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Docs Archives - Google Drive & Docs In 30 Minutes

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 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.

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!)

 

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).

How to convert multiple Google Docs files to Microsoft Word .docx

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Here’s the situation: You write all of your reports, letters, invoices, and fiction masterpieces in Google Docs. There are scores of Docs files in your account, but now you need to convert the Google Docs documents to Microsoft Word .docx. Why? Maybe you want to apply special formatting to the files (Microsoft Word is far better than Docs when it comes to formatting). Or you need to share them with someone else who doesn’t use Google Docs, but does have MS Word. Here’s how to handle the conversion of multiple Google Docs files at once, without opening the files and converting them one by one.

The method basically involves selecting (but not opening) multiple Google Docs files in Google Drive, and then using the “download” option, which auto-converts them to MS Word .docx. The following video shows how to do it:

For more information, tips, and tricks related to Google Drive and Google Docs, check out my book!

Google Docs: new document creation explained

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Google Docs new document creation explained

Google Docs: how to create a new document

Last month, I demonstrated the new Google Docs interface for the Web. This month we’re going to take a look at one of the most common actions in Google Docs — how to create a new document. There are a few ways to do it. The post below describes Google Docs new document creation in a browser (Chrome) or an iOS/Android mobile device. There is a also a short video that shows how to create a new document in Google Docs.

Windows/Mac/Chromebook

  1. Open drive.google.com and log on.
  2. From the Google Drive main screen: Click the New button on the left side of the screen. You will see different formats to choose from. Pick Google Docs.
  3. From the Google Docs main screen: Click the “+” icon.
  4. A blank document will appear (see screenshot). You can start typing right away.
  5. To change the name of the document, click the default “untitled” name at the top of the screen.

The document is now ready for you to add text, pictures and other elements. You can type some text to get started. There is no “save” function—Docs auto-saves as you type.

To close the document and return to the Google Docs home screen, tap the blue icon with white lines in the upper left corner.

Android/iOS

  1. Open the Google Docs app.
  2. Click the large “+” icon.
  3. Enter a name for the document.

You can now begin typing or adding other elements to the file. To close the document and return to the Google Docs home screen, tap the blue icon in the upper left corner of the screen.

Google Docs new document creation video

The following video demonstrates how to create a new document in Google Docs. There are two easy ways to do it. This 2-minute video shows how:

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.