A big fan of Google’s cloud-based storage system? Maybe you’re getting some free space from your school? An impressive number of Web apps plug right into Google Drive and let you get more out of the platform — here’s our pick of the best five tools that you should know about.
To be clear, these are web apps that use Google Drive as a back-end and save your work there (like Docs, Sheets and Slides), letting you open up files right from Drive on the web. They aren’t add-ons that pop up from inside the existing apps — check out this run-down on Lifehacker for a few of those.
Remember the hugely impressive online image editor Picnik? After Google acquired it in 2010 and rolled its features into Google+, two of the original engineers left to build PicMonkey, one of the very best image editing tools you’re likely to find inside of a browser. It’s free to use although some of the advanced effects, fonts and filters (and the removal of the ads) require a subscription: $US4.99 a month or $US33 a year.
Not only does PicMonkey put a great selection of tools and options at your fingertips, it makes photo editing fun. From changing the colours and the exposure to dropping in text and shapes, there’s plenty to play around with, and your mistakes are easily undone. Some professional-level filters and touch up tools are included too. Once PicMonkey is installed in Chrome, it appears as an option when you open up an image from Google Drive. [Link]
If video editing is more important to you than photo editing then WeVideo is a great option. You might not be able to cut a Hollywood blockbuster using the software, but it’s clean and fast and comes with all of the features that the average user is going to need. Chop and change scenes, drop in titles and music, and much more.
The software throws up a familiar timeline interface in your browser and there are a selection of themes included to get you started. The app even offers offline support so you can keep working when your Internet connection goes kaput. Like PicMonkey, WeVideo is free but offers an upgrade plan if you want to remove some of the export limitations. [Link]
Add a diagram builder to your suite of Google Drive applications with Draw.io. It offers a pleasingly simple interface but it’s capable of some impressively complex results. Despite the limitations of your Web browser, you’ll find yourself to drop in shapes, connections, images, icons and just about anything else you need to produce an eye-catching diagram. The app is free as its developers sell the underlying technologies to corporate customers.
Colours are of course key when it comes to presenting diagrams — more so as they get more complex — but assigning borders and shades to your shapes is as straightforward as everything else within the app. It has a clean and clear interface that mimics those used by the native Google Drive apps, while there are a host of vector and bitmap export options to choose from too. [Link]
The obvious omission when it comes to the office suit built into Google Drive is an online database, a hole that Obvibase is looking to plug. It’s not as advanced as Access, but it does feature all the tools you need to collect and collate records, and the spreadsheet-style interface means you won’t need a qualification in database software to get started (the demo database is helpful if you’re an absolute beginner).
The interface is simple to navigate and there’s a definite Google Drive-esque feel to the menus and options. The breadcrumb links at the top of the screen help you work out exactly where you are in your database at all times. Your databases are saved on Obvibase’s servers, but you can attach files directly from Google Drive (or Dropbox) and export CSV files as necessary. The basic edition of Obvibase is free, but you can pay $US4.99 a month to be able to collaborate on files with other people. [Link]
5. Audio Cutter
Sometimes the simplest apps are the most useful. Audio Cutter lets you open tracks from your Google Drive and save them back there afterwards, concentrating on just one job — chopping down the audio file of your choice to a desired length. If you open up a video file then Audio Cutter can isolate its soundtrack ready for editing.
Audio Cutter is able to handle pretty much any audio or video format you throw at it, and you can preview your changes inside your browser before you apply them. There’s also the option to add fades at the start or end of your track for a slightly more professional feel. Finished clips can be saved back to Google Drive in MP3, AAC, WAV or AMR format. [Link]