Tutorial - Google Apps

Welcome

Google apps is one of the hidden treasures of your Gmail or Google+ account. In this tutorial, we'll take a look at them, what they are, and what we can do with them.

Introduction

So where are these magical treasures? Click on the grid in the top right of any Google page (between the +You and the notification bell). A whole host of applications and site appear here, with even more listed on a linked page. Start exploring!

The Apps

Drive

Google drive is probably one of the most important to know, after Gmail. It includes the ability to create, edit, and share documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings, as well as the ability to upload and store other files. More than that, you can connect applications to your Drive account, letting third party tools store their data in one place.

There are some pieces of functionality found in programs such as Microsoft Office and the Apple iWork suite, but what they lack they make up for in several key areas:

  1. They are free.
  2. They exist online with ample storage and reasonable plans if you need more.
  3. Because they are online you can access them anywhere.
  4. Did I mention they're free?
  5. Real time collaborative editing.
  6. Free.

And for those of you who dig Excel functions, never fear! Not only can Google Sheets handle inline functions, filtering, and formatting, using Google Script you can even create your own custom macros and functions. Lots of room for innovation for the innovative soul.

My least favorite is the presentation builder. It is very... Well, it's minimalist. That works for some things, not for others. I like my presentations to be a bit more polished, and to be honest I just prefer a tool like Prezi, but for hammering out presentations that you can post online, and even present online? Steal.

Last but certainly not least is the Form builder. With Drive you can very easily create your own Form for gathering whatever kind of data you can think of. The form is completely customizable, and saves responses to a spreadsheet which you can check at any time. You can as questions with required or optional answers, free text, multiple choice, sliders, the list goes on. There are a handful of features I can think of that it's missing, but did I mention that it's free? For throwing together a quick online poll, it can't be beat.

Sites

Honestly not the greatest offering in the world, for the simple reason that it's a super template-heavy website builder. All Google sites kind of look the same, and not necessarily in a good way. Still, if you're looking for a way to make a quick website without spending a lot of money on hosting, this is the way to go.

The biggest downside of Google Sites (last I checked) is that you don't get your own domain, at least not automatically. You still have to by that. Personally, for hosting I go through 1&1. I've got a personal domain (jebwerkz.com), and I also use them for hosting a website I'm building for Cardinal Turkson from Ghana (no joke, check it out here: cafdil.org). If you're interested, click the banner for more info:

So you know, I pay $15/year for the domain name, and $15/month for the hosting. Not exactly breaking the bank.

Groups

Do you have a large list of people you regularly email to? What to start a forum? Try Groups! You can very easily create a mailing list, or a web based forum, or both. If you have a large following and Google+ isn't cutting it for discussion, this may be something to try out.




This is just a quick survey of a handful of apps, mostly I want you to know that with your GMail/Google+ account comes a lot of technology, for free. Maybe it's useful to you, maybe it's not, but it's worth a look either way.

Happy blogging!

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