Google has rolled out an update to Google Drive that brings a new, Machine Learning-backed Quick Access panel to the app. Machine Learning is something that Google is rapidly deploying in all of their products, from G Suite to Google Cloud Platform. The good news is that everyday users can also gain the advantages of ML in the everyday apps they provide.
This feature rolled out a few months ago for those who are G Suite customers and principally what it does is use a wide set of patterns to determine the files you need to access quickly. This isn’t just your most recent files as that’s fairly mundane these days. No, this looks at things like your calendar or activity on your Drive to bubble up the files you are likely to need.
For Quick Access, however, we constructed thousands of simple features from the various signals above (for instance, the timestamps of the last 20 edit events on a document would constitute 20 simple input features), and combined them with the power of deep neural networks to learn from the aggregated activity of our users. By using deep neural networks we were able to develop accurate predictive models with simpler features and less feature engineering effort.
It is a pretty impressive model and frankly, it works just as impressively. Looking at a meeting I had on my calendar, it bubbled up a Docs file that I had been using for notes around this particular meeting. I didn’t have to search for it. As you use Drive and other Google apps like G Suite (which includes the likes of Gmail, Calendar and of course Docs, Sheets and Slides), it will learn you better to give you more personalized results.
For Quick Access to work in Google Drive, you need to have the latest version of the app on your phone or tablet. The feature should be enabled by default but if not, you can go into Setting to enable it (or disable it). You can read more about it on the Google Research Blog.
Google has quietly added a new 2TB storage tier to Google Drive. The new storage level is $19.99 per month and fills the wide gap that was between the 1TB and the 10TB offering Drive offer previously. The new tier can be added to your account via the Drive Android app or on the website. If you already pay for Google Drive storage, you can upgrade your account via the app or web and you will be partially charged for the remaining time on your billing cycle. The access to the extra storage however goes into immediate effect. The new tier is available now and you should see it on both the app and the site to sign up.
The addition of the new tier will certainly help those users who need more than 1TB but not the massive – and expensive – 10TB option. Price wise, the 2TB plan is competitive with other cloud storage solutions and, of course, since Drive ties in nicely with other Google apps, it is convenient.
Remember that if you store Google G Suite files (Docs, Sheets and Slides) and uses High Quality on your Google Photos uploads, those don’t count against your storage quota. Things like Gmail attachments, PDFs and Microsoft files do count against it.
The Google Drive team is rolling out an update to the web that allows you to preview password protected Microsoft Office documents. The update is rolling out to everyone and should get to your account over the course of the next few days. Once you have it, if you attempt to open a password protected file, you will be prompted for the password and can then preview the file. The key word here is preview. You won’t be able to edit the document nor will you be able to open it up in Google Docs, Sheets or Slides. It is a read-only preview.
While it is limited, this is a nice edition to Google Drive. Many users store Microsoft files on Drive so being able to at least preview a document before going through the process of opening it up in the apps could potentially save some time. Interestingly, the ability to open or preview password protected files is something that even Microsoft does not offer with Office 365 online.
Google Drive is a great service for storing your files and photos. You get 15GB free and if you want or need more storage, you can get an additional 100GB for just $1.99 per month. But let’s suppose for a minute you signed up for 100GB, use about 30GB and decide you want to cancel your subscription? You are 15GB over the free limit so what happens to your files, photos and other things you have stored in Google Drive? In short, not much. It comes down to the service you are using tied to Google Drive but the data that you have there will remain there and not be deleted. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that your Gmail will start bouncing incoming messages.
Let’s deal with Google Drive itself first. If you are over your quota, you won’t be able to upload new files. Period. Equally, syncing between your Google Drive folder on your PC or Mac will stop. But, and critically, you can still create Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides files as they don’t consume any space anyway. It isn’t necessarily a loophole in that the Google apps never used your quota anyway but it certainly is a way to keep on creating documents. But keep in mind that the sync between your computer and your Google Drive stops so any Google Docs files created will only show up online in Chrome. Those PDFs and Microsoft Office files? Yeah, no more uploading and syncing.
An option you would have – which I have done – is to convert your Microsoft Office files to Google. This can be done via the web app or the Android app quite easily. Just open up that Word document then go to File and convert it to Google Docs. You can do the same for Excel files and PowerPoint files. Once you have done your conversions, be sure to go to your Google Drive trash folder and empty it. That will delete the Office files and reclaim your quota. Keep in mind that reclaiming can take up to 24 hours to happen.
If you pay for Google Drive storage, there are some changes rolling out that you need to be aware of going forward. From now on your Drive subscription will be managed within the Google Play Store like your other subscription apps. Gone will be the separate purchasing and process for adding storage to your account. Instead, for Android users, it will all roll up into the Play Store where you can manage all of your subscriptions (like Google Play Music) from one place.
The new process won’t effect anything you have to do as an end user. Google is migrating accounts to Google Play Store and you should have received an email on this in December. Once your account is converted over, you will see it as part of your subscriptions in the store.
Google has been very clear and vocal that one of the primary goals of the new Google Pixel lineup of phones is to lure iPhone users away from iOS and Apple to Android. While the success of the Pixel and Pixel XL looks strong and the phones are certainly attractive, users moving from one ecosystem to another as they would in this case have one big challenge: Data migration. Keeping all your calendar events, photos and videos and contacts are critical for migrating from iOS to Android. To that end, Google has launched an all new Switch to Android site which outlines exactly what those who want to migrate need to do to assure all their content is backed up. The key to all of it: Google Drive.
The step-by-step site has users first download Google Drive onto their iPhone then use the new Backup Wizard built into the app to backup their Contacts, Calendar events, and Photos & Videos. Once the content that you want to back up is selected, they are all backed up via Google Drive to the respective Google services. Your contacts go to Google Contacts, your calendar events to Google Calendar and your photos & videos to Google Photos. Because of limitations in iOS, in order for the backup to work, you must have Google Drive running and in the foreground on your iPhone (iOS doesn’t allow background syncs) and depending on how much data you have, this process could take several hours. Obviously, use Wi-Fi to do this as it will speed things up (and be cheaper!).
While it shouldn’t come as a shock to most, it is official. Starting January 1, 2017, Google Drive for desktop will no longer support Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows Server 2003. Given that Microsoft themselves no longer support these older versions of Windows themselves, it only makes sense that Google and other stop supporting it too. The announcement came via the Google G Suite blog and was very clear that while the app is no longer supported, it should still work. There won’t be any support or any further updates to the builds of Google Drive for these platforms.