How to Use Google Drive for iPad


Using Google Drive on the iPad

The Google Drive for iPad app is a great option for businesses, schools and consumers who are looking to access their data on the move. The free account now comes with 15GB of storage space that is shared between Drive, Gmail and your Google+ Photos. That is a lot more space than some cloud storage providers, and it makes Google Drive an extremely attractive proposition. Here's how to use it on an iPad.

The New Google Drive on Desktop and Mobile

Google Account Management

When you first launch the Drive app you will be asked to sign in. Enter the email address and password for your Google account, then tap "Sign in" to get started.

If you have multiple Google accounts, or you share your iPad with a spouse or family member, you have the option of adding additional accounts and switching between between them to access the files you want. The instructions below will help with that.

  1. Open the Drive app and log in with a Google account.
  2. Tap the menu button in the top left-hand corner of the app.
  3. Next, tap on the Google account email address that you are currently signed in with.
  4. Tap Manage Accounts.
  5. To add an additional account, tap Add account
  6. Add the email and password for the additional Google account and then tap "Sign in".

To switch between accounts, simply tap the menu button in the top left-hand corner of the app and then tap on the email address of the account you are signed in with. This will give you the option to switch to another Google account.

If you would like to remove users from your Drive app, repeat the steps 1-4 (above), and look for the Manage button in the top right hand corner. Tap Manage and then select the account(s) that you would like to remove.


Organizing Your Files in Google Drive for iPad

If you have just been dropping files into your Google Drive without much organization then you'll want to know the options you have for bringing some order to the chaos. Here are some top tips for making your digital drop box a whole lot easier to navigate.

  • Create folders: You can create folders to group your associated files together. Simply tap the red "+" button in the bottom right-hand corner and select "New Folder". To create a sub folder, first open the folder you want it to appear in by tapping on it, then tap the "+" and create the folder as above.
  • Move files to folders: To move files to a folder, tap the "i" next to the file you want to move, and then select Move in order to choose the folder you want to move it to. Tap the blue Move here button when you have selected the location you want.
  • Rename files: Having a good naming structure for your files makes them easier to find, but some files, like photos you may upload from your camera roll, may not have a very memorable file name. Rename files by tapping the "i" again and selecting Rename.
  • Star files: Everyone has their favorite files. The ones they use time and time again or need quick access to. Google lets you bookmark these files with a star. Simply tap the "i" icon to open the file menu and tap the star icon. To see all your starred files, tap the menu button in the top left-hand corner of your screen, and then tap "Starred."
  • Remove files: To move a file to the Trash, tap the "i" icon on the file you want to trash and then tap Remove to send it to the Trash folder.

Bonus Tip: you make a change to your file structure in the Google Drive app for iPad, those changes will be synced to your Drive account and will be visible on all your other devices that access Google Drive.


Search and Sort your Google Drive Files

Can't find the file you need? No problem. The Drive app lets you sort and search through your files to make it easier to locate the one you are looking for. To sort, simply tap the A-Z button in the top right-hand corner and choose how you would like to sort your files - e.g. last edited by me, last modified, last opened by me, or by title.

You can also access a list of the files you worked on most recently. To access recent files, tap the menu button in the top left-hand corner of the app, and tap on Recent. This list includes files you worked on with other devices.

If neither of these get you to what you need, you can always search through your files by tapping on the search icon at the top of the screen and entering the keywords that you think might best be associated with the file you are looking for.


Offline Access to Your Favorite Files

Ordinarily, the Google Drive app relies on an Internet connection to retrieve and display the files you want to access. However, you can make specific files available for offline viewing if you want 24-7 access to some important documents. To do that, follow the instructions below:

  1. Tap the "i" on the file you want to make available offline
  2. In the pop-out menu, look for Keep offline and slide that switch to the ON position.
  3. Repeat for any other files that you want to view offline.

Looking for a quick way to access all your offline files? Tap the menu button in the top left hand corner to reveal the pop-out menu. Tap Offline to see all your offline files.


How to Share Google Files with the Drive App for iPad

Sharing is an important component of Google Drive. The iPad app doesn't give you quite as many options as the desktop version, but there are enough for most people. Here's how to share a file.

  1. Tap the "i" icon on the file you want to share.
  2. Next, tap the Add people icon
  3. Add the name, email address or group that you want to share the file with.
  4. Select the file permissions that you want to give that person (editing rights, commenting or view only).
  5. Tap the checkmark in the top right-hand corner to confirm and share the file.

Alternatively, you can tap the "i" icon and then Get link to copy a view-only link to your iPad's clipboard. You can paste this link into an email or other application to share the file with others.

Bonus Tip: To find files that other people have shared with, look in the Shared with me part of your Drive. Access it on the iPad by tapping the menu button in the top left hand corner and selecting Shared with me.


Uploading Photos and Videos to Google Drive for iPad

Thinking about uploading photos and videos to Google Drive? You should! It can be a great way to save some space on your iPad, backup some of your important media, and share with others. Here's how to do it.

  1. Tap the big red "+" sign in the bottom right-hand corner.
  2. Now tap Upload.
  3. Select Photos and Videos
  4. If this is the first time you have done this, you will have to give Drive permission to access your Photos, so do that if you are prompted to do so.
  5. Then, select the photos and or videos that you want to upload, and tap Upload.

Alternatively, you can tap the "+" sign and select Use Camera. This lets you take a new photo or video and have that uploaded straight to Google Drive as well as saving a copy to your iPad's Photos app.


