Here at TidBITS, we rely on Google Docs for all our collaborative writing and editing. We have a TidBITS Articles folder in Google Drive that we share with our regular contributors, and whenever we work with a new author, we share an article template file with them manually. As a result, that TidBITS Articles folder has become the central location where Josh and I look to find the articles we need to edit—new files and those that were most recently edited bubble to the top by default.
So you can imagine my frustration when, for about a week, Josh would tell me that a new article was ready for editing, but it didn’t show up at the top of the TidBITS Articles folder. I could find the article by searching for a word I thought was in it, but since I hadn’t read the article yet, finding it was sometimes just dumb luck. Once I had found the article and taken my edit pass, it appeared at the top of the folder as it should. Maddening! Josh wasn’t having the problem, so it was clearly somehow related to my system.
I tried different browsers, multiple Macs, and logging out and back into Google Drive, but nothing helped—new articles didn’t appear. Then one day, randomly, I scrolled to the bottom of the TidBITS Articles folder and all suddenly became clear.
Google Drive lets you sort by name or last modified date in either ascending or descending order. In a slight twist from what we’re used to on the Mac, there are three options under the Last Modified menu. You might not have even realized Last Modified was a menu since the downward arrow indicating that doesn’t appear until your pointer moves over it (one demerit for poor discoverability, Google).
The options are:
- Last Modified: The default option makes the most sense for most people, most of the time, since it merely looks at the last-modified date for every file—whoever made the change—and sorts accordingly.
- Last Modified By Me: This option is more subtle and can be useful when you share a folder with other people but want to focus on the documents you edit.
- Last Opened By Me: The final option is essentially the same as the previous one but considers a file as “touched” if you merely open it, even if you don’t make any changes.
My problem stemmed from the fact that my sort order had somehow changed from Last Modified, which is what I want, to Last Modified By Me. That change caused my confusion because, with either Last Modified By Me or Last Opened By Me, all the files that you haven’t yet edited or opened sort to the very bottom of the file listing when the sort order is set to ascending, as mine was. Out of sight, out of mind.
Such a sort order is sensible, of course, because if you haven’t yet edited or opened a file, it has no “last” date to sort by. But if, like me, you’re accustomed to everything showing up at the top of a Google Drive folder, particularly one that might have quite a few files in it, you’re unlikely to think to scroll down.
I hope you can learn from my week of frustration caused by a not-so-obvious sorting error.