Using Google Drive on the Web

In the previous post about using the standard Gmail interface, we started working with one of the popular Google services, that of email. However, knowing this information will automatically want you to try that with other services such as Drive, Contacts, Calendar and even Youtube.

In this post, I am going to share with you a tip on how to access your Google Drive while online. Of course, you can just choose to install it on your computer or phone and forget about it, but there are some situations where you have to directly manage your files while online. This tip is going to show you how.

The Problem

Google Drive is a powerful syncing service that rivals such services as Dropbox and Microsoft One Drive. However, its problem is that, unlike those other services, it is difficult to navigate while online as it uses their standard page, the one we discussed in this tip about Gmail.

Although you can simply choose to ignore the accessibility issues of Google Drive by just installing it on your computer or phone, yet there are cases when you have to share files, or add files shared to you by others. In those cases, you have to go online and manage the files. Even more important, you may regularly want to empty your trash, of which this is something you have to do from time to time. Google Drive does not empty your trash automatically. This trash takes space in your drive.

Another practical consideration working with Google Drive is its generous space of 15GB: other service providers like Dropbox will only give you 2GB for free and have you sweat for the other space by inviting friends.

The Solution

The solution is simply to use the NVDA focus mode or the Jaws forms mode. Go to Google Drive, and after the page finishes loading:

  1. While focus mode is active, press the Shift+Tab until you hear "Google Account" +your GMail username, to move to the top of the Drive panel.

  2. From this point, now press the tab key to move downwards.

  3. Doing this, you will see these sections:

    • New menu (collapsed)
    • My drive Menu (collapsed)
    • Grid View (or Listview)
    • Settings
    • Folders and Views Treeview
    • A section that shows your drive usage: The one with categories we will talk of below.
    • Folder list view.: the one that displays the chosen category.
  4. When you hear an item followed by "menu", for example New, My Drive, Settings ETC., then use your Up and down arrow keys to explore the items in that menu. When the menu is closed, you hear "collapsed, but the moment you start exploring with your arrow keys, the menu will not be collapsed anymore: it will be active.

  5. To Get out of the menu you activated in the step above, press the ESCAPE key.

Working with your files in Google Drive

Now you understand the basics of navigating in Google Drive, you need to know how to work with your files.

One thing you have to take into consideration is that Google Drive categorises your files based on:

  1. Those you put in your Drive folder to sync across all your devices. These are put in the "My Drive" category.
  2. Those documents you get as a result of sharing with others are placed in the "Shared with me" category.
  3. All newly added files are shown under the "Recent" category.
  4. Those photos you capture with your smartphone or tablet are shown under the "Photos" category.
  5. Any document you delete from your "My drive" section are shown in the "Bin" category.
  6. All backups you do using Google are listed under the "Backups" [1] category.

In this post, we will not discuss all these sections, but will just show you how to manage them. We are interested in how to access material in our online locker. So go to the section labelled, "My Drive collapsed". Use your up and down arrow key to move through the different categories listed as items. When you get to the category you want, press the Enter key.

Once you do that, press the TAB key to go to the section "Folder Listview" to see all the items of the category you chose. In the folder Listview section, you will be moving as if you are on a desktop computer: when you want to open a document or folder, press the ENTER key.

Of importance to state here are the My Drive category, the Shared With Me and Bin categories.

Important Drive sections

My Drive
This is where all the documents you put in your Google Drive folder on your computer are shown. Usually you add these files so that they may be synced across devices. What you put here will be shown on your phone, on other computers and so on. So if your computer crashes, you have the peace of mind that you will get these documents here. So choose My Drive section, then when you press enter, tab to the Folder Listview and see all your documents and folders listed here.
Shared With Me
If someone tells you that they shared a document with you, you will often get an email to that effect. Check for the document under this category: press the Shared with Me, then tab to this section and find it listed. You can choose to download the document shared to you, whether it is a single document or a whole folder.
This is sometimes listed as "Trash", depending on the English locale you set. However, press this category to see all the files you deleted. You can choose to restore a file or permanently delete it. You should regularly empty your bin to save space in your drive.


This was just a scratch of the surface of what you can do with Google Drive. However, I trust this tip has helped you get a start working with your files online and to take control of what is synced on your hard drive and what is left out. Perhaps you now know how to access material shared with you by friends and colleagues at work.

Some day I would prepare a handbook dedicated to managing synchronisation services like Google, Dropbox, One Drive and even others such as Mega. The future of cloud computing indeed requires that one understands how to work with more than one computer at a time.

Until next time, have a wonderful syncing experience! and thank you for reading this post.


[1] The Google Backup is a new service introduced by Google for backing up all the files on your computer. This service is separate from the syncing service we were discussing in this post.