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How to Import and Export Documents in Google Drive

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Google Drive allows you to access your Google documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings from anywhere. But what about your old files, photos, videos, and even PDFs? How do you send your Google Docs to someone who does not use Google Drive?

In this tutorial, I'll show you how to import files and folders into Google Drive, including unsupported file types. You will also learn how to export files from Google Drive and publish them to the web.

Benefits of Working With Google Drive

Google Drive
Google Drive.

As a small business person, you may wonder about Google Drive. Is it the best tool for your needs?

First you need to understand what Google Drive is. Basically, it's a cloud-based storage service that also includes Google's suite of office tools, G Suite.

G Suite office applications include Calendar, Docs, Drive, Sheets, Slides, and more. As a small business owner, there are some very real advantages to using Google Drive. Here are just a few:

  • Cost - At its most basic level, Google Drive is free. Currently it includes 15 GB of total storage.
  • Collaboration - Because it is cloud-based, you can easily give clients and colleagues access to your files.
  • Access - You can access your files from any machine using any operating system. All you need is Internet access. Simply log in to your Google account.
  • Comparable - Google Drive office tools are comparable to other popular office software suites.

Learn more about how to work with G Suite products in the Resources section at the end of this article. 

Import and Export Documents in Google Drive (Video)

Now let's learn how to import and export files in Google Drive beginning with this quick screencast:

Or walk-through the detailed written steps below for comprehensive instructions on importing and exporting files in Google Drive, as well as how to publish your documents to the web. 

Importing Files to Google Drive

There are several easy ways to import supported files to Google Drive, including dragging documents from the desktop and uploading directly in Google Drive. Supported file types include:

  • For Documents: HTML, RTF, DOC, DOCX, ODT, PDF, TXT
  • For Spreadsheets: CSV, HTML, ODS, PDF, XLS, TXT (only for a single sheet)
  • For Presentations: PDF, PPTX, TXT
  • For Drawings: PNG, JPEG, SVG, PDF

Not all file types are supported. Uploading .notebook files, for example, will work differently. 

1. Drag and Drop Method

To import a supported file from the desktop, open your Google Drive. If you wish to upload the document to a specific folder, open that folder before beginning the import.

Step 1

Resize your Google Drive window so that the portion of the desktop containing the file is visible. Then, click on the file and drag it from the desktop into your Google Drive.

Drag and Drop File
Resize your Google Drive window and drag your file into the folder. 

Finally, a status bar will open at the bottom right hand side of your window, showing you the progress of your upload.

Step 2

When the upload is complete, the file will appear in your Google Drive.

File Upload Complete
Your file upload is complete.

You can see that your upload is complete in two places: the status box in the bottom right hand corner and the file will be listed in your folder.

Step 3

To choose what file format to open the file with, double-click the filename in Google Drive. The file opens. Click the arrow next to Open with Google Sheets in the top center of the screen. A drop-down menu displays giving you file conversion options.

File Conversion Options
A drop-down menu appears giving you file conversion options.

Click the name of the file format to open the file with that application.

2. Uploading Directly in Google Drive

If the file you want to upload is not located on your desktop, you can also import directly from the Google Drive window.

Step 1

Click the New button in your Google Drive. A drop-down menu displays.

Upload Files
To upload a single file from your computer, select the New button and then select Upload files.

Step 2

Once you select Upload filesa browser windown will open. Locate the file you want to upload to Google Drive and select Open.

Select Open
Locate the file you want to upload to Google Drive and select Open.

A status bar will open at the bottom right hand side of your window, showing you the progress of your upload. When the upload is complete, the file will appear in your Google Drive.

3. Uploading an Unsupported File

Google Drive does not support all file types. If your file type is not supported, it means that the file cannot be converted to a Google Doc, and cannot be viewed in Google Doc viewer. However, unsupported files can be stored in Google Drive in their original format, and opened using a third-party extension or local application. As an example, I will show you how to upload an .epub file, which is an ebook file.

Step 1

Use either of the methods from above to import your file into Google Drive, either the drag and drop method or upload directly in Google Drive. 

After the upload is complete, the file will be in your Google Drive. It will appear with a Google Doc icon; however, you will not be able to view it. You will receive an error message of No preview available.

Unsupported File Error Message
If you try to open an unsupported file, you will see this error message. 

Step 2

If you are on a computer that supports your file type, on the screen above click Download to download the file locally, and the file will open in the appropriate application. 

Importing Folders into Google Drive

If you have many files to upload to Google Drive at once, you can import an entire folder as easily as importing a single file. Just like individual files, you can import folders by the drag and drop method or by importing them through Google Drive directly. However, importing folders is not supported if you are using Firefox as your browser. 

1. Drag and Drop Method

Step 1

To import a folder from the desktop, open your Google Drive. Resize your Google Drive window so that the portion of the desktop containing the file is visible. Then, right-click on the file and drag it from the desktop into your Google Drive.

