How to set up a Mac for Google Workspace

Here are five ways to configure your macOS system to work with Gmail, Google Drive, and other Google Workspace apps.

desktop screen on a Mac with open menus for Google Drive, Internet accounts, and Chrome Remote Desktop
Illustration: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

Apple’s Mac systems work well with Google Workspace apps, such as Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Each of the five options below allows you to leverage your Google Account from macOS, from the simplest setup to the deeper connections that link data either to Apple’s apps or allow Google Drive access from the Finder. Many people may want to log into a new Mac and configure all five of the options below.

SEE: iCloud vs. OneDrive: Which is best for Mac, iPad and iPhone users? (Free PDF) (TechRepublic)

If you are part of an organization, you may need to follow different procedures than those listed below. Both Google Workspace and Apple Business Manager offer different business management options that allow an administrator to simplify logins, secure devices, and control configurations. Ask your system administrator for specific guidelines for your organization.

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Use Safari for a streamlined setup

After you’ve finished the initial macOS setup and installed all available system updates, launch Safari, go to Gmail, and then sign in with your Google Workspace account information. Once signed in, you can access other Workspace apps either from the app launch menu (Figure A) or by entering any Workspace app URL directly (eg https://docs.google.com for Google Docs). Since most Google Workspace features work well in Safari, this approach allows you to get up and running quickly.

Figure A

The Google Apps menu opens in Safari
Sign in to your Google Account in Safari and use Google Workspace apps online.

However, as of January 2023, Google Workspace apps will not offer offline access when used in Safari on a Mac. If you need to use Gmail, Calendar, or Drive on your Mac without Internet access, you’ll want to explore the additional steps below. But if your Mac always has Internet access and offline work isn’t a problem for you, then the combination of Google Workspace apps that you access in Safari may be sufficient.

Install Chrome for full functionality on the web

Most people planning to work with Google Workspace on a Mac will want to install Chrome (Figure B), then sign in and use that browser for all Workspace-related activities.

Figure B

Google Chrome home page with a link to Download Chrome
To enable offline work, download Chrome for macOS and then set up apps like Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive for offline access. You can also sync Chrome settings, such as bookmarks and history, with Chrome on different devices.

Not only does this approach allow you to set up and sync data for bookmarks, history, passwords, and more across all Chrome browsers you use, but it also allows you to set up Workspace apps for offline work. You’ll need to adjust a few permission settings, such as allowing access to the webcam and microphone for Google Meet, with additional adjustments needed to enable screen sharing.

Sign in with Google to connect data to Apple apps

You can sign in with your Google account and set it to sync Workspace data with Apple apps. To do this, select the Apple menu > System Preferences… > Internet Accounts > Add Account… > Google and then proceed through the login process (Figure C).

Figure C

Internet accounts with the Add Account button highlighted next to an account settings menu with Google highlighted
From the Apple menu > System Preferences, select Internet Accounts, then Add Account as shown at left. Then select Google as shown on the right and complete the authentication process.

In most cases, you’ll want to enable the Mail, Contacts, and Calendars sliders, which allow those apps to sync Gmail, Google Contacts, and Google Calendar data to each app. You may also want to go to the Google Calendar Sync Settings tool on the web to select specific Google calendars to sync with iCal.

Adding your Google Account in Apple’s System Preferences can be useful for offline data access in apps, as well as when you want system actions to stay in sync with your Google Account. For example, when you click a “mailto:” link on a web page, the system may open the Apple Mail app and create a new email that is sent from and synced to your Google Workspace account.

Deploy Google Drive to desktop for system access to Drive files

Download and install Google Drive for desktop (Figure D), and then sign in to your account to access files on Google Drive from the Finder. For example, this allows you to launch an app on your system and from within that app open a file stored on Drive.

Figure D

Google Drive Help page with instructions for using Google Drive for desktop
For system access to Google Drive files from the Finder, install Google Drive to the desktop.

For example, you can launch a macOS photo editing app and then open an image file stored on Google Drive. Drive for desktop eliminates the need to open a browser, download a file, work with the file, and then upload it again. Instead, Drive for desktop lets you open and save items directly to Drive on a Mac.

Configure Chrome Remote Desktop for remote access

You may want to install and configure Chrome Remote Desktop to allow remote access to your system, either by other people when you request it, e.g. for support purposes, or by yourself, e.g. for a desktop system you want to access remotely.

To set up Chrome Remote Desktop, you must have Chrome installed on your system. Assuming you do, open Chrome and go to https://g.co/crd/setup to start the installation and setup process (Figure E). Once done, you will be able to remotely access your system from Chrome Remote Desktop.

Figure E

Chrome Remote Desktop configuration options to configure remote access
Configure Chrome Remote Desktop to allow remote access to your system, either for support or for your own use, from another computer.

What is your experience with Google Workspace on macOS?

If you use Google Workspace on a Mac, which of the above apps and configurations are you using? Are you a minimalist who prefers to log into Google tools exclusively with Safari? Do you only work with Google Workspace via Chrome for macOS? Or do you connect your Google accounts to Apple’s Mail, Calendar and Contacts apps and also rely on Drive and Remote Desktop? Mention or message me on Mastodon (@awolber) to let me know what kind of Google Workspace setup you’re using on your Mac.

William

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