Google Docs (Sharing with teams)

It’s been quite a while since my last post, but in that time I hope you had a chance to try out Google Docs. Perhaps you’ve even taken the time to check out Google Drive. In this session I’ll show you some of the ways you can use Google docs to share, edit, and collaborate.

Perhaps the most common use for Google Docs is to allow others to review and edit documents you’ve created.

For example, in our office we have an edit and review process for our e-newsletter. One or more people write stories that are sent to an editor and consolidated. From there the e-newsletter is attached to an email and routed to several people for review. Each person reviews and supplies edits and returns the document to the editor. The editor then manages and merges these changes. Simple enough but time-consuming none the less.

When I write content, I create a draft (roughness depending on mood) share it with my editor and my content experts. Content experts can modify the live document, and the editor can work within the same document. What makes it even better is they can all be working on it at the same time if they choose.

The biggest difference is that many documents become one document. So how’s it done?

First click the share button in the top right corner:

This will open the sharing box:

Use the “Add people” box to add the person you want to share with. Once a person is added you can use the drop down to the right of their name to select permissions for them. In this case I want to allow others the ability to edit the document. When you’ve added the people you want to share with, click done. This sets the permissions on the document, sends them an email with a link, and adds the document to their Google Docs for editing.

If someone you’ve shared with accesses the document the same time that you do you will see a notification under the share button at the top right of the page. Any number of participants can access the document and make edits simultaneously.

You can also see where other users are editing the document. Below you can see that I’m editing the text highlighted in grey, as another user is editing the text highlighted in pink.

Granted the system isn’t perfect, at some point somebody will overwrite, or delete something you wanted to keep. Google Docs offers a solution for this as well. Revision history is located under the file menu and gives you access to all document revisions.

Google Docs (Getting Started)

If you enjoyed Reader you’re gonna love Google Docs.

Google Docs is comprised of several tools that you might expect to find included in an “Office Suite” of applications. It also includes a few you might not expect. The most important thing to remember when working with Google Docs is that your information is stored online (in the cloud). This makes accessing and sharing your docs easy regardless of device or location.

So now you know that documents created within Google Docs are portable, stored online, and easy to share. Now let’s explore how easy it is to get started. Simply visit and log-in with your Google account. Once you login you should see a “Create” button at the upper left corner.

When you click Create you will be presented with different types of files you can create. We’ll start simple and choose to create a Document. Once you’ve created a new document the first thing you will most likely want to do is give it a name.

To give your document a name simply click on the “Untitled document” name, this will prompt you for a new document name.

Enter your document’s name and click Ok. At this point your document has a new name. You may not have noticed, but this also caused the document to save. Bringing me to another interesting point about Google Docs.

If you look in the file menu you will notice that a feature appears missing. Look closely and think about what looks wrong.

If you said there is no Save option, then you would be correct. In Google Docs you never save anything, it’s all done automatically. While this seems simple enough, it’s actually pretty hard to simply trust that all your hard work will “automagicly” appear without taking the time to save a document. Take a leap of faith and trust me. It works.

At this point I’d encourage you to take some time to click through some of the menu items, then hover over the formatting options. For the most part it works just like any other word processor you’ve used.

Perhaps you would rather work with some documents you’ve previously created, or simply see how compatible Google Docs is with your current word processing software?

Google allows you to upload files to your Google Docs as well. Next to the create button, you will find an icon that resembles a disk drive with an up arrow. Click this icon to view the upload features. You can upload single files, as well as entire folders full of files.

For more information regarding uploads you can see Google’s official documentation.

So in this post we’ve described how to access Google Docs, create and name a new document, introduced you to autosave, and shown you how to upload documents. I’d encourage you to play with the word processor and see what you can and can’t create. If you hit snags or want to know how to do something feel free to post questions below.

In my next post I’ll cover the basics of sharing, editing, and collaborating with Google Docs.

Google Docs to Add Preview Pane, Music Player, Collections

It’s no secret I’m a fan of Google Docs and this rivals Windows “My Documents” experience. The gap between desktop and cloud closes a little more every day.

Google Docs code includes references to some upcoming features that could make the service better suited for storing media content. There are many references to a preview pane that will allow you to view more information about your files and even check the content without actually opening the files.

via Google Docs to Add Preview Pane, Music Player, Collections.

Advantages of “my time” working when sick

I’m home sick this week, and while I feel like death there is a positive to all of this misery. My week at home gives me some time to do backed-up tasks uninterrupted. I find I’m actually more productive when I’m home sick. Yes, I know the majority of employees take sick time to rest but for me working is relaxing, especially when it’s on my own time.

That’s what technology enables – working on my time, my terms, or what I refer to as, “my time” working. For example I’m sitting here in my comfy chair with my blanket draped around me writing this blog post. If I were in my office, I’d be sitting in my desk chair and most likely be disrupted by others or at least distracted by activity. My time allows me to try new technologies and communication techniques.

When I started working with technology my real love was machine-to-machine communication. I was mesmerized by the fact that you could get those ugly boxes to talk to one another. This week has allowed me to stay connected without infecting my co-workers. Services like Skype, Google Docs, Adium (Instant Messenger) and others all fill out my toolbox for “my time” working.

Skype allows me to see who on my staff is available for contact and create quick ad-hoc conference calls. Adding video to the mix gives me a unique perspective on the meeting, and if I can’t get my point across a quick screen sharing session lets me show my concerns. I find that I’m a little impatient when I’m ill and the tone of my voice might be a tad more aggressive than intended. Seeing the reaction of those on the other end of the conversation helps me adjust my tone.

