GOOGLE DRIVE

Just after we wrote about Microsoft’s Skydrive’s free 25 gigabytes of online storage, they started charging for it. They’re still king of the freebie hill with seven free gigabytes, but the competing new Google Drive is worth a spin.

Google Drive (Drive.Google.com) gives you five gigabytes free, and unlike other storage sites, lets you edit the documents you store. That’s because it connects seamlessly to Google Docs, which has it’s own word processor. And — as they might say on late night TV — any documents you create with the Google Docs word processor don’t count toward using up the five gigabytes of storage. If you need 25 gigabytes, it costs $2.49 a month.

The built-in search function in Google Drive makes it easy to find saved documents and photos in any of 30 file types. It’s supposed to be able to identify a person in a photo, such as Steve Jobs, without any caption. Well, that’s the theory. In our tests, it could only find Steve Jobs’ photo if it was already labeled “SteveJobs.”

To get it, start by downloading a small program to your PC or Mac. You don’t have to install it, but having the drive on your desktop makes it easier to organize stuff into folders. Once you do that, your files and folders will be available on any computer you use, as soon as you sign in to your Google account. This is totally significant, because you might be out there in the cosmic ether with just a smartphone or one of the new tablets. An Android app for Google Drive is also available, and an iPhone app is coming soon. CNETtv.com has a good video called “Get Started With Google Drive”

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