A free alternative to Microsoft Office? Google Apps gives you that plus plenty of bonus reasons to switch: collaborate on documents with others at the same time; whip up a Web page stocked with downloadable files; and work on it all from any Web-connected computer. About the only thing Google doesn't offer is a guide like Google Apps: The Missing Manual--the authoritative and reader-friendly way to break free of Office. "Next" to get a message about the next event in your calendar.
Top 14 Google Docs Tricks
1. If you install Google Gears (http://gears.google.com/), you can edit Docs word-processing documents offline, and Docs automatically syncs them with the online version the next time you sign in online.
2. If you make other folks collaborators on Docs documents and spreadsheets, everyone can work on the files simultaneously. To invite collaborators, head to the upper-right Share button (for documents) or Share tab (for spreadsheets).
3. Its a snap to publish documents created in Docs as blog postsjust select "Publish as web page" from the Share menu, and then click the "Post to blog" button.
4. If you want to embed a Docs presentation in a Web site, just go to the Publish tab, click "Publish document", and then copy the HTML that appears in the Mini Presentation Module box. Paste the code into your sites HTML, upload the revised version of the site, and voilà!
5. Google gives you a whole slew of functions to help make working with spreadsheets more efficient. For the complete list, go to www.docs.google.com/support/spreadsheets. (The GoogleLookup function is particularly nifty.)
6. If your Docs list is getting cluttered, you can hide files (documents, spreadsheets, or presentations) to keep your list clean. Just turn on the checkbox next to any file you want to hide (you can select more than one), and then click the Hide button. To make a hidden file reappear, find All Items in the left-hand menu and, if necessary, click its + sign to expand it. Then click Hidden to see your hidden files; select the one(s) you want to see in your Docs list, and then click Unhide.
7. You can easily turn spreadsheet data into all kinds of charts: column, bar, pie, line, area, or scatter. To create a chart, open your spreadsheet to the Edit tab, select the range of cells you want to convert into a chart, and then click the "Add chart" button. In the Create Chart box that appears, tell Docs what kind of chart you want to create and fill in the other info it needs, and then click "Save chart."
8. If you create a chart based on a Docs spreadsheet, you can save it as an image and insert it into a Docs document. After you create your chart, click its upper-left Chart link and select "Save image". Save it to your computer, and then open the document you want to put it in. Click Insert and select Image, then tell Docs where to find the file on your computer.
9. If you dont like a change that you (or someone else) made to one of your Docs files, no problem. Just head to that files revision history (click File and then choose "Revision history") and pick a previous version that you like better.
10. If youre working on a computer that doesnt have Adobe Reader and you need to print a document, click Share and select "View as web page (Preview)" to open the formatted document as a Web page. You can then print it from your Web browser. The formatting isnt quite as good as if you print from a PDFand youll probably have the browsers header and footerbut all the content is there.
11. If youve published a Docs document as a Web page, you can make the Web page update automatically whenever you edit the document. Just click Share and select "Publish as web page"; then turn on the "Automatically republish when changes are made" checkbox.
12. To see how your Docs document will look to folks you share it with, click the Share This Document pages "Preview document as a viewer" link. If the preview doesnt look quite right, then go back and edit the document before you share it.
13. You can add YouTube videos to your Docs presentations. In the blue bar above the edit pane, click "Insert video". Google opens a box where you can search YouTube videos by keyword. Find the one you want and click it to select it. Then click the Insert Video button to put the video on your slide. Once its there, you can move, resize, or delete it, just like any image or shape. During a slideshow, viewers can play the video by clicking the Play button on its slide.
14. When youve got several collaborators editing the same document all at once, have each person choose a different color for his text to help sort out who made what changes. (The simplest thing is to have each person use the same text and highlight color.) Then, when you finalize the document, simply select the whole thing and click the "Text color" button to change the rainbow of text colors to basic black.
Top 10 Cool Things about Gmail
1. Gmails system of organizing emails into conversations (a collection of all the messages in an exchange) makes it easy to keep track of the various messages in a discussion.
2. You can access Gmail from a cellphone or other mobile device. Just start up your phones browser and point it to http://gmail.com to sign in.
3. Although you can have periods in your Gmail address, Gmail doesnt actually recognize periodsit treats the address exactly the same with or without the periods. So if your Gmail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, emails sent to email@example.com or even firstname.lastname@example.org will reach you.
