read-only copy, but the idea is Docs live in the online Drive—and maybe your future documents should too, huh?
Google’s Drive search powers are powerful: document type, owner, last modified, and more properties familiar to Gmail power users. Drive also uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to index the text of your scanned-in documents. And, in the most science fiction move in recent memory, Google’s image search powers will be used on your photos. You shoot an image of an amazing carrot cake? Search “carrot cake,” and up comes that photo of dense dessert glory.
It’s not entirely dissimilar to what Apple has done with its iCloud service, coincidentally offering 5 GB of free space as well. When you go to save an iWork document, you don’t see a “Save as” option, you see “Save a version.” My father-in-law recently picked up a new MacBook Pro, and an iPad while he was at it. Even as a guy who’s spent years trying to explain new technology in understandable, non-jargon terms, I found it difficult to explain that the file he was working on was perfectly safe and accessible—it just wasn’t anywhere he could see it, move it, delete it, or otherwise interact with “it.” If he opened Pages on that iPad across the room? It was right there, and changes he made on it were saved instantly, too.
How you feel about Google’s Drive, and whether it appeals to you over similar services, or even just over your hard drive or thumb drive, will ultimately depend on your views on files, collaboration, and Google’s mission. If you already use the heck out of Gmail, Calendar, and maybe even Google+, the file integration that’s likely to come to Google Drive will likely hold great appeal. If most of your friends and family and coworkers have Google accounts they actively use, sharing photos and collaborating on projects might be really easy.
But there are age-old reasons not to put all your eggs in one basket, the main one here being the threat of being locked out of your Google account for one reason or another. If you’re concerned at all about Google’s inter-app privacy policies, Google Drive is not a great place to put every digital piece of your life. And while Google Drive will, like Docs, feature an easy way to export all your data should you choose, the pressure to create everything in Google Docs could leave you with some oddly formatted files.