While Word and Excel (and plenty of other kinds of non-cloud document) files usually contain data besides links, and sometimes contain no links, they can contain content which is non-obviously (from visual inspection) provided through a link which is broken if the file is moved. And, unlike gdocs, you don't usually get a warning when you drag them out of the folder which tells you exactly what is going to happen if you do that.
I would assume its the same Google Drive background process that syncs changes made to files in the folder back to Drive, just using special handling for the case of "you moved a file that is a link to content in a Google web service and rather than a normal file".
Edit: HDF5 is great for storing OT data too, even if the operations and handling are proprietary.
Not only that, but if it were the actual file on your local drive and not a link, there wouldn't be an option to "make this file available offline". There were cues which the author missed, but they were obviously not prominent enough which is a (the) design flaw.
Let this be a lesson that you should have multiple backups for anything important. I personally have 2 online backup systems and 3 local ones, the worth of which practice I learned the hard way like this author.
Also think twice before you empty the trash - you're manually making these files unrecoverable from the internet, and if your machine went up in smoke after you hit the button, you'd be screwed. That alone warrants serious consideration.
Glad you read the article though, now you're not going to fall for this flaw in the future.
For a techie, perhaps. For a non-techie, that's something they're unlikely to have ever seen happen in their filesystem. Even if they opened it in Notepad, they'd probably not know the ramifications of what's shown there.
If I take Google Doc files I have created in the browser and drag them from my google drive folder on my computer, into another folder, I get a file named the same as the document I had created that basically contains a URL. My gdoc files still only exist in the cloud. What I have in my hand is bupkis. So what are gdoc files? They certainly aren't real files and few people understand that they are worthless outside of the Google Drive folder.
No one expects this is how document dragging to or from folders works.
When dragging gdoc files out of a folder, there needs to be someway for Google Drive to give you the actual file from the cloud.
I'd recommend anyone who uses Google Docs to download a zip file of their Drive weekly, and if possible, use some of the backup tools like [Insync].
Overall, I agree that the Google Drive interface is not totally clear about what the disk files represent.
That they go to the trash is good user design, to prevent users from doings things like this guy did...
I agree that the user wasn't being super-careful, but it's entirely reasonable to think that, if Google docs appear on your local hard drive, that they are files that can be manipulated just like any others, and that copying/moving them to another folder would preserve their data.
I still feel bad for him - but the warning clearly says:
"An item you recently removed from your Google Drive folder has been moved to your trash on drive.google.com.
This item is just a link. If you empty your trash on drive.google.com, this item will be permanently deleted."
EDIT: re read article . Moving files into local disk deletes them on google drive and makes the moved versions useless links. Now agree with the author: that's goddamned terrible.
EDIT 2: actually the files are always links, but if the links are moved outside google drive the correspondi go data is moved into Google drive trash. See jamesaguilar below. Still goddamned terrible.
The real failure here is that you shouldn't be able to move the drive links out of the drive folder, since semantically that does not actually move the files.
(Filed a bug, but I'm not on the Drive team so I can't really take responsibility for this getting fixed. It does seem like a problem to me, but I don't know their infrastructure nor the limitations of shell extensions, so I can't really comment on whether a fix is feasible either.)
Or stop trying to force a connection between Google Drive's file view and Google Docs.
Move the links out of GDrive all you want, it should have no effect whatsoever on the hosted GDocs. They're just links, after all. Since when does moving or deleting a link delete actual data?
Someone at Google tried to force a connection that doesn't even make sense, and this is the result. Whoever decided that moving a link out of a folder should delete the hosted document should be fired.
There is very little you can do about this, google is okay with it because there's no official offline gDocs viewer/editor so in their minds it doesn't make sense to fill up your harddrive with real files that can't even be accessed on your computer. Also they warn you that those files aren't real under certain circumstances (I've seen the warning before, though I don't remember the context).
Google does not sync the data to you, just a tiny file with the same name as your data that bounces you to the website.
What this alert needs to say is something like this:
WARNING: you have moved this file out of Google Drive WHICH HAS DELETED IT. The file that you moved does not contain your content. It is merely a link back to the original content WHICH IS NOW IN THE TRASH. EMPTYING YOUR TRASH WILL PERMANENTLY DELETE THE DATA AND THE FILE WHICH YOU MOVED DOES NOT CONTAIN A COPY OF IT.
They're destroying the user's data in a scenario where they would not expect it. A teeny little warning buried in an alert filled with other stuff simply does not cut it.