4. If youre reading an email and want to set up a filter for this message and similar ones, click More Actions and select "Filter messages like these". (You can also select messages in a mailbox, and then choose this option.) Gmail shows the filter options with the senders From address already filled in. From there, you can filter by sender and/or any of the other filtering criteria.
5. Gmail scans your emails, looks for keywords, and then pairs the email with advertising that relates to those keywords. Usually, one ads displayed above the message youre reading and several others are on the right-hand side of the page (theyre easy to ignore). But Gmail tries to keep things tasteful, so if you receive an email about a tragedy, such as a death in the family, you wont see any ads at all.
6. You can set up your Gmail account so that messages sent to your other email accounts arrive in your Gmail inbox. That way, you can check all your email accounts in one place. Even better, in Gmail, you can send emails so that they look like they come from your various email accounts.
7. If you write emails in more than one language, Gmail tries to guess the language of the email youre working on and uses the appropriate dictionary. (If Gmails wrong, next to the Check Spelling link, click the arrow, and, from the list that appears, select the language you want.)
8. You can chat with your AOL Instant Messenger buddies through Gmails version of Google Talk. In Gmails left-hand Chat section, click the Options link and select "Sign into AIM", then follow the directions.
9. To help protect you from viruses and other Internet threats, Gmail neither sends nor receives executable filesthey typically have the file extension .exewhich can launch programs and wreak havoc on your computer.
10. Instead of folders to file your messages in, Gmail uses labels to organize messages. You can assign more than one label to a message, so you have several ways of finding it and dont have to remember which folder you put it in.
11 Ways to Save Time with Google Apps
1. With Google Docs, you and your coworkers can edit the same document simultaneously, so you dont have to waste time emailing files or tracking down the current version.
2. Put the Gmail gadget on your iGoogle page so you know right away when new email lands in your inbox (and can read it with one click).
3. When youre away from a computer, check your Google Calendar events and appointments by sending a quick text message from your cell phone. Send one of these messages to GVENT (48368):
"Day" to get a message listing all of todays events.
"Nday" to get a message listing tomorrows events.
4. Dont waste time waiting around for a friend or coworker to answer your email. Use Google Talk to see at a glance whether the other person is online; if she is, click her name to start chatting. 5. Quit slowing yourself down by reaching for the mouse. Use the keyboard shortcuts available for Google Docs (http://documents.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=66280), Gmail (http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=6594), and Google Calendar (http://www.google.com/support/calendar/bin/answer.py?hl=en-ch&answer=37034) to bring your data entry up to power-user speed.
6. If you use Firefox or Internet Explorer to browse the Web, install the Google Toolbar so you can keep an eye on Gmail, add events to your Calendar, and open files as you zip around the Web.
7. Use Gmails colored labels so you can scan your messages and quickly find what youre looking for. Or simply use Gmails awesome search feature to zero in on a message.
8. Creating a Web site? Dont get flummoxed by HTML, CSS, or any other what-the-heck-does-that-mean acronym. Use Google Page Creator, which comes preloaded with layouts and color-coordinated themes so you can see your pages as you build them.
9. Speed up data gathering by creating a form that automatically feeds data into a Google Docs spreadsheet: Create a new spreadsheet, and then click the Share tab. In the "Invite people" section, turn on the "to fill out a form" radio button, and then click "Start editing your form". The form can have text boxes, multiple choice lists, checkboxes, and radio buttons. Click "Next, choose recipients" and specify wholl receive the form. You can publish the form to the Web or embed it in your Web site or blog. When someone fills out the form, the info goes straight into your spreadsheet.
10. Send or receive files as you chat in Google Talkno waiting around for someone to remember to send them via email or drop them off at your desk. Just drag-and-drop the file into the chat window, and off it goes.
11. Gather the info you refer to most in one place: your iGoogle page. Using Google gadgets, you get at-a-glance access to news headlines, weather forecasts, local movie times, a dictionary, and a whole lot more. So instead of chasing information around the Web, youve got the info thats important to you right where you want it, all on one page. Best of all, you can put mini-versions of your Google apps on iGoogle, including Docs, Gmail, Talk, and Calendar, making it easy to keep an eye on your work and sending your productivity through the roof.
About the Author
Nancy Conner has a PhD in English from Brown University and has taught writing, including technical writing, to college students for more than a dozen years. She is currently a freelance copyeditor, specializing in technical books covering topics ranging from the MS Office suite to programming languages to advanced network security.