No longer in beta form and poised to snatch a portion of the market typically commanded by the stalwart Microsoft Office software suite -- Google Docs is providing an as-of-yet unrivaled online document editing and collaboration platform for the masses. Here's 7 ways you can use it even better.
Developers at Google, many of whom are part of Google's own user community, are adding and improving features to an already brimming list of document tools at a rate higher than their user base can seemingly disseminate. Despite Google Docs’ intuitive interface, there are some worthwhile tips and lesser-known tricks to remember when working on your next project. Here they are.
1. Shared Folders
To help you organize files and information, Google Docs has been kind enough to include a folder tab for such a purpose. Simply select Folder from the Create new drop-down menu in Google Docs, customize your folder through a series of prompts, drag and drop your files into the new folder and enjoy the benefits of having your work aggregated, online in an easily accessible and shareable folder.
Google Docs -- Sharing Folders
2. Chatting While You Work
Instant connectivity and communication is vital in today’s fast-paced work environments. Naturally, Google Docs offers a chat feature to deliver on this necessity.
Whether you need to collaborate with a partner on a project or just get some insight and advice on your work, you're moments away from a chat session with this feature. By clicking the dropdown menu titled "Share" in a document and granting a person of your choosing access, you open the door to live communication.
Google Docs -- In-context Chat for Real Time Collaboration
3. Revisions Upon Revisions
Many a person has found themselves aimlessly hoping to revert back a copy of a document that is no longer available. With Google Docs, you are now able to track changes through a revision history and go between versions at your leisure.
Use this feature to keep track of the changes you’ve made during a document’s creation, share changes with partners or to aid in assessing the progress of your project.
Google Docs -- Revision History and Actions
4. Multi-page Forms
Forms can be useful for anyone looking to organize a substantial amount of collected data in a spreadsheet. Google Docs provides a forms feature that allows you to do just this. From the Docs list or a spreadsheet, you can create a new form. Tailor your form to your needs, and e-mail it away to your desired recipients; then create a spreadsheet with the data you gather.
For a detailed, step-by-step guide on using this feature, watch this instructional video:
5. Quick Document Viewer
Why struggle with a litany of applications to view Word, PDF, PPT, TIFF and other files when Google Docs offers a self-contained service to preview these documents on the fly?
Google Docs Viewer allows you to create a viewable document and send it to any number of recipients by mailing a hyperlink pointing to your document, resulting in a quickly accessible file addressed to your recipient without ever leaving a browsing session.
Google Docs -- Viewing and Sharing Documents Quickly
6. Script a Spreadsheet
Fear not, though, as code is readily available online to help customize your spreadsheet to your liking. Ideas for utilizing this feature include: creating an expense report, creating a timesheet and other workflow-improving ideas.
To start, navigate to the “Scripts” tab in the “Tools” drop-down menu in a spreadsheet. For a crash course on how to create a basic script, go here: http://www.google.com/google-d-s/scripts/yourfirstscript.html.
Note: You can also use Apps Scripts to script the creation of Google Sites.
Google Docs -- Adding Custom Scripting to Spreadsheets
7. Upload Any File
A recently launched feature for Google Docs is the upload any file feature. With it, users can -- as indicated by its name -- upload any file to Google’s servers, making it accessible online and sharable with your collaborators.
Additionally, uploaded files can be edited and stored within Google Docs. To begin, select "Upload" from the default Google Docs window and follow the prompts to upload your files.
Storage space is limited, but the good news is that you can buy as much as you need at reasonable rates.
Google Docs -- Upload Any File Type to Specified Folders (and share)
[Editor's Note: See related article Microsoft Compares Their Hosted Service to Google Apps.]