Backup Your PC and Work With Your Files Using Google Backup and Sync and Google Drive File Stream

Google Drive is a great tool.  It allows us to collaborate, share, and store our files “in the cloud”.  It has completely changed the way I manage my files.  One of the huge benefits of Google Drive is that you can leverage it to store backups of your important files.  Until recently, that was done with the Google Drive Sync application.  The old Google Drive Sync was a powerful tool, but it had some downsides.

  1. It would pull down local copies of everything in your Google Drive.  While having things in two places is a good strategy, I have hundreds of gigabytes of data that I keep in my Drive that I don’t need on a daily basis.  Keeping a copy of this data on local storage was a waste.  You could specify in the client which folders to sync, but as soon as you stopped syncing all folders, folders you created moving forward required you to remember to go into the client and check a box to sync them.
  2. Folders where important files are commonly located on your computer (like your documents, desktop, and pictures) were not synced by default.  You could get around this by moving the target of these folders to a subfolder in your Google Drive, but this process was not intuitive for the average user and always felt like you were tricking Google Drive to sync your stuff.

Fortunately, these problems have been solved using two new(ish) tools from Google.

  1. Backup and Sync – this product is the replacement for the old Google Drive Sync application discussed above.  It separates the “backup” function from the “sync” function.  What most end users really need is the “backup” function.  Most of us can skip the “sync” function because of….
  2. Google Drive File Stream – this product will map a network drive (just like a file share on a server) that represents to your Google Drive.  This allows you easy access to all your files in Drive, without creating a local copy.  The files are navigated and opened  through your file system (just like your other local files).  For example, let’s say you have a native Photoshop file stored in Google Drive.  You can locate that file through the mapped drive that represents your Google Drive, then open it directly in Photoshop.  The file is streamed for use on your computer.  You make your changes, save the file, and those changes are saved directly to the file in your Drive.  No downloading, no uploading, no syncing.  The interaction with Google Drive is almost completely transparent to the user.  You can even access files stored in your Team Drives this way!

With these two applications, you can easily backup the important files on your computer and access all your important files “in the cloud”.  In the video above, I’ll show you how I set these programs using a PC, but there are also Mac clients available.  I’ve provided links to the installers from the video below.

Note: It is important to note that Google Drive File Stream only works with “G Suite” accounts (Like Google Apps for Education or Google Apps for Work).  Google Drive File Stream does not work with individual Google accounts at the time of this article.


If you have any questions about these products, please leave me a comment below.

Set Up a Single Filing System Using Google Drive Sync for PC

Tired of having one filing system for files on your computer and another in Google Drive? You can use Google Drive Sync to store everything in a single filing system that allows you access to your files from any device. And as an added bonus, if your computer croaks, all your files will be safe. I recommend you suffer through 6 minutes of my voice and watch the video below. This is definitely the best (and easiest) way to organize your files and keep them backed up.


Exporting Your Files From Google Drive

drive_export_graphicSummer is almost here, and the seniors are about to walk out the door for the last time. That used to mean throwing both their paper and digital items into their respective recycling bins. Now, with their physical and digital lives becoming more and more intertwined, students want to hang onto data for their digital portfolios or to use as a reference moving forward. Whether you are a senior in high school taking the next step, or a staff member moving to a new organization, the ability to separate your data from your current Google account may be very important to you.

You may have asked yourself “Why don’t I just make a personal Google account (or use my existing one), then share all my files with the new account, and change the ownership?”  Well…

  • If you are using a Google Apps domain account (an account that is part of an organization) and not a personal Google account, you won’t be allowed to change ownership of files to an account outside your organization.
  • Even If your situation does allow a change of ownership solution, your first thought will likely be “I’ll just put all my stuff in one folder then change ownership on that folder.”  Unfortunately ownership changes are not applied to child objects.  Eventually I plan on writing a script that allows the use to propagate ownership changes using setOwner() (or more likely someone will beat me to it (or already has)).
  • It is technically possible to share all your files from your domain account to a personal account and then make copies of all the files, but that only works if your organization allows you to share outside the domain.  If you are able to utilize this method, this is usually a better option than exporting (if you plan to subsequently import back into another Google account that is).

star_smallTip: If you decide to used the share and make copies method, your inclination will be to put everything in one folder and then share the folder with the account you are transferring your files to.  This will work just fine, but it is important to note that when you make copies in any shared folder that you have “Can edit” access to (as you would in this example), the copies will be created within that folder (which is on the Drive of the account you are trying to get the data off of).  You’ll need to drag and drop the items into “My Drive” on the account you want to move the data to.

