Chrome OS gadgets are not the most storage-savvy devices on the market and learning how to pin Drive folders on a Chromebook is, as a result, paramount.
The problems associated with that, of course, are many. Chromebooks may be cloud-based and future-forward, often only offering a minimal 32GB or 64GB storage. But they can also, in some cases, delete locally stored data unexpectedly. That all but forcing users to make use of Google Drive integration and other options for storing data online.
Even though the Chrome OS file management system, tucked in the "Files" application, should look familiar to most who migrate over. It isn't necessarily easier to navigate. Especially since specific folders can't be moved to the home page — the Chrome OS 'desktop' equivalent — or to the dock — or 'taskbar'. Users are, instead, required to navigate the maze of folders created in Drive and representing local partitions.
That's going to be every time a file is needed. So it isn't going to be as intuitive as might be hoped, although the rest of the operating system certainly is. Users have to open up the Files app and navigate around or search to locate files, making it a hassle to rediscover and manage even files that are accessed often.
Thankfully, Google has worked to ensure Chromebook users can pin folders for quicker access and it's made doing so easy. But it isn't a feature that's often advertised and learning how to do pin a folder on a Chromebook isn't intuitive either.
Why would you want quick access to Google Drive folders in Chrome OS?
There are plenty of reasons why a user might want to pin folders for easier access in Chrome OS. The most prominent of those are all going to center around ease-of-access, better organization, and file security. Now, each of those is intrinsically woven into the others, at the end of the day. And that all comes down to how Chrome OS works.
For starters, it's a fairly well-known fact that Chromebooks are low-storage devices that rely heavily on cloud storage. The Files application does allow users to create their own nested hierarchy of folders to better organize and keep track of everything on-device. But that storage isn't guaranteed. Files saved to Downloads, for instance, are deleted automatically when space runs low. And there are reports that other files on-device can be too in the worst-case scenarios.
Google Drive is also a nested hierarchy of folders. And it will serve as the easiest fix for most users since it is extremely well-integrated into the Files app. Nested folders aren't always the best way to find things, especially when there are dozens or hundreds of folders to manage.
While not applicable to every user, most users will predominantly use just a few locations in the storage partition. Or in Drive for that matter. But finding those folders each and every time is a very real pain point. It can feasibly mean minutes wasted searching every single time the File system is accessed. Using Google Drive is better for file saving. But it isn't any better for rediscovering or quickly moving things around.
The ability to create pinned Google Drive shortcuts represents one of the best solutions for those problems. Not only does that place users' most commonly used locations a single click away. That simultaneously helps users remember and keep the most important files off-device while addressing difficulties associated with organizing files. Safer saving is a click-and-drag away with pinned folders. And so is recovery or use of files when they are needed.
Of course, files and folders can also be made 'available' offline using the Chrome web UI. But that comes with complications of its own. Particularly where spotty connections and ensuring a proper backup are concerned.
So, without further ado, let's take a look at why users would want to pin folders in the Files application on a Chromebook and how to get that done.
Here's how to pin your favorite or most used folders
For the time being, pinning folders only seems to work with Google Drive folders. That might change in the future. It isn't out of the question that Google could add support for other cloud services natively. But, for now, that limitation remains in place.
- Navigate to the app launcher in the Chrome OS shelf
- Locate and open the Files application
- Navigate to the desired folder
- Right-click with either a two-finger click or by holding "alt" while clicking — on touch screen devices, an intuitive long-press can be used, just like in Android
- Tap or click on "Pin Folder"
After finishing those steps, the folder selected should appear in the directory above "My Files." That directory is separated from others via a dividing line. Chrome OS places folders that users pin on a Chromebook alongside "Recent," "Audio," "Images," and "Videos" directly. More specifically, at the bottom of that list, organized in the order in which they're pinned.
So whichever folder was pinned first, that's the one that will appear at the top. Subsequent pins will follow in order. Those files remain intrinsically linked to Google Drive and represent local temporary directories for the online folder, intermixed with the online storage itself. But for most intents and purposes they can simply be viewed as a link between online and locally stored files. Or as an easy way to edit and manage cloud-stored files.
You can remove folders that you pin just as easily on a Chromebook
Removing a pinned folder in Chrome OS is decidedly even more simplistic. That's mostly because users won't need to search for the folders they want to interact with or remove. It'll already be front and center amongst any other folders they have pinned.
- Pull up the context menu via either a right-click on the folder or a long-press for users with touch-enabled screens.
- Scroll down with either arrow keys or with the mouse and taps or click on the now-apparent "Unpin folder" option.
Chrome will then remove the chosen folder from that location automatically with no further interaction from users. The folder and its contained files do, of course, still exist in the Google Drive cloud. And they can still be found via standard search methods. But it will no longer be accessible in the quick access segment of the Files app's sidebar directory.
Now you can more quickly and easily access your files
Once the steps to pin folders are completed, navigating through the Chrome OS filesystem is much easier. But users should also be aware of a couple of UI quirks in the Chrome OS Files app that can be somewhat misleading.
The folders themselves work just like standard file folders on any desktop platform. Users can click and drag files to the folders or out of the folders. Or they can use keyboard shortcuts to copy or cut and paste the files. Many keyboard shortcuts in Chrome OS, including those, work just like they do on Windows or other desktop platforms. So that can be a much easier way to get the task done.
Google's platform makes it easy to see the progress of those moves when they pertain to the cloud too. But, as with pinning folders and as hinted here, it isn't intuitive. It can be easy to mistakenly think that files are finished. But shutting down before they've completely transferred can create problems of its own, forcing the system to constantly try and sync the files later on — unable to recognize that the process has already finalized.
In those latter cases, a factory reset using a powerwash is often the only answer. While not difficult, that resets the device to an 'as-new' state. So files can be lost in the process. So it's a good idea to cover how the syncing UI works as well.
In the Files app, while files are moving to the cloud, it's worth noting, a new card-style UI will appear. That's there to ensure users know that, when, and where the files are being moved. The first card to appear does only that and it only shows the movement locally. It absolutely does not represent the completion of the file being moved over to the cloud. That appears on a second card.
After the first card disappears, a separate card appears for syncing. The card denotes its purpose explicitly so that users can see what the system is doing. That way users can see when their files have been safely backed up to Google Drive. The card, like the one for the movement itself, comes complete with a figure representing how many operations remain to be completed. It also showcases a percentage to give some indication of the time remaining for the move.
Once the move is complete, the card will switch over to one showing that's the case. After just a few moments, that card will disappear too. Users should be aware that a short delay can happen between the cards showing or disappearing. So it's a good idea to watch for the UI changes while interacting with files to move them around.