Google is a bona fide monolith of the business world, and it never fails to impress us just how much they make available to their users for free or at low cost. Admittedly, there is merit to the saying that if the product is free, you are the product, and it would be naive to think that Google does not get anything out of their freebies. Nevertheless, with a ‘glass half full’ approach, the Google Apps suite of software tools can be considered robust and useful for individuals and corporations alike.
For most people, these apps will represent an opportunity to get out of the Microsoft Office ecosystem, at least initially. It is not a full replacement if you are a heavy user, but it will take care of the majority of tasks that you encounter throughout email, word processing and spreadsheets. It is also a great way to move your workflow into the cloud, making collaboration easier and ensuring that you can work from anywhere.
As is typical of Google, the software is easy to get into and work with, but some hidden gems may increase productivity or boost the wow factor. Check out our top 10 tips below for getting the most out of Google Apps and to work even smarter!
1. Use Offline Editing
A draw of Google Apps is being able to access documents from anywhere and, traditionally, documents are held only in the cloud and require an internet connection for changes. However, there will be times when a connection is unavailable, and you can pull your files down beforehand through the Google Drive application. Enable offline editing on the required data and you can edit them directly on your device.
2. Add the Google Drive Desktop App
As is typical with apps, dedicated software often exceeds the functionality of web-based equivalents, and that applies to Google Drive. With the app, you can treat the contents of your Drive like any other folder – although it is worth remembering that the shortcuts that appear link to the online versions of each document rather than being placed on your hard drive.
3. Use Chrome to Pin Productivity Tabs
If you are interested in the productivity benefits of Google Apps, Chrome is probably already your web browser of choice. It works well with other apps, and the pinning feature is particularly useful to ensure that your Gmail, Drive and Calendar are always open and do so together. Naturally, this is not limited to Google services, and you can arrange the one-click opening of several productivity features.
4. Use Quick Actions in Gmail
The functionality of Gmail makes it a popular choice, even in business. The web-based interface effectively makes it a free, server-based solution that can use any address, and the quick actions on each message can be great time savers. This enables single-click access to a range of contextual options, and it is well worth getting accustomed to.
5. Use Google Drive for Sharing as well as Storage
If you work with others and collaborate on documents, then Google Drive transforms from a storage platform to a workflow tool. Emails are limited in size to 25 MB at the time of writing, but Drive facilitates the storage and sharing of files that are up to 10 GB in size. A handy tip is to send Drive links in the emails – they function just like attachments, but the received file will be the live version of the Drive document.
6. Enable SMS Alerts
Most Google Apps users will have the relevant apps on their phone as well as their work machine, and the notifications will be sufficient for reminders and other alerts. However, if you are prone to ignoring notifications or silence them during the day, a text message might be better. This option is available as a reminder with every event in the calendar.
7. Use Google Tasks
Google Tasks merits inclusion here simply because most Google Apps users do not know that it exists. It acts as a to-do list but benefits from close integration with the Gmail and Calendar apps, ensuring that all relevant information is stored in an accessible fashion.
8. Collaborate on Google Drawings
Some users overlook Google Drawings as a vague competitor to Microsoft Paint, but this is underselling the effectiveness of the tool. Multiple users can access the same drawing at the same time, effectively turning it into a collaborative drawing whiteboard. This is great for brainstorming, sharing ideas and breaking down tasks and expectations in real-time, so while you could use the tool alone, this is one that is better with colleagues.
9. Use Labels in Gmail
The conventional means of organising emails using Outlook and other popular mail software is to create folders for various purposes. This is useful but limited, and some users will prefer the opportunity to use email labels as they can do in Gmail. You can create a unique label and also assign it a colour, ensuring that the importance and relevance of each message can be seen at a glance without having to pore through various folders or use the search function. If you receive a particularly large number of emails, you can even create sub-labels, potentially sorting an email into a particular category and then assigning it a priority level.
10. Explore Add-On Apps
The Google Suite is fantastic, cloud-based productivity, but perhaps the best part of all is that you are not restricted to what Google programmers come up with. It is worth exploring outside the ecosystem to find additional options that integrate seamlessly with the core tools, and the sky is the limit. There are backup solutions, site builders, HR software apps and plenty more. Even if you love Google Apps, if anything is missing based on your needs, it is always worth a look for a complementary setup.