Depending on your situation, exporting your data may makes the most sense.  Before you go down that path, here is what you need to know:

Exporting Pros:

  • Your Google Documents will be converted to standard formats (Microsoft or OpenDocument) so you’ll have versatility with your data moving forward.
  • There are two ways to export your data, they are both really easy to use, and can be used in combination to best suit your needs.

Exporting Cons:

  • Neither export option supports the download of Google Drive file types in their native form. (hopefully this is coming soon – hear me awkwardly ask for it at #io13)  Features unique to Google Drive such as revision history, comments, and sharing settings aren’t supported in the exported formats, so they will be discarded.
  • You are converting your files.  In my experience, converting files back and forth between Google Docs and Microsoft Office (or OpenDocument) works well.  However, anytime “converting” is part of a process, there is potential for problems.  Most of the problems I’ve seen however tend to be easily fixed layout problems, not problems retaining text or images.

Exporting Directly From Google Drive vs. Exporting With Google Takeout

Both methods produce the similar results.  When complete, you’ll have a compressed (ZIP) file containing the items from your Google Drive.  Google Document types (Documents, Drawings, Forms, Presentations, and Spreadsheets) will be converted to the format you selected, while other file types in your drive (PDF, Photoshop, JPEG, etc.) will be left in their original format.

Exporting Directly From Google Drive

The advantage with this method is that it is much easier to export items under “Shared with me” than with the alternative method. The downside is, that you can’t download more than 2 GB at a time.  There is no way to automatically separate your files into multiple downloads, but it is possible to do so manually.  Check out the following video outlining the process.

Exporting With Google Takeout

Google Takeout is a product made by a group of engineers at Google who call themselves the data liberation front.  What is nice about Takeout is that it exports more than just Drive data; it will give you a single zip file containing all (supported) Google data.  The downside of Takeout, specific to Drive, is that your export won’t include files under “Shared With Me”.  Many users only want a couple of items from shared anyhow; they can always just make copies of those specific items and place them in their Drive before they export.  Check out the following video outlining the process.


If you are not permanently breaking up with Google, the best way to get your data out of Drive is to not get it out at all.  If the task of changing ownership or sharing and making copies of your files is both realistic and possible, you should take that route.  If you need to export your data from Drive, I’d suggest using the Drive interface.  I believe the interface is less intimidating for the average user, and coupled with the ability to easily export “Shared with me”, the advantages outweigh the 2GB export limitation.  If you want more Google data than just what is in your Drive, use Takeout in addition to the Drive interface.s  You can export Drive data using the Drive interface, then use Takeout to export your additional data.  They can be used very effectively in combination.

Bonus Round: I’ve Got My Data Out, Now What?

So now you have one or more zip files containing all your converted and downloaded data.  You have a couple of options, and you don’t have to decide now.  If you aren’t prepared to commit to a new home for your data, just put the files in a safe place like a flash drive or cloud storage service (or both!).

If you are planning to use the data on your personal computer in its current Microsoft or OpenDocument format, extract the data from the zip drive and file it away on your computer.  If you have a personal Google Account, or access to your Google Account at your new school or business, you could upload the data there, and convert your files back to Google Drive formats in the process.

  1. Log into your “new” Google account and go to your Drive.
  2. Check your upload settings.  If you want to convert your data back to Google Document types, make sure your upload settings are set to support that.
  3. Extract the data from your zip file and locate the folder containing the data you want to upload.
  4. Finally, upload the folder containing your data.

I hope you found this tutorial helpful.  Let me know if you have any questions or comments below.

Adding Images to Google Forms

Embedding images into forms is a feature that would really enhance the power of Google Forms.  Unfortunately, Google has yet (as of 3/1/2013) to include this feature.  James Eichmiller created a script that allows users to embed images stored in Google Drive into their Google forms very easily however.  Instructions can be found here.

Embedded below is a video made by Bryan Weinert that shows the script in action.  He uses it for inserting exported graphic versions of equations made with Daum Equation Editor.*

* If you teach Math, check out the Daum Equation Editor app available in the Chrome Web Store.

Digital Classroom using Google Drive and gClassFolders

gClassFolders is a template and set of scripts created by Bjorn Behrendt that works with Google Drive.  It provides teachers with the ability to automatically generate folders to publish information to their students using a “View” folder, as well as collect information from their students using “Dropboxes”.  It is easy to setup, provides built-in organization for your class related files, and eliminates the need for teachers and students to “share” individual items with each other to distribute or turn in assignments.

