Jana Technology Services Blog

March 2, 2010

Using Google Docs with Windows Virtual Drive and Sync

Like everyone else we were pretty please that when Google Docs announced that they would support the uploading of any file. We use Google Docs a lot and being able to use this as our Storage Cloud for everything made perfect sense. What we would have liked to see is more default windows integration or even the famed GDrive that has been for so long bandied about.

Luckily we discovered SMEStorage.com who now support Google Docs (amongst other clouds, including SkyDrive – more of that later). Using the full version of their windows tools we were able to get some tight integration with Google Docs on Windows.

Firstly, after registering for the Google Docs beta on the SMEStorage website, and syncing our account we were setup to access our Google Docs file through the SMEStorage platform.  This involves us providing our Google Docs authentication details but this can be done on a per session basis if you worry about security (although the site says all authentication held is encrypted).

Installing the full version of the windows tools (which you need to pay ($29.99 for) is straightforward but note that if you are installing on Windows 7 you should install as Administrator.

Once this is done you have several new tools. The first is the infamous GDrive, except it is called the SMEStorage Drive. Note in the picture below I dragged a shortcut to the desktop

Double clicking on this enables you to access all the files you have stored on Google Docs in a folder / file view exactly like you have on normal windows files. You are able to drag and drop and launch files here exactly as you would with other files, albeit slightly slower given you really have a view on files that are held remotely, so in reality files are being uploaded and downloaded, but it works well.

Another tool that you get is a dedicated explorer for the files which resides in the taskbar until you click it. This has lots of options including creating of Winamp playlists for MP3 files that you may store, streaming videos directly from the GDocs cloud, the ability to share files, encrypt files, and lots more.

More features are enabled depending on your account. SMEStorage enables you to have more than one storage cloud in a virtual view, so you can have folders that say “My Google Docs files”, “My SkyDrive files” etc. Anything you upload in these folders is automatically added to that particular underlying storage cloud which is pretty neat. In fact, you can add a lot of Cloud Storage this way. Microsoft SkyDrive has 25GB free storage, and the SMEStorage Lifetime Cloud package, which is what you need to purchase to get the full version of the windows tools, lets you add up to 10 storage clouds to your package. These can be the same instance of the same cloud, so you could add 10 Google Docs accounts for example, or 10 SkyDrive accounts, giving you 250GB of accessible storage !

We chose to have Google Docs, SkyDrive, and GMail. SMEStorage also lets you treat GMail as a storage cloud, and it seems to work pretty well. Given that GMail has 10 GB storage it is a nice addition when using Google Docs and files can easily be opened in Google Docs from GMail.

Sync is also another tool that you get with the windows tools. This enables you to sync any file or folder with your Google Docs account. In SMEStorage these files reside under a folder called My Syncs, but in Google Docs they are just in the root of the account.

There is also shell integration which enables you to right click on any file in the normal windows explorer and upload it to SMEStorage, and thereby your underlying Google Docs Cloud. Once the file is uploaded a TinyURL is copied to the windows clipboard giving you a unique url for the file which is useful if you want to instantly send out a link for the file you just uploaded. You can also right click on any folder and choose to add it to Sync.

There is also integration with Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, and Microsoft Outlook. In Microsoft Office you get a new cloud toolbar which enables you to open files directly from Google Docs and save them back. Any files saved back seem to be automatically versioned if the file name is the same without having to do anything. I presume OpenOffice works the same way.  Microsoft Outlook is integrated in a couple of ways. firstly there is an integration that enables you to backup your email straight to your nominated cloud, and secondly, when in the dedicated cloud explorer that you can launch from the taskbar, you can choose to backup your outlook contacts to the cloud. All of these features can be enabled from the SMEStorage control panel.

There are many other features that we’ve into touched upon but you should get the general gist and important stuff of how this works.

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