The fact that you need lots of DIRE CAPITALIZED TEXT to get the point across shows, I think, that this whole system is a bad idea.
As blcknight alluded to, this rule is only relevant when the proportion of users for whom it is an issue is non-trivial.
Regardless, I think it's pretty bad design. I would naturally expect a file named "My Document Name.gdoc" that's sitting in a folder on my desktop to actually contain the contents of my document. That's how files normally work. Doing otherwise goes against longstanding convention.
Dropbox would work the same way. Although it might be permanent, but I've never tried something so ridiculous.
It's how EVERY DRIVE in the history of computers work!
If I take my files out of my HD, they will be deleted from the HD. If I move my files out of my flash drive, they will be deleted from my flash drive.
The only way that I would be surprised by this behaviour is if I had never used a computer at all in my life.
No. No, it's not. I have experience with Google Drive, iDrive, SkyDrive and DropBox. The only oddball one that leads to losing data like this is Google Drive.
With SkyDrive, it works very similar to DropBox. Your cloud drive is just a folder on your disk, synched between multiple computers. If you move a file from your cloud drive to your local drive, it moves the actual file - not a pointer to it.
Google Drive is a terrible morass of confusing design. It's not an exaggeration to say they should shut down and start over.
document.gdoc is not a file, you are mistaken
If it's the latter, does that mean that's it's literally impossible to make backups of your Google Docs documents? If I were to use a another backup program to backup my Google Drive folder, it wouldn't be possible to restore those files if the Google Drive files got deleted?
But, more than that, moving the .gdoc file pointer out of Google drive moves the actual cloud file to the trash? That was my best guess after re-reading the OP, and that does seem like a UX issue. From a UX point of view, moving a shortcut to a file should not move that file to the trash somewhere else.
"The steps I took were to move files out of a Goole Drive folder on my local computer thinking that the files were all there. In fact they are there, but the .gdoc files are just empty links with no data. I see a list of everything I wrote in Google Docs, but can never see the actual content again."
I think the arguments can be dumb too, but the guy actually lost files here. And it's the kind of mistake I could see myself making pretty easily. In other contexts you protect against this with non-local backups (ironically, that's probably 90% of my usage of Drive), but there's no equivalent in the cloud world. It's a real issue that needs to be addressed, I think.
And And those who lost their file will blame the UI.
I understand the frustration and how terrible the poster feels but this anecdotal argument is irrelevant to the actual safety or UI quality of Google Drive.
There will always be users who lose their data due to glitches, technical illiteracy, bad design etc. There are literally dozens, maybe hundreds of million Google Drive users.
The lesson that can be learned here is this:
Your personal data management system should never have a single point of failure.
Disclaimer: I was a Googler sometime ago but wasn't anywhere near the Drive team.
Not only that but dropbox keeps a few revisions for you if you happen to overwrite the file.
I've NEVER heard anyone complain about these features before.
"Files in your trash are about to be permanently deleted, including Google Docs in your Trash. Warning: When using Google Drive for PC/Mac, Google Docs aren’t actual files saved on your hard drive; they are links to files stored online."
If you want a real backup of Google Docs, try Takeout: https://www.google.com/settings/takeout
Google Docs, however, does not provide "actual files" with substantive content for its native documents, you have to export them to other formats to have "actual files".
An item you recently removed from your Google Drive folder has been moved to your trash on drive.google.com.
This item is just a link. If you empty your trash on drive.google.com, this item will be permanently deleted.
"Ok, move to trash" "Undo"
Further, everyone I know that uses Google Apps / Drive has no idea how to use it properly. One common thing I see is people will send a link to a particular document not knowing they've unwittingly given the person access to all of their documents. One person sent a link out to a spreadsheet that had a beach house signup in it. A couple of clicks in the unfamiliar user interface and I find myself looking at the filenames of all his docs - one of which was potentially very embarrassing. For his sake, I didn't mention it but only sent him an article later on about how to secure your Google Drive files.
What? Share links for documents are just a link to that document no to the folders where they are
By the way, I have tried now, you can just see or edit the document shared, nothing more
You're the one that have to prove it, until then, you're just writing bullshit
There are many free online data storage systems. If you're happy with the privacy implications, it's not hard to run Google Drive, Dropbox and box.net on the same directory for some degree of resilience.
Backuping them over Dropbox/Box/Skydrive/* would have been useless, as he still has those .gdoc files anyway.
To actually get a backup, he would have saved the files as .doc/.pdf/any other classic format from Google Docs.
I'm not saying that backups are useless, mind you - Only that they wouldn't have helped in this specific case.
