Monday, July 13, 2009

Thing 19: Google Docs

Note: Things 20 and 21 will be revealed Monday, July 20.

Google Docs resembles Microsoft Office in many ways. It allows users to create documents, spreadsheets, slideshow presentations, and data entry forms. These applications are similar to Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but offer some unique features. They are designed to make full use of online collaboration and storage, bypassing the need to purchase software and load it on your computer.

Best of all, all the Google Docs applications are free. They are a good example of "cloud computing," and are being used by more and more people and businesses every day.

Start out by going to Watch the short video on the main page for a brief introduction to the Google Docs applications.

To get started with Google Docs, you will need to set up a personal Google account. If you already have one, you can log in using your regular username and password. If you do not have one, it is free and easy to set one up. Simply click the Get started button on the right-hand side of the page and follow the instructions.

Once your account is set up, go to and log in (if you haven't already). On the left hand side of the screen you should see a list of your current files and folders, if you have any. If you click on the New tab right above that, you will be offered the chance to create a new document, presentation, spreadsheet, form, or folder.

Let's start by creating a basic document, like you would in Word or other word processing programs.

Click on the New tab, and select Document.

When your new document pops up, there will be a toolbar at the top, and a large blank area underneath that.

Put something in the blank area. It could be a statement about yourself, your shopping list, information from a website that you have cut and pasted, or anything else that strikes your fancy. Play around with the fonts and other items on the toolbar so that you can see the features it offers.

When you are done, click the Save button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. Then click on the Share button. You will be presented with several options, including the ability to send the page as an email attachment or publish it as a web page. The real power of Google Docs comes into play when you share them with other people, so go ahead and select Share with others from the dropdown menu.

When you share your document with other people, you can set them up as collaborators (co-editors) or viewers. You do so by sending them an invitation to the document via email. Go ahead and send yourself an invitation as a collaborator, using one of your other email addresses. If you don't have another email address, try sending it to a friend. You will be able to attach a message to the invitation. If you send it to a friend, that person will need to set up a Google account to be able to edit the document.

Now click on the File button. You have several options under there, including the ability to rename the document, see the history of revisions, and save the document as a web page. Select Download file as and look at the different file formats you can use. Did you notice that you can save in Word format, or as a PDF file?

Now try doing the same with a presentation, spreadsheet, and form. How do they differ from the programs you generally use?

When you are done, read some entries in the official google Docs blog at . It is an excellent resource for keeping up with changes to the Google Docs software, new and interesting ways to use Google Docs, and more.

That's it! Can you believe that you have already done 19 of the 23 things?

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