Jul 31, 2019

URL-based searches of your Google Drive

Just before a recent short holiday, I ran across an article from 2017 which described how to search Google Drive directly from Chrome's address bar. "Interesting," I thought, and with the possibility of integrating such Google Drive searches with IntelliWebSearch or memoQ's integrated web search feature (or similar features in other environments) in mind, I shared the link with a few friends.

Google Drive and its application suite, which includes GoogleDocs (the word processor) and Google Sheets (the spreadsheet application), offer many possibilities for helping in language projects, collaborative and otherwise. I have written extensively about these possibilities with terminology (here, for example, and in a number of related articles). But these earlier investigations involved specific documents and viewing these - or selected portions of them - in a web browser window. Searching a number of files of various types on one's Google Drive ("My Drive") or a subfolder thereof is a little different. Possibly more useful in some circumstances, such as in a group project where multiple participants are contributing to a shared reference folder (though this folder will have to be added to the "My Drive" of each collaborator).

Google's Help for the relevant search function explains:
You can find files in Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides by searching for:
  • File title
  • File contents
  • Items featured in pictures, PDF files, or other files stored on your Drive
You can only search for files stored in My Drive. Files stored in folders shared with you won't appear in your search unless you add the folders to My Drive.
You can also sort and filter search results.
It all starts with a basic URL, such as
Execute that in your browser's address bar, replacing the SOMETEXT with your desired search expression, and you'll get a hit list of all files on your Google drive which include that text in the title or contents. In a tool like memoQ Web Search, it is substituted by the placeholder for search text that the application uses (that is {} in the case of memoQ Web Search). With a little experimentation, you'll soon find the additional arguments to search specific file types or folders.

For example, if I want to do a search in the "Other" subfolder on my Google drive, I can discover the URL arguments by starting a manual search and just reading the address bar:

The parameter to use for a specific folder search is "parent", followed by a colon and the coded ID of that folder.

An example of a folder search with a specific text segment is in the screenshot above; this was taken while configuring and testing the search in a memoQ Web Search profile. One document containing the search text "turnip" was found in the folder. To view the document, right-click on it in the hit list and choose Preview.

Search inside the preview of a document found in a Google Drive search with memoQ Web Search

Unfortunately there seems to be a bug in the memoQ Web Search - which now uses Chromium - because double-clicking the document tries to open it in the old search engine based on Internet Explorer, where I was not logged in to Google.

An Internet Explorer window, bizarrely launched by the Chromium-based memoQ Web Search

In fact, you'll have to log in to Google each time you open the memoQ Web Search window (a total nuisance), so it's better to leave it open in the background, even though the current bug in which the web search window is no longer brought to the forefront can make this inconvenient. In other tools this may not be an issue.

The Chromium/IE issue as well as the focus and login hassles with memoQ's web search have been reported to memoQ Support; I look forward to seeing how these are handled. Nonetheless, this Google Drive search seems to have significant potential for individuals and teams to build searchable document collections in the folders of a Google Drive account. Try it in your working environment and share your findings!

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