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If he has the local copies of his documents from the local Google Drive sync, wouldn't he at least have that backup, or are the local files not really files at all but just pointers to the cloud storage files?

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?

It looks like indeed it's the latter -- the .gdoc files are just pointers, and moving them out of the google drive is akin to copying the pointer/shortcut...

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.

No, it sounds like in his case, they were just pointers. I wonder, too, what happens around offline access.

"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."

.gdoc don't actually store the document content. They are just small json files with a url and id that point the the actual document on google servers. There is no way to actually get a copy of the google document.

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