Intro to Google Drive and Google Slides

Google Drive is a free service from Google that lets you create, edit, store and share files that you can access on your computer, tablet or smart phone at any time.
You can use Google Drive as a cloud storage service (like Dropbox or Box)—the Google Drive app can be installed as a folder on your desktop, tablet, or phone and it syncs with Google Drive online. Anything you place in your Drive can be accessed from anywhere as long as you’re connected to the internet.
You can also use Google’s web-based apps to open, edit, and create a number of file types including documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. When you upload a file into your Google Drive, it will ask whether you want to convert the file or leave it in its original format.
A big advantage of Google Drive is collaboration. Not only can you create new files or edit existing ones, you can opt to share them with others via Google Drive and even work on files together in real-time. To share a file or folder, just right-click and select sharing options. You can also share your entire Google Drive with others.
Google Drive sharing options
Once the file is shared, you will be able to see who is viewing the document, where their cursor is if they are editing the file, and any comments they’ve made—and, of course, other users will be able to see yours.

Google Slides live editing
Editing and commenting in real time

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Set up a Google Drive account at This establishes Google Drive as a desktop-like interface that appears as a tab in your web browser. If you already have an account with Google (for Gmail or another service), guess what? You can use the same credentials to get started with Google Drive.
  2. Optional: Install the Google Drive app on your desktop/tablet/smart phone. At, click on Download Google Drive to add the Google Drive folder to your desktop. The folder syncs with your Google Drive, so any files you add to it will be uploaded to your Google Drive account on the web. And vice versa: files you create in Google Drive exist in your desktop Google Drive folder. You can also search Google Play, Windows mobile, and Apple’s App store for the Google Drive app (note that there are separate apps now for Google Drive, Docs, and Sheets for iOS).

There’s a lot to discover with Google Drive and probably the best way to get familiar with what it has to offer is just to dig in and experiment.
Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides
But, since our focus is on presentations, here’s quick look at some features and limitations we’ve discovered in Google Slides:

  • No surprise, Google Slides is not nearly as robust as PowerPoint or Keynote—not by any means. From a designer’s perspective, the formatting tools are relatively minimal and sometimes a bit frustrating to work with. These tools are likely to evolve over time as Google continues to refine and develop features.
  • If you’re creating a presentation from scratch, you can choose from a basic theme palette and get started pretty quickly creating slides. It’s easy to enter and edit text, and make some basic formatting choices.

Google Slides default templates

  • You can’t really make edits to multiple objects or slides at the same time (e.g., Ctrl+A to select everything on a slide). You’ll have to make formatting changes one text block, one slide element at a time.
  • There appears to be no way to add slide numbers.
  • Copying a slide (or elements on a slide) from one presentation to another is difficult.
  • Grouping slide elements or aligning them on the slide is not easy.
  • When importing from a PowerPoint, you will lose your master slides, and vice versa when you export from Slides back to PowerPoint.

So, if you want an easy way to create, edit, and collaborate on your documents, then Google Drive is a great choice. However, with the many limitations of Google Slides, don’t expect all the functionality of Apple’s Keynote or Microsoft’s PowerPoint. Of course, this could all change as Google continues to develop their office applications.
Does your organization use Google Slides? What do you think are its best features? We’ve created custom Google Slides templates for a few of our clients and would love to compare notes or help with your next Google Slides project!

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