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August 25, 2013

5 useful google app tips that can help make you more productive

1. Copying and pasting in google docs
A colleague of mine recently had a difficult time working on a process tree for automatic emails for one of our clients. She was trying to duplicate boxes and lines in a flowchart. Problem was every time she used control + C and control + V, her browser screen went completely white while her computer tried to calculate the redraw.
The flowchart was rather detailed and large, very computer memory intensive.
I suggested she use a hot key combination to make a copy of an element on the screen by holding the control + shift (command + option keys on a mac) while clicking the left mouse button and dragging an element to make a copy.
That worked and saved her literally hours of editing the flowchart. She finished what had taken her 1 day up till then in 20 minutes.

2. Cycling through tabs in google chrome
Do you ever have a google Chrome browser window open with more than one tab? Do you ever get tired of moving your mouse or sliding on your trackpad to click on a tab other than the active one?
Try pressing the control + [number of the tab you want, starting from 1] on a PC keyboard and command + [number of the tab you want, starting from 1] on an Apple keyboard.
You should be able to jump quickly from one tab to another.

3. Automated features in google spreadsheets
By creating rules, you can quickly and easily turn that task sheet into a powerful project management tool on a budget. To do this we'll use two features of google spreadsheets. "Conditional formatting" and "Notification rules".
First, click on the "Format > Conditional formatting..." menu item. In the window that appears, you can enter a word, phrase, date, comparison operator (<, >, =) or leave it blank and apply a rule for any characters and background in the cell that matches the rule. You can color code your spreadsheet quickly this way.
For example, we recently worked on a project where the development team was offshore in Pakistan. Having this real-time task management tool allowed us to collaborate and work efficiently knowing what everyone was working on at any time of the day or night. By simply typing the text "done" the cell was automatically given a green background and therefore in an instant easy to see that task was completed.
Second, notification rules. By clicking on the "Tools > Notification rules" menu item you can set up automatic alerts when a user makes a change to the spreadsheet, so you can stay on top the project's progress without leaving you home or office desk.

4. Working with bullet points
So you've got a great doc with bullet pointed lists. You want multiple levels of bullets. And you want to go up and down the levels. A quick tip here is to press return (or enter) after the end of one bullet. Pressing return (or enter) immediately again will indent the bullet another level.
Pressing shift + return (or enter) will move the bullet up one level of indentation.
Extra tip: Usually pressing control + 'b' (command + 'b' on a mac) will quickly make text bold. Pressing control + 'i' will make text italics (command + 'i' on a mac).

5. Real-time effect of google docs
Recently I worked with an incredibly sharp and detailed client on a logo for his new venture. He was truly gifted in terms of seeing the smallest detail, a joy to work with in that he communicated exactly what he wanted down to the pixel with great clarity.
A client like this doesn't do as well going back and forth via email or teleconferencing. A much more efficient way to work for him is to have a working session in real-time.
Since we weren't in the same city this could have been costly and time consuming.
However, using google drawing, we were able to collaborate in real-time as if we were in the same room and he watched as I came up with designs and modified them honing them down till we got to the right version for him based on his feedback.
And the best part is this functionality is built into google docs. Go to google drive (after you create a google account and log in) and create a new drawing. Share you drawing with someone by clicking on the "File > Share..." menu item and entering your colleague's email address. They will shortly receive an email from you letting them know you've given them access to a google doc. The email will have a link the person can click on to go directly to your google doc. You'll see them appear indicated by a randomly assigned colored box in the upper right area of your google doc in your browser window.
You can each see each others changes in real time. You can even chat in the google doc's window by clicking on black triangle next to your friends name in the upper right corner. A window expands in which you can type them a message.
You can also type directly in the google doc and they'll see your message ... kind of neat.

Bonus tip: In google docs spreadsheets, you can use the "note" feature to leave a detailed note in a cell that is nicely tucked away until a cursor rolls over it. This is a great space saving method to keep your spreadsheets tidy. You can find this feature by clicking in any cell and in the google doc menu (under the name of your spreadsheet) click on "Insert > note".

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