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How to create a plain text file in Google Drive (and why you might want to)

A basic text file in Google Drive can be used for things like configurations or just about any situation when a formatted document will not work.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Google Drive on a laptop with someone typing on it.

Google Drive is my go-to for document creation and I use it constantly throughout the day. With that service, I write all of my technical missives, and even full-length novels (of which I've written over 50). But sometimes I don't need a full-blown, formatted document. I just need a text file.

But… but… but… why would you even need such a thing? Does anyone actually use .txt files anymore?

Actually, they do. Consider these cases:

  • Configuration files
  • Container manifests
  • Source code
  • Simple lists
  • README files

You'd be surprised at how handy a text file can be. Any use case where you need a document that doesn't contain the formatting (and other bits) associated with traditional documents is where text files shine. And within the Google Drive ecosystem, there are two ways to generate a plain text file. Let me show you how each method works.

Also: How to organize your Google Drive with these 5 tips 


The only thing you'll need to create a text file from within Google drive is -- you guessed it -- a Google account. With that at the ready, let's get to work.

How to create a new .txt file

1. Sign into Google Drive

The first thing you must do is open a web browser and point it to drive.google.com. Make sure to log in with the account you want to use (if you have more than one Google account).

2. Open the Text Editor

From within Google Drive, click New > More > Text Editor, which will open a new tab in your browser to the https://texteditor.co site.

The Google Drive New menu.

Creating a new text file from within the Google Drive New menu.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Create a new file

On the resulting page, click Create New Text File to open the editor.

The Google Drive text editor.

The Google text editor makes it possible to upload or create a new text file.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

4. Add text to your file

With the text editor open, make sure to rename the file (where you see I've changed the name to zdnet_test) and then start typing the content of the file (where I've typed Hello, ZDNET!). Continue composing your file until you're satisfied.

The Google text editor interface.

The Google text editor is very simple to use.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

5. Save the file

Once you've finished creating the file, click either Save to Drive or Download in the upper right corner of the window. If you opt to save the file to Google Drive, know that it will save it to whatever folder you were working in. In other words, if you want to save the text file to a specific directory in Google Drive, first navigate to that folder and then create the new text file.

The text editor save options.

You can either save the file to Google Drive or download it to local storage.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

How to convert a Google Document to a text file

1. Create a document

Create a new document in Google Drive as you normally would. 

2. Download the document as a text file

After you've created the new file, click File > Download > Plain Text (.txt), which will convert the document to a plain text file. Do note that when you go this route, it will strip the file of all formatting. If you need to retain the formatting of the document, make sure you download it as either a .docx or .odt file.

The Google Drive download menu.

Downloading a document from Google Drive as a text file.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Also: How to set up offline access in Google Drive

And that, my friends, is how easy it is to create a basic text file within Google Drive. By creating such a file and saving it within Google Drive, you can also share those files with others for collaborative purposes. You might not need to create text files very often, but when you do, Google Drive is there to help.

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