When you first begin to use Google Drive, you'll see an option to "Download Google Drive". If you've been using it for a while, there's a more subtle option below your folders.
Well, should you download Drive? As always, it depends. If we do "Download Drive for Mac or Windows" we're downloading local software that will run on that specific computer. Downloading Drive doesn't affect our web-based version, it just gives us another access point to our Drive.
Google Drive is a platform. It can run on the Web, on the desktop and on your mobile devices all at the same time.
The part of Drive that runs on your desktop, the "Download Google Drive" piece of Drive, exists so you can more easily work with traditional file formats. File formats like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. If you don't use these traditional file formats very often, you probably don't need to download Google Drive.
If you do work with Word and Excel often, then you'll get a lot of value with the downloaded version of Drive. Download Drive and you'll see your Google Drive along with your other folders. This folder will match the My Drive folder you see in Google Drive on the Web. Any content you drag and drop into this Google Drive folder will automatically be synced to Drive - giving you access to the file from anywhere.
Most importantly, when you want to open a local file type in Google Drive, you'll want to use the local Google Drive folder. Microsoft Word can only run locally, so if you open a Word document in the Web version of Drive you're only able to see a preview of the file. The file would have to be downloaded before it could run on Word; with the local Google Drive folder pictured above, that Word file is already on your computer so you can just open it directly, edit and save. All your changes will automatically be synced across Google Drive and for everyone you've shared that document with - pretty neat.
If you're curious about what Drive is all about, here's an overview:
With Google Drive, you can:
- Create and collaborate. Google Docs is built right into Google Drive, so you can work with others in real time on documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Once you choose to share content with others, you can add and reply to comments on anything (PDF, image, video file, etc.) and receive notifications when other people comment on shared items.
- Store everything safely and access it anywhere (especially while on the go). All your stuff is just... there. You can access your stuff from anywhere—on the web, in your home, at the office, while running errands and from all of your devices. You can install Drive on your Mac or PC and can download the Drive app to your Android phone or tablet. We’re also working hard on a Drive app for your iOS devices. And regardless of platform, blind users can access Drive with a screen reader.
- Search everything. Search by keyword and filter by file type, owner and more. Drive can even recognize text in scanned documents using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. Let’s say you upload a scanned image of an old newspaper clipping. You can search for a word from the text of the actual article. We also use image recognition so that if you drag and drop photos from your Grand Canyon trip into Drive, you can later search for [grand canyon] and photos of its gorges should pop up. This technology is still in its early stages, and we expect it to get better over time.