April 25, 2012, 7:03 AM — Start your engines: Google's long-rumored Drive service is officially out and ready for a test... well, drive. The search giant's answer to services like Dropbox, Drive offers 5GB of free online storage space that also syncs with a local folder on the desktop of your Mac or PC. (An Android app is currently available, with an iOS app in the works.)
So what's different about Google Drive? What's the same? Should Dropbox be worried? I decided to investigate these questions and a few others by going hands-on with the service.
Sign up and set up
Like Dropbox, I found Google Drive fairly simple to set up—and surprisingly, you can enable it from either a regular Google account or a Google Apps business account without too much fuss.
To sign up, you need only to head to drive.google.com/start, click Go to Google Drive, and agree to the company's terms and conditions. Google will then check your computer's operating system and prompt you to download a copy of the Drive software for your Mac or PC.
Google's service installs by dropping a Google Drive folder in your user folder and a menulet in your menu bar, much like Dropbox does. The app's preferences allow you to unlink your account, expand your storage beyond 5GB, selectively sync folders, sync files from Google Docs, launch Google Drive on startup, and send the company crash reports and usage statistics.
Google Docs no more
One caveat for heavy Google Docs users: Once you sign up, Drive will replace your Docs tab on the Web. Though it doesn't get rid of your saved documents, it does move a few things around.
Within the Drive tab on the Web, your documents have now been sorted into two categories: My Drive, and Shared With Me. Even if you've chosen not to sync Google Docs on your local drive, any Google document you personally own, along with any folders you've made, will show up under My Drive on the Web; Shared With Me contains any document that's been shared to you. As such, documents you don't own will not be synced by default to your Drive—you can add shared files by dragging them from Shared With Me to My Drive.
As with Google Docs before it, you can easily share a document or external file with others on Google Drive, though it requires using the Web interface.
On the Mac