Google Docs helps me get the help I need. While you might not know it from these polished posts, I’m not an excellent writer. In fact if it wasn’t for technology and editors I’d be in pretty poor shape. Google Docs allows me to collaborate and share documents with my staff. My original version of this post will forever be stored, but soon Kristen will come along and clean this up via document sharing. Another great use for Docs is meeting notes. That’s right, I get to miss the meeting and have live time access to the information presented.

Adium is my favorite IM client as it allows me to merge all my IM services into one window. I have a presence for MSN, Yahoo, Facebook and more all in one quick view. If I need some quick information I have a friend to reach out to. Sadly Adium doesn’t connect the LCS (My corporate IM) so I have Office Communicator to detect who in the office is available.

Then of course I have my news and entertainment services. Google Reader, Twitter, and Facebook all offer me a view of the news from around the world. I can catch up on current events, attend virtual conferences, and view comments as I see fit. Pandora offers me soothing tunes to drown out the side noise of the children, Dora the Explorer, and the dog.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy the social aspect of the office and I wouldn’t want to be home all the time but I do enjoy the “my time” work now and then. Sitting here and reflecting back, I’m impressed to see how far we’ve come since the 90’s. Web 2.0 sure beats the BBS I was running…

What are your favorite tools for remote work? Do you find yourself still working from home when you’re sick?

Content Management

Who needs revision tracking? I do, and I love it. I want to be able to see the changes made to a document or spreadsheet and the comments added along with a date. As a programmer I have used some form of source control for ten years and without knowing it, I have come to rely on it to keep track of changes. Consequently, I was able to roll a piece of code back to a version before I broke it. 

There are many terms for keeping track of versioning within a document. Over the years, our terms have changed and our ability to track changes has grown. DMS’s (Document Management Systems) became CMS’s (Content Management Systems) which then became ECMS’s (Electronic Content Management Systems). Why just let a document have all the fun? What about spreadsheets, images and executable?

There are hundreds of solutions to allow you to track versioning in your documents and all of them are better than searching through years of e-mails looking for the one sent by the colleague who had sent the version of the document that you want.

cms0 Right now I’m writing this article in Google Docs. If you have not used this solution to simplify your organization’s revision tracking, I suggest you take a look at it. I have found this to be the best solution for my personal documents because of the zero software footprint on my computers.

I can see the changes that were made between two different versions of this article. Should I need to compare the differences, Google Docs allows me to show that information, as well as tagging the changes with a comment. Most importantly, this tool scales well from one users to many.

To try and apply CMS concepts to the real world, think of this in terms of a sales proposal: a team of people working on a single document. We would have a technical group to gather requirements for the project, a sales group adding (and revising) the cost of products and services, and documentation group adding and tailoring verbiage to the specific client.

Over all of this activity, the account manager would be constantly reviewing the document. In our example, and probably more often than not- in practice, our account manager works externally, allowing very little physical contact with the team of people working on the proposal during the sales cycle.

In a world without Content Management, the sales manager gets separate e-mails from the technical staff, documentation team, and internal sales teams, each e-mail requires changes that will impact the other teams. However, each group is busy on many other internal projects and finding time to get the team together is difficult.

Now frustrated, the account manager edits each document from his hotel and replies to each team. Unwittingly, the sales manager has now just added more places to search for a document, by adding revisions and sending an e-mail, they now must search their ‘Sent Items’ each time they look for a copy of the document. Not to mention, each group not having access to the other’s changes until they are compiled into the draft version on the internal network. 

cms1 Enter the concept of content management. Using some sort of CMS system, the team works with a single document that can be modified with revision tracking. Our account manager can now see the changes by each user on the team. Because everyone is now using the same document, each team member’s changes can be seen by all others. 

Collaboration is now inherent to the system. The account manager can now make pricing changes owing to some lunchtime feedback from their prospect and the technical staff can adjust some of their hardware requirements. Rather than using a strikethrough font to tell a team member to remove a sentence, the sales manage can make the changes, and allow the CMS to show the differences in the versions.

From the very high level, a content management system is a package of services that allow users to store and track changes to a piece of information. That piece of information could be a spreadsheet, a web page, or a document.

Examples of ECMS:

To give credit where it is due: this post was written in response, and perhaps to elaborate on, a post by Brian Caldwell.

TechieBytes: Google Docs

Working on a corporate network, it’s no surprise that I spend the majority of my time working within Microsoft products. Recently I was lured out of my Microsoft bubble and forced to pick-up a shared file in Google Docs. Within minutes I found myself thinking through ways Google Docs might enhance my day to day tasks within the enterprise and reduce my frustration with SharePoint. Sure enough after only a couple of weeks, I’ve found myself counting on Google Docs for a growing number of tasks.

For those of you who have never used Google Docs, it’s like an online office suite. You can create, store, and share various types of files including documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. To make it more convenient, you can synchronize your Google Docs with your local computer using Google Gears.

Some Pros:

  • A simple interface makes Google Docs a breeze to learn and use.
  • No software to install or update.
  • Browser based applications make accessing your docs from any location a reality.
  • Files can be shared easily and modified collaboratively reducing the frustration of managing or merging document changes.

Some Cons:

  • Your files are hosted remotely and could be compromised.
  • Incomplete advanced feature set compared to big desktop applications suites.

Overall Google Docs is an excellent tool that covers the majority of most people’s needs. If you haven’t tried it, you should, as it has something for everyone. For a quick video overview of Google Docs, click the video below.

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