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Ian Lamont

Google Docs notifications when a file is opened?

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A reader of Google Drive & Docs In 30 Minutes wrote to me with an interesting question involving Google Docs notifications:

I live by myself and my closest relatives live far away.  Should something happen to me, I’d like a way for them to have quick access to some critical information about me: who to contact, financials, and certain passwords.  They should never look at these except under dire circumstances.  In an ideal world, I would be notified if anyone other than me entered the folder.  Next best would be if anyone opened any of the documents.  In this way, if an account of mine were compromised, I could eliminate the info on my Google Drive as the source of the problem.
So the question is whether for the purpose of alerts, merely opening the files triggers an “edit” notification or does it require someone actually saving the document?  Alternative solutions?
It’s a common situation to want to leave instructions and other documents for someone else to open in case of death, injury, or disability. However, regarding the idea to get notified whenever a Google Docs or Google Drive collaborator accesses a folder — this feature does not exist in Google Docs, despite many people requesting it. I understand there is a Google Docs extension called “ezNotifications” (described here) that allows notifications that are associated with edits to the document, but I have not tried it and therefore cannot recommend it.
As for alternatives, Google Sheets does have a notification feature that will alert an account owner whenever a collaborator makes a change, but it does not alert owners when the spreadsheet is opened. I suppose sensitive information could be added to the spreadsheet as text, and edit alerts would be sent to the owner, but there would be no indication to the creator of whether or not it was merely opened by a designated collaborator.
Dropbox also has a feature that alerts owners when any document is changed or updated, but it does not alert for merely opening a document. (I have written a book about Dropbox called Dropbox In 30 Minutes that explains how Dropbox collaboration works).
Finally, planning for personal disaster is a complex topic. Before attempting to distribute documents in case of death or injury, I advise consulting with an estate-planning lawyer who has experience in this area.

How to change the design in Google Forms

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Last year, I wrote a post about how to create a form using the new Google Forms interface. In today’s episode, we’re going to look at how to change the design in Google Forms, Google’s free alternative to Surveymonkey that integrates with Google Sheets and Google Drive.

If you use Google Forms to to gather information from customers or survey a group of people, you can really improve the look of the form by changing its design. There are all kinds of reasons for changing the design:

  1. The default Google Forms design looks too plain.
  2. You want to apply your own design sensibilities to the form
  3. You have branding elements such as logos or special photos you want to incorporate into the design.
  4. You want the form to better match the fonts, colors, and other elements of your product or website.
  5. You think your audience will respond more enthusiastically to a different design.

This last point is not just being considerate of your audience’s aesthetic sensibilities. If different design elements convince more people to start the form and finish it, that means you will get more (and perhaps better) data.

Change the design in Google Forms: Step by step

Changing the design in Google Forms is not hard to do. This quick video will show you how to add photos, change background colors, and alter other design elements of Google Forms:

How to use the Google Docs mobile app to edit MS Word .docx files

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The Google Docs mobile app for Android and iOS now has the ability to edit Microsoft Word .docx files on the go! The following three-minute video shows how it works, using an actual .docx file stored in a Google Drive account and accessed through the Google Docs mobile app for iOS. Note that editing and formatting tools are limited, but at least it gives users a quick way to access and edit Microsoft Word documents when there is no easy access to a desktop computer or laptop.

To see how to edit a .docx file in Google Docs on a PC, Mac, or Chromebook, see our recent posts on this topic.

Edit .docx files in Google Docs using Office Compatibility Mode

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So you have a .docx file, and you want to edit it. A few years ago, you would have needed Microsoft Word to open and edit the file, or you would need to use a workaround, such as uploading the .docx file to Google Drive and converting it to Google Docs for editing. Now, it’s possible to use Google Docs to edit the original .docx file in Google Docs using Office Compatibility Mode–no conversion required!

The following video shows how it works. Keep in mind that editing options for MS Word .docx files in Google Docs are limited to formatting, such as bolding or italicizing text, applying different fonts, aligning text, and adding bullet lists. Advanced Word features involving inserting photos and tables or tracking changes are not supported in Google Docs (at least not yet). The video is less than four minutes long, and if you need more information, I have written about the pros and cons of Office Compatibility Mode in Google Drive.

Google Docs printing basics (and troubleshooting)

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So you are finally using Google Docs as your primary word processing program, and now you need to print out a document. The following short video covers Google Docs printing basics as well as common problems and how to troubleshoot them. Topics include printer setup, saving to PDF, getting rid of unwanted header information, setting orientation (portrait vs. landscape) and other basic information about Google Docs printing issues.

