Google begins rolling out icon-driven Google Drive interface

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By Mark Hachman, PC World | July 8th, 2014

Google adds a visual element to its Google Drive interface, using icons instead of a minimalistic text interface.

For years, Google’s online apps have been dominated by a minimalist, text-driven interface. For Google Drive, at least, that’s no longer the case.

Google appears to have begun rolling out a more vibrant, icon-driven interface to its Google Drive Web interface, replacing its list of filenames with a more visual aspect that shows off the files themselves. PCWorld senior writer Brad Chacos reported seeing the new interface in his version of Google Drive; if it’s available to you, a pop-up notice will implore you to “Try the new Drive” by clicking on the Settings gear and selecting “Experience the new Drive” in its options.

For the rest of us, Google showed off the new interface in a YouTube video.

While a text-based interface works adequately for a list of documents or PDFs, it becomes more of an issue when Google Drive is used as a secondary repository for a number of photos, especially when they’re stored using the default filenames. (Google+ will store photos that are automatically uploaded from a smartphone–and not charge users against their storage cap–but there’s nothing preventing users using Google Drive to store photos from a Windows Phone, for example.)

Google’s most significant change to Google Drive has been the integration of its QuickOffice suite, turning documents opened in Google Drive into something more directly competitive with Microsoft Office. (Are you confused where Google Drive stops and Google Apps begins? Here’s our primer to walk through the differences.) Third-party add-ons like HelloFax have also stepped in to add functionality, while users can also add plugins to the Chrome browser to gain even more.

But as far as Drive goes, the best way for Windows users to use Drive is to simply use the app. (On the left hand navigation rail, click to download the “Install Drive for your computer” link.) Once installed on your computer, Drive appears as a normal Windows window, with the ability to list files or view them as icons, much like any other window. Even Google’s new icon view isn’t as useful.