Google Drive gives you this fake file pointer that it wants you to think is a document, but then when you try to use it as such (backup and restore), you find out the files actually got deleted.
This is a case of shitty UI, plain and simple.
The various Google Docs, etc., web apps only put links to the real content in Drive, however.
Any file that you created with a method that would let you store it in Dropbox will be synced the same way in Drive as it would be in Dropbox, the only difference is web apps that are tied to the Drive UI that don't store their substantive content in Drive in the first place, which obviously Dropbox won't help with. (Conceptually, you could have web apps that do the same thing in Dropbox, though I don't know if the Dropbox API and Web UI have features that would make it attractive to do.)
The problem is not that Drive deleted his stuff on Google. The problem is that Drive deleted his stuff on Google after taking an action that should have left him with local copies of the data, but didn't.
"An item you recently removed from your Google Drive folder has been moved
to your trash on drive.google.com.
This item is just a link. If you empty your trash on
drive.google.com, this item will be permanently deleted."
You can't actually write a decent warning message, because if you did, it would sound so ridiculous, you would never actually be able to live with it.
We noticed some files have been removed from your Google
We can't tell the difference between you moving files
from your Google Drive folder to another folder on your
hard drive, and you simply deleting files from your
Google Drive folder.
We're going to guess that you performed a delete, and so
we've also moved the actual document, which is stored in
the cloud, to your Trash folder on drive.google.com.
If you actually moved files out of your Google Drive
folder to another folder on your hard drive, you might
think that file you have on your computer is a copy of
the source material. Alas, it is not.
Please understand that file you may have on your
computer right now is just a link to the item in the
cloud, which is currently sitting in the Trash. You
DO NOT actually have a copy of item itself on your hard
If you empty your trash in the cloud, you will be
permanently deleting the only copy in existence of this
Make it as as simple as possible, but no simpler.
Conflating hyperlinks with the actual content to the point where deleting the hyperlink causes the content to move to the trash is nonsensical.
 Empty Trash?
Files in your trash are about to be permanently deleted, including Google Docs in your Trash. Warning: When using Google Drive for PC/Mac, Google Docs aren’t actual files saved on your hard drive; they are links to files stored online. Learn more
You can’t undo this action
Doing regular backups even of your data in the cloud is in my opinion a crucial action, since everyone trusts fully into the cloud provider to provide his data always, anywhere and forever, which is - as you experienced - a dangerous and naive assumption.
I learned along the way never to make assumptions about how file syncing works. There's no right answer to what to do in all situations, so your expectations aren't always going to match what the programmer/product owner decided to do.
There's literally no precedent for any other way. You move a file, and the file you moved still contains the same thing. That's how it works everywhere, including with all other file syncing services.
As the author said: "I didn't think anything of it". Nothing to add :)
Sad, to be sure, but there's no kind of critical document storage that doesn't need a backup.
What exactly was the "responsible" backup policy supposed to have been?
All of my .gdoc and .gsheet files were 4 KB when I last used the Google Drive desktop client. How is it reasonable to conclude that all of one's Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets are 4 KB each? I could definitely understand how my mom might arrive at this conclusion, but this guy identifies as a "web designer and developer".
All of them have poor user interfaces?
The first three are only links (or pointers) the last one is an actual file.
When you remove the first three from the gDrive folder Google will actually move those documents to the trash and your link becomes kinda useless, when you move the last one from the gDrive folder Google still moves the file to your trash (in gDrive) but because it's a real file, you still have it. Google does this because they don't offer a true offline viewer/editor and thus it makes no sense (to them) to take up offline space.
With dropbox all files are considered real and therefore when you remove them from dropbox you retain the file even if it's no longer synced.
While skydrive has office docs, they too are stored as real files on your computer and thus if you remove them from the skydrive folder you get to keep the file even if it's moved to the rB in skydrive.
note: (in the screenshot) those check-marks might be skydrive check-marks and not google's, this is because my gDrive folder is inside my skydrive folder for redundancy -- it still wont sync gDocs, but since I don't really use gDocs I'm okay.
Google Drive local files do, in fact, contain your data, for any files that you put into Drive.
The issue is that the native files for certain web services that use the Drive interface (including Google's own Documents, Spreadsheets, etc.) are just links to content stored with the web service, not containers for the content itself.
The problem is just with Google Docs files
Is this a thing?
The Google Docs (and Spreadsheets/Forms/etc.) native files are, however, links to online resources that are manipulated via an API, not document files in the usual sense.