How to restore a deleted file in Google Drive

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It’s a pretty common scenario to have to restore a deleted file in Google Drive. Perhaps you deleted the file in error, or you trashed it and discovered later that you need to access it once more. The following method to restore a deleted file in Google Drive is not failsafe, but in many cases it will allow you to quickly bring it back to life. Note that this method works for native Google files (such as documents created in Google Docs, presentations created in Google Slides, spreadsheets created in Google Sheets, etc.) as well as files that were created by other applications or devices–photos, Microsoft Word documents, text files, PDFs, etc.

The video is less than two minutes long:

Google Sheets Cheat Sheet

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One of the most useful tools in Google’s free online office suite is Google Sheets. It’s an online spreadsheet program that is easy to learn. It’s also a lot cheaper than Microsoft Excel, and includes some features that Excel doesn’t have. The Google Sheets Cheat Sheet lets you quickly access examples, browse a list of Google Sheets features/icons, or identify Google Sheets shortcuts. It’s described below. You can order a printed copy on Amazon (or a bulk discount here). It’s also possible to download the PDF edition of the guide.

Google Sheets Cheat Sheet: What’s inside?

Google Sheets Cheat Sheet

This handy reference and cheat sheet contains tips, examples, and easy-to-read annotated screenshots of Google Sheets, the free online spreadsheet program and Microsoft Excel alternative. The four-panel reference is printed on 8.5 by 11 inch high-quality card stock, perfect for desks, walls, and shelves. It has holes for three-ring binders. Topics include:

  • Overview of Google Sheets on the Web, including annotated screenshots of the main page and formatting toolbar.
  • Sheets basics: Creating, renaming, saving, and copying spreadsheets
  • How to edit while offline
  • How to add, edit, and hide data
  • How to import and export .txt, .csv, .pdf, and .xlsx files
  • Examples of basic formulas, functions, auto-fill
  • How to perform simple math and calculate averages
  • Sorting and filtering data
  • How to create a chart or graph
  • Keyboard shortcuts for Chromebooks, Windows, and OS X

Note that the Google Sheets Cheat Sheet does not cover Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Slides, or other applications in Google’s free online office suite. Publisher i30 Media offers separate cheat sheets, including the Google Drive Cheat Sheet and the Google Docs Cheat Sheet.

The Google Sheets Cheat Sheet was created by the publisher of the top-selling guides Google Drive & Docs In 30 Minutes, LinkedIn In 30 Minutes, Excel Basics In 30 Minutes, and other titles.

How to order

To order a printed copy of the Google Sheets Cheat Sheet, visit Amazon. The PDF can be downloaded using this secure order form. There is also an option to purchase 20 copies of the printed Google Drive Cheat Sheet at 25% off the retail price, ground shipping included!

PDF Amazon 20 copies (25% off!)

 

Google Docs Cheat Sheet: What’s inside?

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Google Docs Cheat Sheet - what's insideAre you a frequent user of Google Docs, the free online word processor? If so, you may wonder how to access commonly used features and shortcuts. The Google Docs Cheat Sheet can put that information at your fingertips! It is described below. The printed version of the Google Docs Cheat Sheet is available for purchase on Amazon or as a downloadable PDF. We also offer a Google Drive Cheat Sheet and Google Sheets Cheat Sheet.

Google Docs Cheat Sheet

The Google Docs Cheat Sheet contains top tips and easy-to-read annotated screenshots of Google Docs, the free online word processor and Microsoft Word alternative. The four-panel Google Docs Cheat Sheet is printed on 8.5 by 11 inch high-quality card stock, perfect for desks, walls, and shelves. It has holes for three-ring binders. Topics include:

  • Annotated screenshots of the Google Docs home page and formatting toolbar
  • Google Docs basics, from document creation to margin adjustmentsTemplates and page styles
  • Inserting images, comments, headers & footers, and more
  • How to import Microsoft Word, .rtf, or .txt files
  • How to activate Office Compatibility Mode
  • How to convert to Microsoft Word, PDF, and other formats
  • How to edit documents while offline
  • How to use Office Compatibility Mode
  • Keyboard shortcuts

Note that the Google Docs Cheat Sheet does not cover Google Drive, Google Sheets, Google Slides, or other applications in Google’s free online office suite. Publisher i30 Media offers separate cheat sheets and references for Google Drive and other applications (see details about Google Drive Cheat Sheet).

The Google Docs Reference and Cheat Sheet was created by the publisher of the top-selling guides Google Drive & Docs In 30 Minutes, LinkedIn In 30 Minutes, Excel Basics In 30 Minutes, and other titles.

How to order

To order a printed copy of the Google Docs Cheat Sheet, visit Amazon. The PDF can be downloaded using this secure order form. There is also an option to purchase 20 copies of the printed Google Drive Cheat Sheet at 25% off the retail price, ground shipping included!

PDF Amazon 20 copies (25% off!)