– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

Thing 22

Thing 22 (we’re getting there!) for 23 Things For Research is Google Docs/Drive & Dropbox – that is, being able to share, and edit and share, documents online, with yourself or with other people.

I don’t have a lot of collaborative editing to do, or enormous files to share. However, I do often want to be able to send documents to myself, and I wanted to explore possible ways of sharing large image files online when I want to send an image to an enquirer but its size is going to break the email system. So will either or both of these work for me?

Google Drive

I used my personal account for this experiment – I hadn’t looked at Google Drive since it’s been named that, and I discovered that there were already some files in it from the Docs olden days! I deleted most of them.

Word: I uploaded a short Word doc and was able to edit and save, and then download the saved edited version to replace the older version on my work drive.

Access: Then I tried an Access dabatase – total fail. Also it seems I am not using the most up to date browser, which doesn’t help. So I guess if I need access to databases, I’ll still be emailing them to myself. And if I need to populate one away from work, I’ll do it as a Word table and then paste it back into the master list. Clunky but safe.

Images: I successfully, if a bit slowly, uploaded a 9MB image, which isn’t large in my collections but is too big to send via the university email system. I then managed to share it with myself (on another email address, as though with any third party) and managed to view, open and save it at full resolution. It works! It would be clunky to do with several or indeed many files at a time, though.

It does work for Word documents, but then I still have to save the latest revised version from Google Drive to my work drive, so there’s little difference from just emailing it to myself, except I don’t have to download and save the document to work on it away from my work computer. No great advantage so far, but it’s useful to know that this exists.


Dropbox is a non-starter for me to use at work since it requires a software download and I am categorically not allowed to do that. I think this would be useful for someone who doesn’t have a shared network/drive at work where most recent versions of all files need to be stored. If I were a student or doing more of my own research, particularly if I were travelling or using lots of different libraries, I might well find it useful to have a lot of my files stored online rather than in my own laptop. It could also be a handy backup source, though I’ve heard the occasional horror story about wholesale file corruptions which then get copied to working versions on computers… I suppose that’s a hazard anywhere.

Now that I know more about it, and it seems very simple to use for single items, I may well find Google Drive quite useful for sharing small numbers of large image files; for instance, a few photos of a particular Old Member for an individual family history enquirer. Good to have explored this, and it may prove useful in other ways later. Dropbox is out for the moment because of the downloads restrictions at work.

Failing any more to say about Google Drive, I shall add my lament to the general wail about the imminent demise of iGoogle. Alas for the friendly iGoogle home page and its power to organise me from any screen with internet access. So handy for those of us who desk-hop.

2 responses

  1. Pingback: 23 Things for Research roundup | Balliol Archives & Manuscripts

  2. That’s interesting. I also have occasion to send enquirers large image files from time to time. I’ve used Dropbox on the web – I don’t recall having to download software – and also OxFile (http://oxfile.ox.ac.uk/). OxFile is clunky compared to Dropbox, but it has the advantage of University branding and the possibility of restricting access to named members of the University.

    July 23, 2013 at 1:25 pm

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