Using Your Drive Files in Other iPad Apps

If you want to take a file from you Drive account and use it in another app on your iPad, you can, as long as you have an app that is compatible with that file type. Here's what you need to do.

  1. Tap the "i" icon on the file you want to use in another app.
  2. Tap "Open in..." and choose the app you want to send the file to.
  3. The file will then open in the app that you chose.

The "Open in..." function can be great for taking photos or videos that you may have added to your Drive account on a laptop, and sending it to an app like iMovie for use in a video project.


How to Add Files to Drive From Other Apps

If you are looking to add files from other apps to Drive, it is often an easy process. The method for doing so will vary from one app to another, but it will largely look something like this.

  1. Tap the share arrow in the app you created the file in.
  2. Choose the "Open in..." or "Open in another app" option
  3. Tap on Google Drive from the list of apps you are presented with.
  4. The Drive app will then open and you will be asked where you would like to save the file.

Be aware that you are only saving a copy of the file in Google Drive. The original file will still be stored in the app that you created it in.

How to save a Pages document to the Google Drive app
How to save a Pages document to the Google Drive app | Source

Using a Passcode or Touch ID to Protect Your Data

If you want to add a layer of security to the Drive app for iPad, consider adding a passcode or using Touch ID if your device supports it. Once enabled, you will be required to enter a PIN, or fingerprint scan, every time you open the app. Here's how to set it up.

  1. Tap the menu button in the top left-hand corner of the app, to open the pop-out menu on the left of the screen
  2. Tap Settings, then Passcode Lock
  3. Slide the switch to the "ON" position
  4. Choose a four-digit PIN and re-enter it to confirm your choice.
  5. Tap Always Lock if you want to be prompted for the passcode every time you open the app.
  6. If your device supports Touch ID, you can enable that by tapping Allow Touch ID to unlock. This will bypass the passcode and allow you to unlock Drive with a quick scan of your fingerprint.
  7. Tap the arrow in the top left to go back, and tap the "X" to close the Settings window.

Note that you can add a passcode for every user account that is added to the app. So, if you share your iPad with others, and they also use the Drive app, you can all have your own passcodes so that your files are protected and hidden from view.



The Google Drive for iPad app is not as powerful as Drive on the desktop, but it is improving all the time. You can perform almost all the essential file management functions you might need from the comfort of your iPad, and still have access to everything you need without using a laptop. So, if you are looking for a great place to store and access your files on a mobile device, and you are running out of space in Dropbox, you should definitely check it out!

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© 2014 Jonathan Wylie

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Comments 15 comments

christocarter profile image

christocarter 2 years ago from Shanghai, China

Jonathan Wylie hits a home run with this article. The content is easy to follow, the screen captures are professional, and the language is clear. The piece is highly contributive given that so many schools use iPads. My school is an example. I am sharing with all of my colleagues. Thank you, Jonathan!

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Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA Author

You are too kind Chris! Thanks for reading and sharing :)

WestelCS profile image

WestelCS 2 years ago

I have seen many people stuck with their iPhones thinking they cannot possibly use Google drive to access their data just because they are trying to do so on an Apple device. This would help them a lot. Thanks for sharing.

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Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA Author

I agree and you are right WestelCS! :) Thanks for reading.

Fbriley 2 years ago

Enjoyed the article and found several helpful tips to use with 5th and 6th grade students. They often use iPads for stop motion animation, graphic organizers, notes, and photo editing. Students upload their work to Google Drive accounts. Now I need some tips on remembering to sign out and cleanup their files.

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Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA Author

LOL! Maybe there is an app for that Fbriley. If you find it, let me know :)

keanyu profile image

keanyu 2 years ago


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Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA Author

Thanks keanyu! That means a lot! :)

JBD 2 years ago

It's too bad that the new version Google Drive, Docs and Sheets totally ignore where you select to save the files to and dumps everything to the root of the Drive.

And that Docs and Sheets don't even show the directory structure of the Drive, just a listing of all the documents that can be opened by the app.

What the point of keeping everything organized in folders, when the iOs apps give you no choice of where to save the files to. For this reason alone, makes these applications damn near useless.

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Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA Author

I agree with you JBD. That is a little frustrating. Still, the new apps are still new. Hopefully that will come in a future update.

Dr. Ginger Veazey 2 years ago

Thank you Johnathon. You just made this old women's idevices world much easier to understand and thrive in. Having been a teacher prior to becoming a veterinary surgeon, I think I can say with confidence that your ability to smplify a diificult concept with percision & accuracy is outstanding. Thanks again for caring enough to explain & share. Keep on writing!!! Ginger

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Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA Author

Thanks Ginger. You made my day :)

Sudipta 6 days ago

I got the Google drive app on my ipad and uploaded few videos from Photos library, then deleted them from the latter. The idea was to reduce storage on my iPad. Why has my storage for Google drive app shot up to 5.6gb? Isnt it supposed be on cloud?

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Jonathan Wylie 5 days ago from Iowa, USA Author

Yup. That's the idea. Double check in Drive to make sure that the videos have not been made available offline. If they are available offline, they will use device storage.

Sudipta 2 days ago

Yes, I checked n checked, they're not available offline. Problem is I can't upgrade software due to insufficient storage. Doesn't make sense.

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    Jonathan Wylie59 Followers
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    Jonathan is a certified teacher who taught in the UK & the US. He now works as an instructional technology consultant for Grant Wood AEA.

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