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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

How to Use Google Drive’s New Search Tools

If you use Google Drive to store, share, and sync your files in the cloud or in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, you're familiar with its straightforward, intuitive interface: Everything is clearly laid out and easy to access, and on-screen clutter is kept to a minimum.

But as you pack more and more stuff into your cloud locker, it can become difficult to keep track of everything. With storage capacities going up to tens of gigabytes, you might well have files stored on the web that you haven't accessed for quite some time.

Now the already comprehensive search tools in Google Drive have been given an extra boost with the introduction of search chips. We'll explain what they are, how you can use them, and some of the other tricks to help you find files in Google Drive.

Chips With Everything

Search chips are intended to make it easier for you to narrow down a screen of search results in Google Drive when you've used broad search terms—and you might have noticed a similar feature in Gmail. The chips pop up under the search box, enabling you to limit the number of results you're seeing with a click.

To see the search chip feature, you need to be on the web version of Google Drive rather than in the mobile apps. Type out a search using the big search box at the top, then hit Enter, and you'll see a row of search chips appear—they should include options like Location, File type, and People.

Click on any of these buttons to choose new parameters for your Google Drive search. Select File type, for example, and you can limit your results to documents, spreadsheets, or presentations. Open the Last modified options to limit results to files edited in the past week or month.

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The Title only search chip is another useful one. When you run a search on Google Drive, that search will look through the contents of your files, as well as their names, even scanning the text inside images. If you're looking for a particular file name rather than anything inside a file, Title only specifies that and can significantly reduce the number of results you have to comb through.

If you want to go back and see the original search results again, click the small X icon next to a search chip that has been enabled. You can also use the Clear all button on the right to remove all the search filters you've introduced. To clear your search terms, click the X on the right of the search box.

Google Drive has also introduced spelling suggestions. If you've misspelled something in your search terms, you might see alternative spellings above the search chips, especially if those alternatives make more sense in terms of the results you're going to get back.

Even More Search Options

A lot of the functionality offered by search chips was actually already available in Google Drive, but now it's easier to access. As soon as you click inside the search box at the top, for example, you'll see a list of file types that you can look for.

Click the search filters icon on the right of the search box (it looks like a series of sliders) to see the full range of options available when it comes to finding files in Google Drive. You can look for words matching the file name or the contents of your files, for instance, and search through files in the trash folder or that you've previously starred.

Don't neglect the star function, by the way: While Google Drive doesn't offer different types of stars, like Gmail does, starring files can still be a really handy way of keeping track of your most important files. Clicking the Starred link on the navigation pane on the left brings them all up on your screen.

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Speaking of the left-hand navigation pane, the Recent link is useful too. Rather than having your files and folders listed alphabetically, you can see what you've been working on most recently in any folder, which will often be the files you need to access.

If you work collaboratively with other people on specific files, you can filter these using the Awaiting my approval or Requested by me check boxes, as well as finding files that need some kind of follow-up (like documents with items that need to be actioned). If you want to know which files need your attention, these options can help.

Once you've clicked the Search button from the search filters dialog, you'll see that your choices are selected in the search chips where relevant (as with file type). You can then modify or remove any of these filters or add more using options the search chips present.


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