Google Drive: First impressions

It wasn't the most secretive launch, but no matter, Google Drive has officially launched Tuesday with 5GB of free storage space for all users and paid options going up to a whopping 16TB.

The cloud storage service is a replacement for Google Docs — if you've ever used the popular document-syncing service you'll be right at home with Google Drive. Just like Docs, the majority of the service is based in the web browser: you'll primarily be managing your account and viewing your files from the web app.

There are, however, native apps available for PC, Mac, and Android, and an iOS app is currently in the works.

It's very important to note that this is an evolution of Google Docs. This will become very apparent when you first open up the web app. Once you agree to upgrade your account to Drive, you'll notice that not much has changed. The URL is now drive.google.com instead of docs.google.com, and in a few other places "Docs" has been replaced by "Drive," but the interface appears to be identical.

What's new then? Well, of course you can upload any file to Drive, not just work documents, though only the latter will take advantage of the live editing features made famous by Docs.

Sharing features are still overly complicated: you can invite individual users to view and collaborate on folders and files, and through some advanced settings you can make a publicly-viewable link. We really wish that Google overhauled all of this a bit — in Dropbox, for example, it's very easy to right-click and get a public link instantly.

On the mobile side, so far only an app for Android phones and tablets is available, though Google says that it's working on an iOS version. The Android app, just like on the web, completely replaces Google Docs. The app is has been redesigned, but the functionality is essentially the same.

You'll see that there's a list of files and folders, all of which you can add collaborators to and make available offline. Sharing, once again, is a bit of a letdown. It looks like Google intends to add the ability to make files publicly-viewable, but when you try to switch permissions you're told that "changing this option is not yet supported."

Another disappointing aspect of the Android app is that, other than Google Docs files like spreadsheets, presentations, and documents, you'll have to first download a file before viewing it with the appropriate app on your phone. For example, to play a song or view a picture you'll have to wait for it to download and then it'll automatically open in Gallery or Music — there's no way to preview these files within the Google Drive app.

- Washington Post