Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A look back as we move ahead: Google Docs and Google Sites

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 02:14 PM PDT
Posted by Jeremy Milo, Google Apps Product Marketing Manager

We’ve all been frustrated by technology that gets slower, less reliable and less useful over time. Google Apps is different – it actually gets better automatically week after week without patches or updates to manage. People can absorb this stream of innovation without being distracted from their workflow, so this month we’re taking a look back to highlight the most interesting ways that Google Apps has grown up over time. Last week, we started with Gmail and Google Calendar.

Today we’ll break down how Google Docs and Sites support better teamwork, mobile productivity, ease of use and trustworthiness – four areas where Google Apps excels. We hope you’ll find a few capabilities here that you didn’t know about before, or haven’t tried in some time.

Designed for Teams
Google Docs and Sites were built from the ground up to make teamwork seamless. Being able to simultaneously edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations without the hassles of attachments is just the start.
  • Great documents come from great discussions, so in addition to collaborative editing, Google Docs also enables conversations right alongside your content. Comments can be directed to specific co-editors, who can then respond in the document’s discussion panel or over email.
  • Sometimes you want to collaborate freely with others in a spreadsheet, but other situations call for a bit more control. Data validation lets you enforce cell input restrictions. You can also protect sheets – making them view-only – or hide sheets entirely within a collaborative workbook.
  • Forms in Google Docs also offer a structured way of collecting information in a spreadsheet from others. Questions can be multiple choice or open-ended, and your surveys can include branching logic to display different questions to a respondent depending on how they respond to earlier questions.
  • When a document, spreadsheet or presentation isn’t able to truly capture an idea, try a collaborative drawing. The same real-time co-editing found in those other formats is part of the drawing editor, too.
  • Across documents, spreadsheets, presentations and drawings, revision history lets you see any edit made by any collaborator since the file was created, which comes in handy when you need to revert changes or view a previous version.
  • Google Sites can really bring a collection of information together neatly – including embedded documents, spreadsheets and presentations – into a collaborative team, project or public website. Anyone with edit access can contribute and share, no programming skills required.
  • In today’s world of distributed contributors, working across language barriers can be critical. With automatic document translation, site translation, and even a translation spreadsheet function all powered by Google Translate, being productive in multiple languages has never been easier.
  • If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it, so we added built-in analytics within Google Docs and Google Sites, which provides content owners with aggregate stats and metrics about who’s accessing their files and sites.
  • Beyond collaborative documents, spreadsheets, presentations and drawings, you can upload and share any type of file with Google Docs, including pictures, videos, and special file formats like CAD drawings. Simply upload to Google Docs and decide who should have access. You can even set permissions to a mailing list, which automatically adjusts access as individuals are added to and removed from the group.
  • Shared collections is a great way to efficiently manage sharing access across a group of files. Instead of sharing file-by-file, you can share a whole folder of information all at once.
  • And if you’re looking to bring more efficient collaboration to Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint without upgrading to Office 2010, give Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office a try.

Productive Anywhere
Mobile access to email, contacts and calendar information is pretty common now, but access to documents, spreadsheets, presentations and team sites across all major smartphone platforms is unique to Google Apps.
  • Unlike software and files that live on one specific computer, you can access and work with information in Google Docs and Google Sites from any computer without hassles like software licenses and VPN connections.
  • Beyond simple mobile document viewing, you can edit documents and spreadsheets from Android and iOS devices. This can be a faster way to make a simple change than firing up your laptop.
  • The Google Docs mobile app for Android allows you to browse, search, open and share your Google Docs files from your phone or tablet. This app even lets you convert mobile phone pictures into editable documents.
  • Google Sites are also optimized for smaller screens through automatic mobile rendering. When you’re viewing a site on a small screen, we can automatically display a version of the site that’s easier to use on your phone or tablet.

Simple & Affordable
Google Docs and Sites bring together the best of two worlds: the power of the web and the richness of traditional software applications, all at a dramatically lower cost than buying, installing and managing client software.

Pure & Proven Cloud
As with Gmail, the collaboration tools in Google Apps for Business are backed by a service uptime guarantee and transparent system performance information. And compared to sharing information using old tools like thumb drives, Google Apps can help businesses keep their data a whole lot safer, too.
  • Our 99.9% uptime SLA guarantees reliable access to Google Apps, and our commitment doesn’t have any exceptions for planned maintenance. This is because our systems are designed to handle updates without interrupting service for customers.
  • Our publicly available status dashboard offers transparency about the health of our systems, and 24x7 phone and online support is there when you need it.
  • Google goes to extensive lengths to protect the customer information in our data centers, including extensive personnel background checks, security-focused processes, advanced technology, and around-the-clock physical protection.
  • Google Docs and Sites have completed a SAS 70 Type II audit, and have achieved the U.S. Federal goverment’s FISMA certification.
  • With default https connections, your information is encrypted as it travels from your web browser to our servers. This helps protect your data by making it unreadable to others sharing your network.
  • Google Apps accounts can be further secured with 2-step verification, which requires users to sign in with something they know (their password) and something they have (their mobile phone). With verification codes available via SMS, even basic mobile phones can serve as powerful authentication devices.

As with Gmail and Google Calendar, Google Docs and Sites have been on a fast innovation path (85 improvements last year alone!) that you just can’t get from typical software upgrades every three to five years. So if you missed any of these new features over the years, give them a go – you’re bound to find a few that’ll help you work more efficiently.