How to use Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, Amazon S3 and more in Linux

Using Google Drive via the Ubuntu Control Center

Google Drive hasn’t been supported on Linux officially, well, ever….

It’s been possible to use it in the past using third party apps like inSync or the more basic Gdrive. However since Gnome Online Accounts Settingsversion 3.18, the GNOME desktop has inbuilt support for Google Drive ‘files’.

We will also be covering a third party tool called RCloneBrowser which supports OneDrive and Dropbox as well as Google Drive, so you can choose whether you’d like to use the new ‘native’ inbuilt support for Google Drive, or use a third party tool. The choice is yours, vive la Linux freedom!

Using Google Drive Natively

Firstly, lets focus on how to use Google Drive the ‘official’ way. Believe it or not, this is pretty much a brand new feature for Gnome; so if you are using Ubuntu, you’ll need the latest version of Ubuntu (16.10 or later) to do this. If you are using 16.04, you can still do it, however you’ll need to go through a few hoops first. Note that whilst this guide was written with Ubuntu in mind, you can also do it with any Linux distro that uses the Gnome desktop.

Initial setup (only necessary for users of Vanilla/Unity Ubuntu, not Ubuntu GNOME or other GNOME based distros)

Install gnome-control-center

If you use vanilla Ubuntu, you’ll need to Install the Gnome Control Center package first

If you are using the regular vanilla (Unity) Ubuntu 16.10, and not Ubuntu GNOME, or another Gnome based linux distro, or if you are using an older (previous to GNOME 3.18) version of GNOME, you’ll need to follow this first step. Your mileage may vary depending upon what software you have installed:

Firstly, click on the task launcher icon (the brown swirling Ubuntu icon at the top left of your screen). Type in Terminal and you’ll see the Terminal app running.

Next, enter the following command in the terminal window. This will install the necessary GNOME control panels:
sudo apt-get install gnome-control-center gnome-online-accounts
As requested, enter your password and type Y to continue when asked.

Launch the GNOME Settings tool from Ubuntu UnityNext, launch the GNOME Settings tool. Note that the Ubuntu Unity settings icon and the GNOME settings tool icon is exactly the same by default. Confusing! To make sure you get the correct settings tool, click once again on the task launcher icon and start typing gnome-settings. You should only see one resulting Settings icon, as per the screenshot to the right. Click the icon. You are now ready to continue the same steps as a usual GNOME user.

Setting up your Google Account

Now onto the fun stuff! Click on the Online Accounts icon. Unless you have set up online accounts before, this should be a relatively spartan box. Click ‘Add an online account’. You’ll see another dialogue box come up with a whole bunch of cloud services. Google is at the top, click on that.

You’ll next be asked to enter your google credentials, go ahead and fill them in.

Once you have entered your Gmail address/username and password, you will be prompted to give Ubuntu / GNOME permission to use your Google account. Scroll to the bottom of that dialogue and press ‘Allow’.

A few moments later, you will see the original ‘Online Accounts’ box, however you’ll see it now has your Google account in there. You can see that one of the options is ‘Files’. By default this option is selected as ‘On’.

Finally, if you open the File Manager (Nautilus), you’ll see a new entry (most likely below ‘Trash). It should have your Google account username. Click on that and you’ll start to see your files.

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Click on the below images to see the steps.

Gnome Online Accounts Settings

Gnome Online Accounts SettingsGnome Online Accounts Settings - Google Sign In

Gnome Online Accounts Settings - Google Sign In

Files in Gnome Online Accounts - Google DriveUsing Google Drive with Nautilus File Browser

What else do I need to know?

I have a lot of stuff in my Google Drive account. My photos alone are around 50GB. Browsing through the folders can take quite a while. This is a problem when you find out that none of the content is locally stored offline. Fortunately, every change you make is synchronised, including file deletion, copy and add. So, be aware that performance might not be ideal when you browse some of your larger folders. For me, Nautilus even seemed to lock up or show zero files when I knew that wasn’t the case. Killing off nautilus at the terminal was the only option on one occasion (killall -HUP nautilus).

RcloneBrowser: OneDrive, Dropbox, S3 and more

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RCloneBrowser is a QT5 based GUI that you can synchronise files from Google Drive, Google Cloud Storage, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, Amazon S3, Amazon Drive, Openstack Swift / Rackspace Cloud, Memset memstore, Hubic, Yandex Disk and Backblaze B2. An impressive list!

If you know what RSync is (which is great!), you’ll love RClone. It’s basically rsync for cloud storage. RCloneBrowser is the GUI for RClone!

The only unfortunate thing about RCloneBrowser is that it’s new, and not prime-time yet. It’s not included by default in the Ubuntu Repositories, nor in most of the other popular distributions. So, you’ll either need to download (and compile) the source code, or download a binary. For more information on what compiling/binaries are all about, check out this guide.

Either way, RCloneBrowser is not as easy to get going for a newbie as one would hope. I’m sure it will be soon, but hopefully when you get it going, it will be worth the reward.

To install RCloneBrowser, you’ll need two packages, and you’ll need to install RCloneBrowser from source:

  1. Firstly, you’ll need the Rclone binary (the text mode version of the RcloneBrowser tool). Download it at rclone.org (or for the latest developer releases, Get it from GitHub.). Install the binary as specified in the documentation.
  2. Next, download RcloneBrowser from the github site.
  3. Go to the Terminal and Install build-essential and cmake as well at the Qt5 dev tools: sudo apt-get install build-essentials cmake qt5-default pyqt5-dev  (you may need other QT5 build tools depending upon your distro).
  4. Unzip the RCloneBrowser package you downloaded and inside the folder it creates, create a folder called ‘build’ next to the src folder
  5. Run cmake .. from the build folder. If cmake doesn’t find Qt, add -DCMAKE_PREFIX_PATH=path/to/Qt to previous command
  6. Run cmake –build . from build folder to create binary
  7. Optionally run sudo make install to install it to all users on the system, or to put it into the system path.

Other Alternatives

  • overDrive is a $5 paid application with a 14 day trial. It works very much like the Google Drive client for Windows/Mac.
  • inSync (which I have used with great success), is a graphical (and console based) $30 Google Drive client. It also a two week trial.
  • Dropbox has native support within the GNOME Online Accounts dialogue.
  • ownCloud / nextCloud is a great open source alternative to other cloud storage systems. It can be run from home or a server online.

For those of you interested in console only based offerings, you can check out:

  • GDrive2 by Paul Rasmussen supports basic syncing. It only syncs one way at the time and works more like rsync than e.g. dropbox.
  • Drive is an unofficial tool written by a Google developer. It doesn’t sync, you must manually tell it to push or pull updates.

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