Before continuing with the instructions below, I’d suggest reviewing the 3 minute video below, created by Dee Lanier from  It shows the process in action.

Running the gClassFolders Scripts

  1. Go to your Google Drive.
  2. Click drive_create_button then From template… as seen below.
  3. Make sure you are in the “Public Templates” tab (“A” below) of the template gallery (if you aren’t, click Public Templates) and search for “gClassFolders” (“B” below), then click Use this template (“C” below).
  4. A new Google spreadsheet will open containing the following columns:
    1. Student Fname – student’s first name.
    2. Student Lname – student’s last name.
    3. Student Email – student’s D155 email address.
    4. Class Name – the name of your class.
    5. Period (Optional) – the period of the class.
      Note: I’d suggest using this to provide easier organization.  If you are using periods, you’ll have sets of student dropboxes organized by period, but a single “Class Edit” and “Class View” folder.  This way you can place items you want to distribute in a single “Class View” folder, and all periods of a given class will have access to those items.  If you want each period of the same class to have different “Class View” and “Class Edit” folders, then you should create a different class name for each period (e.g. “Bio 1st Period”, “Bio 3rd Period”, etc.).  In that scenario, you wouldn’t use the “Period (Optional)” column.
    6. Teacher Email or blank if you – assuming you are completing this process for yourself and are logged into your D155 account, you should leave this blank.
  5. Enter one row of information for each of your students. (as seen below)
    Note 1: Because there are columns for class name and period, you can run this process one time for all of your classes..
    Note 2: In the future, I will be creating a post on how to export your student names and email addresses from Skyward.  That will save you the time of entering them manually.  Alternatively, you could use a Google form to collect first name, last name and period from your students.  Assuming that form is set to collect their email automatically, you would then have all the data you need for this process in a Google spreadsheet, which you could then copy and paste into this spreadsheet.
  6. When you have all your student information in the spreadsheet, click the gClassFolders menu, then click Sort Sheet. (as seen below)
  7. You will be prompted to verify your intent to run the script (as seen below).  Click OK to continue.
    Note:  This is a 3rd party script (not made by Google) and requires you to grant it access to make folders in your drive.  This window is making sure you understand that.  I have run this script several times and it is widely used by teachers across the county.  I feel comfortable running this script personally, but you should read this and make sure you feel comfortable before proceeding.
  8. You will receive a message stating “Now you can run the script” (as seen below).  Click Close.
  9. Because the script wasn’t authorized when you clicked “Sort Sheet” the first time, the original action never completed.  Now that the script has been authorized to run, once again click the gClassFolders menu, then click Sort Sheet.
  10. A small yellow banner will show up near the top of the screen to inform you that the script is running, then again when the script has finished (as seen below).
  11. Now that the information has been sorted (if any sorting was necessary), click the gClassFolders menu, then click Create Folders and Shares (as seen below).
  12. You should see another yellow banner informing you that the script is running (as seen below).
    Note: This step will take longer than the sort script.
  13. When complete, you should see a popup box (as seen below) informing you that the folders are now shared with your students.  Click OK.
  14. You’ll then see a final banner notifying you that the script is complete (as seen below).

That’s it!  You’ve successfully set up “Share” and “Edit” folders for each class you specified, as well as student dropboxes for each student, separated by period.

Understanding What You’ve Created


In your drive, you’ll find a folder named after each class.  Using my example, I have one folder called “Google Drive”.  Each folder will contain three sub-folders:

  1. Student Dropboxes – this folder will contain a sub-folder for each period you specified (if used).  Each period will contain a folder named after each student.  Students will be able to put items into this folder on their drive, and you’ll be able to see and edit those items when you access this folder from your drive.
  2. (class name) – View – All members of the class will have view level permissions to this folder.  This where you would place your syllabus and “hand out” type materials.  Anything you move into this folder (or create in this folder) will be instantly viewable by all the students in your class.
    Note: Remember, if you elected to separate your classes using periods, all students from all periods of a given class have access to this folder.
  3. (class name) – Edit – Anything in this folder will be editable by all members of the class.  This folder was created to facilitate group work, however I would recommend avoiding the use of it in our setting.  Every student in your class (or all your periods of the same class if you are using periods) will be able to edit any item in this folder.  If you don’t foresee a need for this folder, you can simply delete it.  It will no longer show up in your students’ drives.  To delete it, drag it to the trash as seen below.
    Note: If you don’t see “Trash” as one of the options on the left side of your drive, click the More link at the bottom.  This will expand the items in this column to include the trash.

