Files and folders overview

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

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

Ownership

Drive organizes files based on the user's relationship with the content as well as 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 Google Drive. The main difference between My Drive and shared drive collections are the 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 Google Drive that lives parallel to My Drive. You can organize an individual file within a shared drive or in My Drive but not both.

File types

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

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

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/vnd.google-apps.folder.

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.

Shortcut

A file that links to content stored on a third-party storage system, and only contains metadata. The shortcut file MIME type is application/vnd.google-apps.drive-sdk.

G Suite document

A file that a G Suite application, such as Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, creates. The MIME type format is application/vnd.google-apps.*app* where app is the application name (e.g. application/vnd.google-apps.spreadsheet for a Google Sheets file). For a list of Google Drive and G Suite-specific MIME types, see G Suite and Drive MIME types.

Note: You cannot upload or download folders, shortcuts, and G Suite documents to or from Google Drive. However, you can upload or export G Suite documents if they use compatible formats. For example, you can create a Google Doc when you import a PDF. Similarly, you can export a Google Slides presentation as a .pptx 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.
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 are user-agnostic and appear 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.
Permission
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, and drives.
Content
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.
Thumbnail
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.

Spaces

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

  • Drive space - The drive space includes all user-visible files created or stored in Google Drive. PDFs, Google Docs, Sheets, and slides, and any other content the user uploads, is located in the drive space.

  • App data folder space - The appDataFolder space is a separate storage area for per-user application data. Applications typically store configuration files and other data not intended to be directly accessed by users.

  • Photos space - The photos space includes all user-visible image files created or stored in Google Drive.

Files cannot move between spaces.

Corpora

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

  • User corpora - The user corpora includes all files in "My Drive" and "Shared with me."

  • Domain corpora - The domain corpora includes all files shared to the user's domain that are searchable.

  • Drive corpora - The drive corpora includes all files contained in a single shared drive.

  • All drives corpora - The allDrives corpora includes all files in shared drives that the user is a member of 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.

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

Next steps

Here are a few next steps you might take: