Docs for Collaboration
Google Docs (referred to here as Docs) is free to all LLI members who have an LLI account (such as email@example.com). It is a word processing application, very similar to Microsoft Word, but you don’t have to pay for it and it resides in the Cloud so you don’t have to install it on your computer, phone, tablet, etc.
One Docs advantage is easy collaboration; if two colleagues have opened the same document, each can see what the other is changing as the changes occur. Very cool! You never have to worry about multiple versions of your document residing on different computers and then reconciling all the changes. You can leave comments for your colleagues and have a “conversation” about specific parts of your Doc.
Starting a Doc
Google requires you to log in with a Google account to start a new document. If you have an LLI.Bard.edu account, log in when asked.
There are several ways to start a new Google Doc:
- In your browser, go to docs.google.com. Like all the Google apps, Docs is a subdomain of Google.com, so you just type “doc.” before Google.com. The subdomain prefix works for other Google apps, such as mail.google.com and drive.google.com.
- Go to google.com and click the checkerboard icon in the upper right. That will display a dropdown menu of the Google applications from LLI.Bard.edu and you simply click “Docs.”
- Go to Drive.Google.com and you will see both MyDrive (where your own files are stored) and Shared Drive (where files shared with other LLI members are shown). Pick the folder of interest and then click the big rainbow plus icon in the upper right. One of the selections on the dropdown is Google Docs.
Similarity to Word
If you are familiar with Microsoft Word, you will find Docs easy to use. It has similar icons and a similar main menu, with the addition of some collaboration tools.
One of the favorite features is that you can change the name of your file while viewing your doc: just click on the upper left and change the name. In the screenshot below, the name of the file is “Tech Corner July.” The Docs file name is not its unique identifier (as you might be used to if you use Office tools). You could have several Docs files with the same name in the same folder.
The unique identifier for your Doc is the URL. So look at the top space where you usually put in the destination of where you want to go on the web and you will see a long URL beginning with https://docs.google.com/document/d/[long series of letters and numbers]. Google keeps tracks of your files and folders (your resources) using this long URL (i.e., Universal Resource Locator).
Some Easy Collaboration Tools
Open a Doc and look in the upper right corner where you will see icons for collaboration:
- Blue Share Button: click this to share your document with someone else. After you click, you simply complete the share dialog box (email account of the person/people you want to share with, their access level – similar to the selections in the Access/Editing drop-down described below – and any text you want to email along with the shared link). The recipients will get an email with a link to the document you shared. If they edit the document, you will get an email notification back. See below for a screenshot of this.
- Comments Icon: The comments icon is to the left of the share button. Click this icon to see the comments panel to the right of your document. You can add a comment or see the history of all the comments in your document. If someone leaves a comment, you can reply back and have a lively discussion about the content of the document.
If you move your pointer to the right margin of the document, you will also see the comment icon directly to the right of the document edge. Click it to add a comment. Easy, peasy!
- Access/Editing Drop-down: Just below the blue share button is a pencil icon with a drop-down caret. If your screen is wide enough, you will also see the word “Editing” next to the pencil. Clicking the dropdown caret shows what mode you are in and you can toggle between modes:
- Editing – for when you are changing the text in the document
- Suggesting – just like this word suggests, you can add suggested changes to the document to be approved by someone else. Your suggestions will be highlighted in color so others can see what you’ve done.
- Viewing – for when you want to see what the final document will look like without all the comments and suggestions.
You can practice this yourself. Find a friend and have both of you open the same document at the same time. This is especially fun if you are both in the same room and can talk while you practice. You will see that each of you have a different color and any edits or suggestions are shown in your own color.
When you click the blue share button in the top right, you will see the dialog box below. It is clearly marked with different options:
- Names/email addresses of collaborators
- Mode of access in the dropdown (edit, comment only, view only)
- Message for the email content
Click “send” and you have shared your document! No messy attachments, worrying about revision conflicts, reconciling files stored on different computers, commenting, etc.
You can also practice this in your session with your friend. It is so easy and saves so much time.
Learn More About Docs
Google has a wonderful G Suite learning center with clear instructions for using different apps. Here is the link: https://support.google.com/a/users/answer/9282664?visit_id=636971792235164349-621229491&hl=en&rd=1
You can also look at the LLI.Bard.Edu website under Membership> Participating Members> Using G Suite for LLI Members. There you will find some PDF files with step-by-step instructions for different tasks, such as logging in, using Drive, and using Google Docs.
All of the Tech Corner articles can be found on the LLI.Bard.edu website. From the main navigation bar at the top, choose News + Events> New + Notes Archive> Tech Corner.
How to Get an LLI.Bard.edu Account
If you are an LLI member, you can get your own LLI account by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You will get an invitation from Google to set up your account with a link to click. When you click the link, you will need to change your password to something you remember, at least eight characters long.
This article is by Deborah Schwartz, Chair of Administration/Infrastructure Committee at LLI.