Google Docs vs. Google Drive: What Are The REAL Difference?

It’s easy to confuse the two Google apps, Google Docs and Google Drive and it’s one area that Google might have done a better job explaining just what the differences are.

We’ve been able to break down the differences for you so anyone with a google account can see the main difference and use the apps to their best advantage.

First, a little background.

Google Drive was on of the Google products built as a response to apps like Microsoft 365 and similar document sharing apps. Part of the reasons for ongoing confusion is that some of the functionality of Google Docs was migrated to the Google Drive platform.

That ‘overlap’ created some confusion as to the actual functions of both apps and in a sense they can be seen as part of the same storage options and editing options that work ‘as one’.

Google Drive

Think principally of Google Drive as a cheap and efficient storage platform, which also permits real-time collaboration and sharing along with its storage space advantages, providing as it does 15GB of free storage.

The Google Drive application is a service that has built-in integrations and uses a collaborative tools from Google’s suite, rather than a cloud storage tool like DropBox or the iCloud service from Apple.

For those with large files, including music, images, presentations and the like, Google Drive provides the storage and the ability to access them via any mobile device or other desktop app. It provides security of knowing your files are safe, regardless of the file type, and it also has a very useful ability to open files using formats that your own laptop, ipad, tablets or PC may not have.

Using Google Drive means you can save and share files, which is obviously of high value for team members quite apart from individual users and permits important files (or even unimportant ones) to be stored, shared and for the system to be used with Google Docs as a document management system.

Drive permits you to open files from your device on the Drive folder. Those files created using Google Docs will open in the browser or via a mobile app but non-Doc files in Drive will open in the applications that they were created in such as PDF files, Adobe Reader and so forth.

Files that are able to be converted to Google Drive format are:

  • Text documents (.doc, .docx, .html, .txt, .rtf, .pdf)
  • Spreadsheets (.xls, .xlsx, .ods, .csv)
  • Presentations (.ppt, .pps, .pptx)

In order to convert a file to Google Drive format you need to right-click the file and choose the ‘Open With’ before clicking on the suggested app. For instance, if you have a Microsoft Word document, you’ll be able to convert it to a Google Doc document. 

Microsoft Office files can be safely stored in Google Drive also, using the Google servers.

Google Drive also provides the ability to create various documents like spreadsheets, presentations and the like, all as free web services provided by Google.

As it is part of Google’s office suite of programs there is a wide variety of seamlessly integrated services and apps that work with Google Drive, some of which can be seen from the illustration below from Business Insider

Google Docs vs. Google Drive: What Are The REAL Difference? 3

Although there have been issues raised as to whether Google can see the documents on drive, which they deny, you as user can certainly share links to documents in Drive, including making the file or entire folders public by sharing the link.

If you want to take extra precautions you can encrypt the files you store in Google Drive to avoid hacking problems

Key Advantages of Google Drive

The main advantages of Google Drive include –

  • Ability to create documents in various formats
  • Its compatibility with Microsoft Office
  • 15 gigabytes of free storage
  • Storage ability for PDFs, folders, images, presentations etc
  • Shareable link ability
  • Access anywhere
  • Free

Google Drive can be accessed easily with internet access via the Google website (or via your Google account) or using the Android app on Android devices.

Google Docs

Google Docs is one of the must-have cloud services that permits the creation and sharing of documents through Google’s platform in real time.

It is a free cloud storage system that obviously requires internet access and is ideal in an age of remote work and provides significant benefits for either single projects or multiple projects.

In many ways it operates like MS-Office with its interface and features.

Storage is permitted (at the time of writing at least) up to 1.02 million characters, regardless of the number of pages or font size being used for documents, presentations etc.

The ability to have several people working on the same document and to see the changes in real time is also a real advantage for an app of this nature and something that is an effective way to collaborate, build and edit new documents and presentations.

The collaboration benefits of Google Docs is probably its biggest advantage, along with its free and simple-to-use features.

Power point presentations can be created in Google Docs and Google Drive and Google are adding support in Google Docs for Microsoft word documents like Microsoft Word, Excell and PowerPoint, for formats like .xls, .docx and .ppt, that will provide a greater ability again to collaborate not only through Google Docs, but also Google Sheets and Google Slides, which is one of the more advanced features and is Google’s Power Point equivalent via the Google Docs app.

Some formatting with Docs can be problematic and particularly complex formatting is best left to MS-Office, but given the other advantages, particularly the ability to share in real time with anyone with a Gmail or Google account it is a hands down winner.

The Google Docs vs Google Drive Benefits

It’s easy to see what the benefits are with both Docs and Drive, especially the real time collaborative benefits they offer and their powerful yet (largely) free usage.

It is not a question of one versus the other: Google Docs vs. Google Drive, but rather how they work together as a key document creation, management and storage facility.

One disadvantage for Cloud-based apps like this is that they require and internet connection and that can certainly create issues in some circumstances so far as having offline access is concerned.

There is also the hidden costs involved in accessing or downloading from Drive, which can be expensive for those who do not have an unlimited internet plan in terms of data usage.

The collaboration situation is a major advantage with its ability to edit files and make changes, but larger teams can experience some confusion over the revision history with amendments being made via Google Docs and suchlike. But such issues can also have workarounds such as providing suggested amendments that the ultimate document administrator or creator can accept or reject.

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