Use Google Drive’s Search Chips and never lose a file again

The Big G wants to make sure you find what you're looking for every time you search Google Drive.
A person wearing a gold sweater and working on a laptop, possibly searching Google Drive and trying to find a lost file.
When you can't find that important file, refine your Google Drive search by using the platform's Search Chips. Christin Hume / Unsplash

The fact that it is hard to find a file on a platform owned by the company that runs the world’s largest search engine is just pure irony. 

We imagine this is not lost on Google, which is why they made it easier to search Google Drive by introducing Search Chips. This feature can help you hunt down that deeply buried document you so desperately need on the company’s cloud service by allowing you to add multiple search parameters like file ownership, type, and location. 

Additionally, Search Chips are easier to use and find than the classic Advanced Search filters, though these are still available to further refine your query.

Search Google Drive like a pro

The name “Search Chips” refers directly to how this feature looks on the Google Drive interface. 

You might have seen something similar on Gmail: a series of buttons you can use to filter messages depending on who sent them when they were sent, and whether they have attachments. 

[Related: You should download the new Google Drive for Desktop]

Google Drive’s Search Chips are basically the same, but the filters are optimized for finding files in the cloud. To summon them, enter a keyword into the search bar at the top of the screen and hit Enter—a row of buttons with different filtering options will instantly appear at the top of the results page.

Click each of them to open a dropdown menu and refine your search. From left to right, your first option, File Type, will allow you to filter by the format of the document you’re looking for. The menu includes file types compatible with Google’s productivity suite (Sheets, Docs, Forms, etc.), plus other popular formats, like PDFs and ZIP files. You’ll also be able to choose categories, like Photos & Images, which is an umbrella term for image files with extensions such as JPEG, GIF, PNG, and TIFF. From here you’ll also be able to exclusively search for folders and shortcuts. 

The next filter you can set up is People, which lets you search by the people who have access to the file you’re looking for. Click it to open a dropdown menu, which will always have your name at the top and be populated by frequent contacts. Hover over an entry to see how that person might be involved in the file you’re looking for—you can choose from files that belong to them (Is owned by), those they have created (Is created by), and those they’ve shared with you (Is shared by). There’s also a search bar in case you want to find someone who’s not listed.

The third button is the Last modified filter, which lets you use a predetermined (Today, Last 7 days, Last 30 days, This year, etc.) or a custom date range to search only among files edited within that timeframe. 

Next up is Location, which lets you choose where you want the search engine to look for your file. The default option is Anywhere in Drive but you can change that to something else. For example, you may only want to search among files somebody else shared with you (Shared with me), or among documents currently living in your drive (My Drive). The latter covers all documents created by you, but also those shared by others that you’ve proactively saved to your drive. If you think you might have made a mistake, you can limit your search to Trashed. If that’s the case, remember items in Google Drive’s Trash will only survive 30 days, so if you accidentally deleted your lost document over a month ago, you’d better hope someone else on your team has a copy.

Farther to the right you’ll find the Title only filter, which acts like a switch—click it and Google will only look for the keyword you typed in the search bar in document titles, not their contents. 

The last search chip is the To do dropdown menu, which filters documents by calls to action. For this, you can use Follow-ups as a filter and search only among documents you own that have unresolved suggestions (Suggestions) or those that require your attention but you haven’t replied to yet (Comments assigned to me). You can also filter your query to see only documents with pending ownership transfer requests (Review and accept) or refine your search using one of Google Drive’s document approvals. On the To do menu, click Pending my approval to see the files you have yet to give your OK to, and Requested by me to search among those with pending requests. 

[Related: Become a Google Drive power user with these 20 tips and tricks]

And hey, we know change can be hard, but hopefully, smoother searches and increased productivity won’t leave you feeling too salty about this one.

This story has been updated. It was originally published on February 18, 2022.