Chromebook Google Drive integration: Handy and slick

Chromebook owners are waking up to a software update that adds Google Drive integration and offline Docs support¬†Google(s goog) previously announced. The newest Chromebook models — Samsung Series 5 550 devices — also gain a firmware update while the original CR-48 models gain the new Chrome OS user interface and open source touchpad drivers.
While Google says the software updates are rolling out over the next few days, the Samsung Chromebook I’ve been using full-time for several weeks received the new features late last night. After trying out the new Google Drive integration, I’m liking what I see: It adds to the Chrome OS experience with a more traditional file storage system, even though that storage is completely cloud based.
When viewing the File Manager on the Chromebook now, the Downloads storage area is supplemented with Google Drive. Drive appears as if it were a local drive and adds the ability to create new folders in the cloud, directly in the file manager app. Drag and drop support is there too: I copied a local .MP3 file from my Downloads storage to Google Drive with no problem on the Chromebook. And of course, when I hit up Google Drive in a browser on any other device, the music file I moved there appears.

The new Drive integration has few other handy tricks too. I found that using a three-finger gesture swipe on the trackpad switches between Downloads and Google Drive. There are a few view options in Drive as well: You can enable or disable viewing of Google Docs data; tell Chrome OS not to sync Drive files over a mobile broadband connection; and there’s an indicator to see which Drive files are available offline.
I liked the original Chrome OS concept, but it didn’t attract me as a user, mainly because it offered a fairly limited user interface and feature set. However, the more desktop-like UI paired with improved hardware on the newer models got my interest and I’m enjoying the distraction-free nature of working solely in a browser; mainly because my workflow suits that use case.
With the new Drive integration and support for offline Google Docs, the experience is only getting better. It’s not likely enough to sway app-centric users to the Chrome OS, but those that use the web for a majority of tasks will appreciate these and other incremental Chromebook updates.