Files & folders overview

Google Drive organizes files in collections, describes files by types, and provides specific attributes for each file to facilitate file manipulation.

The Google Drive API represents files stored on Drive as a File resource.


Drive organizes files based on the user's relationship with the content and its storage location. Collections are specified as part of the file's metadata to show which group of files the file is stored with inside Drive. The main difference between My Drive and shared drive collections is file ownership. A single user is the owner of files in their My Drive, whereas a group or organization owns files in a shared drive.

My Drive
Each user has a "root" folder called "My Drive" that functions as their primary hierarchy, and consists of everything that descends from this root folder. The user is the primary owner of this folder.
Shared drives
A shared drive is an organizational structure within Drive that lives parallel to My Drive. You can organize an individual file within a shared drive or My Drive, but not both. However, Drive shortcuts can be used to point to files or folders from shared drives to My Drive, or vice versa.

File types

Drive describes files by types. This list shows all available file types:

A file that contains text or binary content such as images, videos, and PDFs.

A container you can use to organize other types of files on Drive. Folders are files that only contain metadata, and have the MIME type application/

Note: A single file stored on My Drive can be contained in multiple folders. A single file stored on a shared drive can only have one parent folder.


A metadata-only file that points to another file on Drive. The shortcut file MIME type is application/ For more information, see Create a shortcut to a Drive file.

Third-party shortcut

A metadata-only file that links to content stored on a third-party storage system. The third-party shortcut file MIME type is application/ For more information, see Create a shortcut to an external file.

Google Workspace document

A file that a Google Workspace application creates, such as Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides. The MIME type format is application/*app* where app is the application name (such as application/ for a Google Sheets file). For a list of Drive and Google Workspace-specific MIME types, see Google Workspace & Google Drive supported MIME types.

Note: You cannot upload or download folders, shortcuts, third-party shortcuts, and Google Workspace documents to or from Drive. However, if they use compatible formats you can upload or export Google Workspace documents. For example, you can create a Google Doc when you import a PDF. Similarly, you can export a Google Slides presentation as a Microsoft PowerPoint file.

File characteristics

This list shows some characteristics of a Drive file:

File ID
A unique, opaque ID for each file. File IDs are stable throughout the life of the file, even if the file name changes. Search expressions are used to locate files by name, type, content, parent container, owner, or other metadata.
Data that describes the content of the file. This data includes the name, type, creation, and modification times. Some metadata fields, such as the name, is user-agnostic and appears the same for each user. Other fields, such as capabilities and viewedByMeDate contain user-specific values. File types, such as images and videos, contain additional metadata extracted from EXIF and other embedded metadata.
An access grant for a user, group, domain, or the world to access a file or a folder hierarchy. Users control who can access a file with the access control list (ACL), which is a list of permissions for the file. For more information, see Share files, folders & drives.
The binary or text body of the file. Some content examples you can store in Google Drive are images, videos, text, and PDF.
Revision history
The record of changes to the file content only, not the file metadata. For more details about revisions, see Changes and revisions overview.
A graphical representation of a file. Drive automatically generates thumbnails for many common file types. For shortcuts and other file types that Drive can't render, you can provide a thumbnail image.

File organization

The Drive API organizes files into storage locations, called spaces, and collections, called corpora.


Specific storage locations that are isolated from each other. All content in Drive is stored in one of these 2 defined spaces: drive and appDataFolder.

  • drive—Includes all user-visible files created in Drive. PDFs, documents, Google Docs, shortcuts, and other content the user uploads is located in the drive space.

  • appDataFolder—Includes per-user application data. Applications typically store configuration files and other data not intended to be directly accessible by users.

Files cannot move between spaces.


Collections of files used to narrow the scope of file and folder searches. The corpora for Drive are: user, domain, drive, and allDrives.

  • user—Includes all files created by and opened by the user in "My Drive", and those shared directly with the user in "Shared with me."

  • drive—Includes all files contained in a single shared drive, as indicated by the driveId.

  • domain—Includes all searchable files shared with the user's domain.

  • allDrives—Includes all files in shared drives where the user is a member, and all files in "My Drive" and "Shared with me." Use the allDrives corpora with caution as it has a broad scope and can affect performance. When possible, use user or drive instead of allDrives for efficiency.

Files can move freely between corpora as permissions and ownership change.

Next steps

Here are a few next steps you might take: