Finding Stuff in Google Docs

Several folks I know talk about having trouble finding things in Google Docs. That puzzled me at first, because it’s really just another computer file system, only with better searching abilities.

But there’s a complication – you tend to use it with other people. And that complication has made it easier to see the whole system as a bunch of unorganized documents whether or not it is unorganized.

If you just use it for your own work it’s apparent that you might make lots of files in one big folder, tuck related files neatly into multiple folders and subfolders, or even file somewhat haphazardly. But whatever you do, you’ll tend to have a general sense of your file structure.

But when you have more than a few documents in your file system that someone else has made, the organization can quickly get out of hand.

So I’ve got two tips.

First, if you’re sharing files with a group and there can be multiple files, share a folder instead, and make sure everyone in the group makes a shortcut of the folder in their personal drives and/or bookmarks the folder. This saves time for everyone in many ways:

  • Now anybody can share by simply putting a file into the shared folder or folder within that folder.
  • File organization is shared.
  • And it’s easier to find a folder or file within the shared folder when everyone in the group sees the same structure.

From the Drive view of your documents ( make a folder by clicking New,

then Folder.

Second, think of the “Shared with Me” folder as a waystation – a place to find the latest thing that someone has sharing with you once, but not a place to keep looking for it.

The first time you open something that’s shared with you, if you intend to open it again, put a shortcut to it into your Drive, and after that access it from your organized Drive. If someone has shared a folder or subfolders you only need to put a shortcut to the main folder.

To add a shortcut to your Drive, right-click on the folder or file, then click “Add Shortcut to Drive”

Then use the wizard that appears to navigate anywhere in your Drive – click the arrow that appears across from the Drive folder you want navigate to, and when you get to the folder you want to put the shortcut in, press “Add Shortcut”.

I do this and I also sometimes bookmark folders in my browser so I can go straight to a folder in my file system.

The keys are having some kind of file/folder system, and, where it’s appropriate, sharing the organizing load rather than having either no organization or multiple people spending time organizing the same documents.