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Converting .docx files to Google Docs, and preserving Drive storage space

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A reader recently contacted me to ask about file conversion and use of storage space in Google Drive. She wrote:
“I purchased your Google Drive book today and consider it a solid foundation to begin, thanks! I am new to freelancing and two of my clients use Google Drive so trying to get up to speed ASAP.
I am hoping you can answer one of the questions that I am most interested in – is there a way to convert a word doc with ext .docx into a Google doc and not use up storage space? I.e. if I copy text from a word doc and paste into a new Google doc is that considered a Google doc file and therefore doesn’t use any storage space? I’d like to eliminate a number of word documents on my laptop and transfer to my Drive so can easily share with clients, but would prefer not to use up storage space.”
The answer: Any Google Doc created by a user through any means (copy and paste, or the “open as” feature) will not count toward that user’s Google Drive storage limit.
However, if the user uploads and converts a .docx file, he or she should delete the original .docx file after creating the Google Docs version because the original Word file will count toward the storage limit. For people using the free Google Drive/Docs accounts, this is a big deal.
However, there is one other major consideration before doing any large-scale conversion of MS Word files to Google Docs: If the original .docx files have complex formatting (for instance, a newsletter or a document with complex headers or footers), Google Docs will strip out most of the formatting or convert it to something that looks quite different than the original. This is an issue I discussed in my book, and used an example of a fancy Word template that was completely gutted during the Google Docs conversion process. Standard reports, letters, and drafts generally come through OK, though.
Also, in my opinion it’s worth paying a little extra to get more storage space and other features. I do it through a Google Apps subscription, which allows me to use my own email address plus a bunch of email aliases and more Google Drive storage than I know what to do with (90 GB in all). It’s worth the $5/month, plus I get a little more attention when I need Google Drive support (that is, an actual human being looks into issues when they come up).

Google Docs icons explained

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Google Docs has a new stripped-down interface. It may look modern, but it can also be puzzling to people who are new to Google Docs and Silicon Valley software design standards. What do all of the icons do, how can users find what they are looking for, and how is the Google Docs interface different than Google Drive? The following short video explains it all in just 4 minutes:

Topics include:

  • Main menu
  • New document
  • More actions icon
  • AZ/Sort options
  • List vs. grid view
  • File picker
  • How the Docs interface differs from Drive

Google Docs and publishing to the Web

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This option is something you won’t find in Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, or other desktop word processors. Google Docs lets you publish a live copy of the document to a Google URL. The Web copy looks similar to the view that you see in Google Docs, but it can’t be edited. It lets you share documents on your social networks (personal or professional) or post something to a blog for readers to see.

While Web publishing is not currently supported on the Google Docs app for Android and iOS, it’s easy to publish a document to the Web using the browser and chromebook versions of Google Docs. Here’s how:

  1. Open the document.
  2. Go to File > Publish to Web.
  3. Link is selected by default, but if you want HTML code to display the document on a blog or another Web page, choose Embed.
  4. Use the optional Published content & settings to restrict the viewership or disable republishing when changes are made.
  5. Click the Publish button.
  6. Copy the link or embed code, and/or choose one of the options to share the document via Gmail, Facebook, or Twitter.

The Web copy will be updated if you or a collaborator update the original in Google Drive. Note that page numbers, line spacing, and other formatting may be changed or stripped out. Nevertheless, publishing to the Web is a great way to share content on Google Docs with a wider audience.

Note: publishing to the Web makes the document available to anyone who has a copy of the URL, so this option should not be used for sensitive documents.

Google docs publish to web

This is an excerpt from Google Drive & Docs In 30 Minutes (2nd Edition): The unofficial guide to the new Google Drive, Docs, Sheets & Slides. To download the ebook or purchase the paperback edition, please refer to the links on this page.

Google’s Office Compatibility Mode: Pros and Cons

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Users can edit Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides using Google’s Office Compatibility Mode. This is a great feature that may save you the hassle of converting between Microsoft formats and the equivalent Google program — for instance, it may no longer be necessary to convert a Microsoft Word .docx file to Google Docs, make edits, and then convert the Google Docs file back to .docx.

Office Compatibility Mode comes built into Chromebooks and the mobile apps for Android and iOS, and can be activated on the Chrome browser on PCs and Macs (go to Window > Extensions, search for Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides and install).

However, there are some limitations:

  • Office Compatibility Mode will not work with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, or other browsers.
  • Files with the .doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt, and .pptx extensions can be edited if they were created in Microsoft Office 2007 or newer versions of Microsoft Office. Older files (created in Microsoft Office 2003 and earlier) are not supported unless they are resaved with a more recent version of Microsoft Office.
  • It may not be possible to edit large documents, especially large Excel spreadsheets.

Converting Microsoft formats for collaboration

Collaborative editing (described in Chapter 6 of Google Drive & Docs In 30 Minutes) is not possible when Microsoft Office files are opened for editing. However, it is possible to convert Office files to the equivalent Google formats for collaborative editing (see screenshot, below). Conversion can take place automatically during the upload process. Alternately, you can select the uploaded file in Drive and use one of the following methods to convert it:

  • Right-click over the selected file and choose Open with.
  • Click the More Actions icon (which looks like three vertical dots) at the top of the screen and select the option to open it in Google Docs/Sheets/Slides.
  • Preview the file, then select the Open with option

Google Drive Office Compatibility mode vs. collaborative editing

Google Sheets: How to make a pie chart

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In the following quick video, learn how to make a pie chart in Google Sheets, using the new interface released in 2015. This covers the basics of creating a pie chart, but the instructions apply to bar charts, line charts, etc. It assumes the data used to create the chart is valid — for instance, if it’s a pie chart the values should add up to 100.

The video is just two minutes long, and starts below:

For more tips about Google Sheets, including conversion between Microsoft Excel and CSV formats, and how to use the Sheets app for iOS and Android devices, check out Chapter 3 of Google Drive & Docs In 30 Minutes.

How to permanently delete a file in Google Drive or Docs

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How to permanently delete a file or folder in Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, or Google Drive, using the new Google Drive interface released in 2015. While most people think that clicking the trash can icon for a selected file or folder in Google Drive will remove it for good, that’s not the case — it still exists in a sort of holding pen. The following two-minute video explains how to permanently delete a file or folder in Google Drive:

For more tips and tricks on how to get the most out of Google Drive, check out Google Drive & Docs In 30 Minutes, 2nd Edition.

Google Docs: How to add an image from the Internet

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This three-minute video shows how to add an image from the Internet to a Google Docs file, using a URL of an image from the World Wide Web. This is useful if you see an image on the Web that you want to include in a report, letter, or other document you are writing in Google Docs. Of course, only use the image if you have permission, or it’s marked with the appropriate Creative Commons or Public Domain license.

Without further ado, the video:

For more tips and tricks that can show you how to get the most out of Google Docs, check out my book, Google Drive & Docs In 30 Minutes.