star_smallTip: I’d suggest using these folders to facilitate your own organization of your information for each class.  In my example, I could put all my items related to my “Google Drive” class in my “Google Drive” folder.  I could even make additional folders to organize my things (handout folder, assignment folder, etc.).  As long as the information isn’t in one of sub-folders created by gClassFolders, the items will be private to you.  You can take a file from this parent directory and move it into the “View” folder for that class on as-needed basis.  The students will instantly have access to the information.  Then move the item back to your private folder when you don’t want them to have access to it anymore.  You can update the files as necessary, using the same process to “hand out” the information the following semester.   This allows you to stay organized in a per-class manner without having to maintain two separate folder structures for your classes.

Training Your Students

Students will automatically have access to their dropbox folder, as well as the “View” and “Edit” (if you decided to keep it) folders for the class to which they are assigned.  These items will show up under “Shared with me” in their Google Drive automatically.

To allow for easy access to these items, I suggest instructing your students to do the following:

  1. Go to their Google Drive.
  2. Create a new folder by clicking the CREATE button, then clicking Folder (as seen below).
  3. Type a name for the folder, then click Create (as seen below).  In my example, I’ll use “Google Drive” since that is what the class is called.
    Note: Have them name this folder in a way that is most easily identifiable with this class for them.  This could be by subject, period, teacher name; every student could use something different – this name only serves their own organization of their drive.
  4. Click Shared With Me (in the left column of the drive interface).  This will display items that have been shared with them (like the folders you made for your class) in the right column of the drive interface (as seen below).
    Note: On the left side of the drive interface, they may need to expand the “My Drive” item.  If expanded, the small arrow to the left of “My Drive” will be pointing downward  and the folder they just created will be listed.  If not expanded,  they should click the arrow expand their drive (as seen above).
  5. They should then drag and drop each of the folders that were created by you using gClassFolders (their dropbox, the class “Edit” folder, and the class “View” folder if you elected to use it) from the right side of the drive interface, onto the folder they just created on the left side of the interface (as seen below).

Each student will now have a folder that corresponds to your class located directly in their drive.  They won’t need to scroll through “Shared with me” each time to access these items.  In addition, they can put their work for your class in the folder they created themselves (the one they dragged the other folders into), applying the same organizational tip to their work that I provided above to you.  You, as the teacher, won’t be able to access any of their items unless they put them in the dropbox; they have an organized space to store their work for your class until it is ready to be submitted, and to archive it after it is complete.

Finally you’ll need to lay out your expectations of them.  They’ll need to know that when you say “I put it in the view folder” that they can simply log onto their drive from any device and view the item or items you’ve put there.  In the scenario where they are handing things into you, you’ll need to give them the expectation that they need to have their submission in their dropbox by a certain date and time.  You can then easily traverse the dropboxes by class, then by period, then by student to evaluate and grade their submissions.

That’s it for gClassFolders!  Please leave a reply below or stop by and see me if you have questions or need clarification with any of the concepts discussed here.

Understanding Visibility and Sharing Options In Google Drive

google_drive_logo_3963One of the most powerful features available with Google Drive is your ability to easily share items with others.  By understanding the different visibility and sharing options available, you can use Google Drive to successfully collaborate with peers, and create an online repository for your students.  The tutorial below allows you to follow along using your Google Drive, learning about these options as you proceed.

  1. Go to your Google Drive.
    1. Note: If you are using the Google Chrome browser, I’d suggest installing the Google Drive app from the Chrome Web Store – it gives you one click access to your drive from the new tab page.
  2. Open any existing item that you’d like to share, or create a new item by clicking the drive_create_button button near the top left of your drive.
  3. To access the sharing options on anything in your drive, click the drive_share_button button near the top right corner while viewing the item.
  4. The “Sharing settings” window will appear.
      1. At the top, you’ll notice “Link to share”.  Every item in your Google Drive has a unique URL.  If you wanted to provide a link directly to this item to a person or group via email, or make a link to this item on your website, this is the URL you should use.
      2. Below “Link to share” is a section titled “Who has access”.  This section will have at minimum two rows.  The first is the row shows the visibility options applied to the item.  By default, all items created in Google Drive (unless created in or uploaded to a folder that applies permissions to its child objects) are private to only the owner.  By clicking “Change…”, you can select from the five available visibility options.

        drive_visibility_options(click to enlarge)