Import a Folder From your Desktop
Drop a file or folder to instantly upload it to your Google Drive.

Step 2

A status bar will open at the bottom right hand side of your window, showing you the progress of your upload. When the upload is complete, the folder will appear in your Google Drive. 

Folder Upload Complete
The folder appears in your Google Drive.

When the upload is complete the folder will appear in your Google Drive.

2. Importing a Folder Directly in Google Drive

Step 1

Click the New button in your Google Drive. You will be prompted to select whether you are uploading a file or a folder.

Select Folder Upload
To upload a folder, select Folder upload.

Select Folder upload. A browser window displays.

Select a Folder to upload
A browser window will appear showing the folders on your hard drive. Select the folder you wish to upload. 

Step 2

Click on the folder you want to download. Click Select Folder. A status window appears in the lower right corner.

Folder Status Window
The status window indicates when the folder upload is complete.

Finally, a status bar will open at the bottom right hand side of your window, showing you the progress of  your upload. When the upload is complete, the folder will appear in your Google Drive.

Exporting Files From Google Drive

Sometimes it's necessary to change Google Docs to a different format, either to send a file to someone who does not use Google Drive or to post a document on the web.

If you want to send a Google Doc to someone who does not use Google Drive, you will need to export the file, or save it using a different file extension so that they will be able to open it. 

1. Exporting as a Different File Extension

Step 1

Open the file you wish to export as a different file extension. Select File, then select Download as. A menu will open to the right that will let you select what kind of file extension you would like to download your document in to send to someone else.

Download As Menu
Select what kind of file extension you would like to download your document in.

The types of file extensions available are: 

  • Google Docs: .docx, .odt, .rtf, .pdf, .txt, .html, and .epub
  • Google Slides: .pptx, .pdf, .svg, .jpg, .png, and .txt
  • Google Sheets: .xslx, .ods, .csv, .tsv, .pdf, and .html
  • Google Drawings: pdf, .svg, .jpg, .png

Step 2

Choose the file extension you would like to save your document in.

The document will download in the selected file extension. Now you can e-mail or save the new files to a USB drive to send to someone else. 

2. Exporting a Document to the Web

You can export a Google Doc to the web by saving it as a .pdf or other file extension and uploading the file to your website. However, Google Docs has a powerful feature that shows your document live, meaning any changes you make the document after you export it to the web with appear on the website version of the document. 

Step 1

Open the file you wish to export to a website. Select File, then select Publish to the Web.

Publish to the Web
Select Publish to the web.

Step 2

The Publish to the web popup displays.

Publish to the Web
Click Publish if you want to publish your document to the web.

Click Publish.

Step 3

A popup window displays asking if you're sure.

Publish to Web Popup
Click OK to publish this selection to the web.

Click Ok.

Step 4

The Publish to the web window appears, which includes a link to the published content. There are also options to share the link through social media.

Publish to Web with Embed Link
Your document is published to the web.

Your content is published.

Step 5

You can determine whether your published content updates automatically when you change it.

In the Publish to Web window click the arrow to the left of Published Content and Settings. The following displays.

Automatic Republish
If you would like your document to change on the website you export it to when you update it, select "Automatically republish when changes are made".

To automatically republish your document when you update it, make sure the checkbox is clicked.

To stop publishing your document to the web, click the Stop publishing button. If you click the Stop publishing button, the following popup appears.

Stop Publishing Document
Click OK to stop  publishing the document.

If you want to stop publishing the document to the web, click OK. A confirmation dialog box appears informing you that the document is not published to the web.

Conclusion

Importing your files and folders from your hard drive to Google Docs gives you the ability to access your documents from anywhere you have an Internet connection. 

You can choose to keep your files in their original format and use Google Drive as storage, or you can convert your files to Google Docs so that you can edit them from anywhere. Unsupported files can be uploaded to Google Drive, but will not be converted. 

If you're already using Google Drive, but you need to send a document to someone who does not use Google Drive, you may need to download the document and save it using a different file extension. You can also export your Google Doc to a website, which will update the document on your website as you make changes to your original document. 

If you have any questions or comments about importing and exporting files to Google Drive, please leave it at the bottom of the article. 

Additional Resources

Here's one final tip, too. Did you know that you can integrate Google Drive into your WordPress website or blog? The Use-your-Drive plugin allows you to view, download, delete, and rename files and folders directly from a WordPress page. You can use Use-your-Drive as a file browser, image gallery, or audio or video player.

The Use-your-Drive plugin on Envato Market
The Use-your-Drive plugin on Envato Market

To learn more about Google Drive, review these Envato Tuts+ Tutorials:

Editorial Note: This post was originally published in 2014. It has been comprehensively revised to make current, accurate, and up to date by our staff—with special assistance from Laura Spencer.

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