Sunday, August 3, 2014

How to Google Drive like a Pro with Connected Apps

Back in 2010, Google launched their Chrome Web Store, a one-stop-shop for Chrome apps, extensions, and themes. We'll talk more about extensions another time, but today I wanted to talk about apps. Specifically, I want to talk about connecting apps to Google Drive to get more out of your Drive experience.

You probably already use Google Drive for the standard Office needs - replacements for Microsoft's Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. You may also know that Drive comes with a free 15Gb of cloud-based storage space, making it a great thumbdrive replacement. And you may even have already installed Drive on your computer so that you can work offline or automatically sync files between computers. But there is a lot more that you can do with Drive by connecting apps.

You know about apps on your smartphone and probably have heard that that's what people are calling programs on computers these days (programmers have actually used the term for a long time, because program is a more general technical term). Chrome has been able to run its own class of apps since it opened up the Web Store in 2010. When you run these apps from Chrome (you now have a little app launcher button at the top left corner of your Chrome browser, just under the back button), it either opens up a separate dedicated window (still in Chrome but without the navigation or menu bars) or just a new browser window to that app's site, depending on the app. These range from things like Drive to YouTube to calculators to to-do lists to video games, all running inside of Chrome. The implementation of these apps was part of the Chromium project, which led to the Chromium Operating System that runs on Chromebooks. But a lot of these apps have special functionality when they are connected to Drive. So, let's look at how to do that. In my next post, I'll go over some of my favorite Apps and Add-Ons.

How to Connect Apps to Google Drive
The easiest way to connect apps to Drive is to do it through the "Create" button, then click "Connect more apps."

At this point, you'll be able to find apps either through browsing or searching. You can also browse by category.

Choose the app you want and click "connect." The app will now show up when you click "Create" in Drive.

There are some apps that won't show up in that box because they do behind-the-scenes stuff. For instance, I have apps that play music and video files from inside Drive or that convert them to other formats. There is nothing new created here, so they don't show up under "Create." To see all of your apps, click the gear icon and choose "Manage apps."

If the app has its own special file formats, then it will ask for permission to make that the default. Don't panic - let it be the default unless you have reason to do otherwise (for instance, I have several different apps that can open video files, so I had to decide on one to be the default).

And that's it. So, the next question is, what is the benefit? Well, that all comes down to the apps. To give you an idea, I have apps that make mind-mapping diagrams, apps that make flowcharts, an app that makes beautifully-designed posters and fliers similar to what you can do with Microsoft Publisher, a Notepad replacement for marking up HTML, a music player that I can use to stream music from the cloud, and another app that lets me make voice notes on student papers for detailed, easy feedback. And that's just a handful of the literally thousands of apps you can connect to Google Drive. But the very best part is that all of this is inside my go-to cloud storage solution, available instantly on all of my computers and mobile devices.

Special Thanks
I found a lot of these things (and got the whole idea for this website) by talking in person to my friend and tech-guru mentor, Amy Mayer. Follow her on Twitter @friEdTechnology or check out her blog at

Tune in next time when I talk about Drive Add-Ons (very similar to apps) and highlight some of my favorite of both for educators.

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