        1. Public on the Web – this is the loosest control regarding visibility.  Anyone will be able to see this item, and anyone will be able to find it using a search.
        2. Anyone with the link – similar to “Public on the web”, anyone on the internet can view the item.  However, they will need to have the link; the item will not show up in a search.
        3. Community High School District 155 (or your organization if you are outside District 155) – this option allows anyone signed into a District 155 account (all students and staff) to search for and view the item.
        4. People at Community High School District 155 with the link (or your organization if you are outside District 155) – similar to the previous option, the viewer must be logged into their District 155 account to view the item.  The item will not show up in searches however, they’ll need to have the link.
        5. Private –  the strictest and default option, this only allows access to the item by the owner, as well as any other person or group explicitly given permission to access it (if any).
      3. For example, if you wanted to use a Google document for your course syllabus, and wanted students and parents to be able to view it by clicking a link on your website, you could set visibility to “Anyone with the link”.   Parents who are outside the organization can view the item by clicking the link you placed on your website, but the document wouldn’t show up in search results for anyone on the internet.
      4. Set the applicable visibility option by clicking the associated radio button, then click the drive_save_button button.
      5. Note: You can return to sharing settings and change visibility options of any item, at any time.

    (click to enlarge)

  5. Once you click Save, you’ll be returned to the Sharing settings window.  Listed below the visibility settings is a line indicating the owner of the item.  This will be “you” for any item you’ve uploaded or created (and haven’t transferred ownership to someone else).
  6. Below the owner (and any other users who currently have a role applied to this item)  is the Add people box.  Click in the text box and start typing a name. This can be a first name, last name, or email address. Google Drive will predict the user or group that you are looking to share with as you type.  Once you see the name of the user or group you’d like to share with, click it, or continue typing until it is the only option in the drop down list.  Hit the enter key on your keyboard to complete the action.
  7. Now that his/her/their name(s) and email(s) are in the text box, click the Can edit link to the right.  This is where you are able to select his/her/their level of access to this item.  Select one of the three options:
    1. Can edit – by selecting this option, the user or group members will have full edit access to the item.  This is useful when collaborating with other users.
    2. Can comment – this option would allow the user or group members to add comments to the item, but not allow him/her/them to edit the item.  This is useful for situations where you want feedback from someone, but don’t want to give them permission to make changes.
    3. Can view –  this option only allows the user to view the item.  This is useful for providing information in one direction.  This is commonly used to provide “handout” type communications to students.
  8. Below the add people box, there is a check box titled “Notify people via email”.  With this box checked, the person or persons you are granting access to your item will receive a short notification email letting them know that you’ve shared the item with them.  You can add a custom message to that email by clicking “Add message”.  If you un-check this box, the item will still show up under “Shared with me” in their drive, they just won’t be notified via email.
  9. At the very bottom of the window, there is a line that states “Editors will be allowed to add people and change the permissions.”  This is the default setting.  Often times when sharing collaborating with others, you don’t want them to be able to  grant other people access to the item.  If you click the Change link to the right of the message, you can change this setting to “Only the owner can change permissions.”  If you enable this option, only you as the owner can  add additional access to the item.
    1. Note: I’d recommend that you change this setting to “Only the owner can change permissions” if you plan on giving others “Can edit” permissions unless you specifically need editors to have the ability to add others to the item.
  10. When you have your sharing settings set the way you want, click the drive_share_and_save_button button to apply the settings.  If you chose the notify people by email option, this will automatically send a notification email to the people or groups that you’ve added.
  11. The names of the people added will now show up in the sharing settings window underneath the owner.
  12. Click drive_done_button to close the sharing window.
  13. Note: At any time you can click the drive_share_button button to view the current sharing settings of any item in your drive.  From this window, you can modify all of the settings you have set previously, change current user permissions, remove a user’s access by clicking the X next to their name, add additional users to the item, and even transfer ownership of the item to another user.

Now that you understand the different sharing and visibility options in Google Drive, you can apply these concepts and start successfully sharing with students, parents, and each other!  If you have any questions about the concepts above, please leave a reply below or contact me directly.

The Jeopardy Game – Google Docs Edition

Many teachers have been using the Jeopardy game (via PowerPoint) as a staple in their curriculum for many years.  It is a great tool, always able to effectively engage the students.

I ran across a Google Presentation template of the game.  You can view it here.  Copy the template to your drive and customize it to suit your needs.jeopardy

Let me know if you use this with your class or if you have any questions by leaving a comment below.