This month we explore a free Google service called Google Docs and Spreadsheets. It lets you create, edit and work with documents and spreadsheets online. You can store them online, download them and even share them. This collaborative storage, editing and publishing tool has great potential for community groups. [First published November 2006.]
Log in with your (free) Google account name and click on the New Document or New Spreadsheet link. Now you can paste existing text or type your document. Google Docs saves all documents automatically.
If you already have a file on your computer you can upload it and work on it online. Once you have documents stored online they will be displayed in a list and you can choose to edit, archive, or delete them, using the kinds of tools and menus familiar from Microsoft Word and Excel.
Invite others to edit the document by clicking the Collaborate tab. Collaborators have permission to edit the document and to invite others, or you can invite people to be viewers only. A viewer is able to see the document, but they aren’t able to make changes to it.
Choose whether the invitee should be a collaborator or simply a viewer and enter their email address in the correct box. Once you press the button to invite these people you can choose whether to email them immediately or later, and to enter a message. The system sends them an email at the appointed time, they log in and can work with the document in the way you chose for them.
If you’d like anyone at all to be able to view a word-processing document you can choose the Publish tab. You don’t need a website, instead Google provides an URL where the document can be viewed. We published a sample.
If you edit and Save the document then the published page reflects those changes.
If you have a Blogger blog, you can also publish the document there.
Chat about a spreadsheet
If you have a spreadsheet you can choose the Discuss tab and use Google Chat to have a real-time discussion about it.
Download, Export, make a PDF
Google make it easy for you to download and export your word-processing file or spreadsheet in various formats, including HTML and PDF.
It’s been 10 years now since the Internet became popular and transformed the computer from a private device standing alone on a desk to a useful tool in a worldwide network. Email and the web have connected us in ways we had never dreamed of.
Emailing around word-processing documents or spreadsheets has become common for those wishing to collaborate on a proposal, report or discussion document. Now Google Docs opens up collaboration to those who don’t have private networks.
This tool has the potential to make collaboration really easy within and between community groups. This Tip has only opened to the door to what it can do. It’s worth investigating it for yourself.
Written for and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, November 2006. This article may have been modified from the original.