8 things you can’t do editing Google Docs offline
A great step forward for basic editing.
One of Google’s biggest announcements at its annual developer conference was that you could now edit Google documents without an internet connection. Microsoft touts the ability to edit documents offline as a key selling point for its Google Apps competitor, Office 365. Google has sought to level the field with this upgrade to Google Apps.
Users must install a web application in their Chrome browsers (the feature is only available to Chrome) to enable offline access. The main window in Google Drive (called the Document List) then shows syncing status with the files on your computer.
A user without an internet connection can still open and edit a document from the list of offline files and create a new one. Any changes made offline with sync with the online version once the connection is restored automatically; there’s no need to reload the document.
This is a great advance for commuters while travelling with intermittent mobile connections to the internet.
While it’s a great step for Google Apps, editing Google documents offline is still a very restricted experience compared to editing documents with Microsoft Office on the desktop.
Here are a list of eight things you can’t do with offline editing for Google Apps.
- Users editing a document online will override changes made by users editing the same document offline. There is no option to review and approve changes made by online and offline users during the syncing process.
- If a user online deletes a document that is being edited by an offline user, the document will be deleted and not be recoverable, i.e. the edits will be lost.
- Offline editing is only available to users on paid editions such as Google Apps for Business. It wasn’t yet released to users of the free Google Apps Standard edition.
- Offline editing requires a local copy of Google Drive on a Mac or PC. A great workaround from a reader below – create a new profile in Google Chrome on your PC or Mac and you can use offline editing for personal and work Google accounts. See this link for instructions on creating a new profile http://support.google.com/chrome/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=142059.
- You can’t share, download, publish or print offline documents.
- You can’t insert an image or a drawing.
- Research and translation tools are not available.
- Offline editing is only available to users of the Chrome browser. Google hasn’t said whether the feature will come to Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer.
Can I use Google Apps Offline?
When Google Apps was born there was an understanding that, being a cloud service, you needed the internet to access your Gmail. But things have changed. We now have various options to access your data in Google Apps offline via different devices and different applications.
A point to note is that Google Chrome is required for all offline functionalities.
Gmail was one of the first applications to allow offline access. Offline access is available in Google Apps via the Offline Gmail App from the Chrome Web Store. This has just been redesigned to have the same look and feel as the iPhone and iPad Apps. When the offline app has been installed in your Chrome browser it will run in the background and keep your email updated. If your internet goes down, or your catching a plane or are somewhere without wifi, you still have access to all of your emails.
As above, offline access for Google Calendar happened at the same time as Gmail with the Google Calendar App. Once installed you can choose in the calendar settings to “Turn offline on”. Once enabled all of your calendars will be available offline.
Google Drive is in the process of rolling out offline access for each of its core Drive products; Google Docs (documents), Google Sheets (spreadsheets) and Google Slides (slideshow).
Google Drive App is available for PC and Mac. When connected the Drive tool syncs items in your “Drive” to your PC; it works like cloud file storage program DropBox. Things like Microsoft Office documents and other formats will sync between the desktop and cloud. Google Docs files will have icon links in the folder. Clicking on a Google Docs link will open it in the browser.
The second part of this process is to provide fully functioning offline apps. The first one to go offline was the Drive app Documents. When you are offline you can access, view, and edit the document, just as if you were online. Next was the ability to open and edit presentations in Google Slides offline.
Google Drawings and Forms have recently been changed to allow offline editing.
What comes next
Google is attacking the desktop world. The Chrome browser and ChromeOS operating system is a large part of this strategy. Chrome or Chrome devices such as Google’s netbook Google Pixel will be the gateway to cloud applications and will handle documents locally.
Three things have happened over the last couple of weeks that have signalled the end of desktops and applications as we know it.
The introduction of Chrome device management and remote management which were recently rolled out into the administration panel. You can set users’ welcome pages, whitelisting and blacklisting sites, network settings, and many more items. The highlight is that you can push out marketplace apps and extensions to your users from the control panel! Technically this is called group policies or System Center Configuration Manager for the cloud.
Secondly Google just recently announced Chrome-packaged apps. These apps are fully installed in the browser have chrome security and protection, and all data is stored locally.
A developer site had this explanation for how Chrome-packaged apps work.
Packaged app pages always load locally. This allows apps to be less dependent on the network. Once a user installs an app, they have full control over the app’s lifecycle. Apps open and close quickly, and the system can shut apps down at any time to improve performance. Users can fully uninstall apps.
The final piece to the story was the release of the Office Offline Viewer. This app will allow you to natively view Microsoft Word, Powerpoint and Excel in the browser from a website link. Currently in Beta and only available in the developer edition of Google Chrome, this is a work in progress but it already works really well. The next phase for this project I suspect is to provide full Read / Write options for Microsoft Documents in the Google Chrome browser without the need for an installed version of Microsoft Office.
Offline is an exciting space right now.
How to buy extra storage in Gmail and Google Apps
When Google launched Gmail it included 1GB of storage which, next to Microsoft Hotmail’s 4MB, seemed like a bottomless bag for emails. But that was in 2004.
The basic Gmail account and the free (Standard) edition of Google Apps come with 7GB of storage. But Google has different rules for buying more storage depending on the type of account you have.
If you hit the 7GB limit in the basic Gmail account Google will sell you additional storage which you can share across Gmail, Docs, Picasa and Blogger.
Google Apps Standard edition users who have maxed out their 7GB allocation can buy additional storage for Docs, Picasa and Blogger – but not Gmail. “The only way (Google Apps Standard edition) users can increase Gmail storage is by moving to the paid version, which gives them 25GB,” a Google spokesperson told BoxFreeIT.
The prices for additional storage are the same for basic Gmail accounts or Google Apps users. Prices start at US$5 for 20GB per year and top out at US$4,096 for 16TB per year. Plans automatically renew and charge the account every year unless disabled. See the price chart on the right.
Google Apps users of the Business, Education and Government editions receive 25GB storage in their Gmail accounts and can buy additional storage to share across Google Docs, Picasa and Blogger. “Paid Google Apps users cannot increase Gmail storage above 25GB,” the Google spokesperson said.
However, if Google Apps users buy Postini, Google’s email security and archival service, they can archive an unlimited number of emails which effectively gives Gmail unlimited storage.
Users manage own storage
Google’s policy for managing storage is in line with its policy for document ownership – power and responsibility lie with the user.
Even though Google Apps is intended for businesses, the Google Apps administrator can’t allocate storage to users directly. While the administrator has to give approval to users to buy “user-managed storage”, its the user who has to buy the additional storage for their own account if he or she needs more space with Google Docs, Picasa and Blogger.
One consequence of this arrangement is that storage can’t be pooled within the business. If one user has buys additional storage he or she can’t share that storage with other Google Apps users. This inflexibility will inevitably mean more users will need to buy additional storage.
Purchases are also handled through the individual user’s Google Checkout account, which is annoying for businesses that would prefer to purchase storage for staff accounts through a company account.
Google’s conditions listed on the additional storage purchase page state: “Google storage purchases are non-refundable. You can upgrade storage plans for the pro-rated difference at any time. Paid storage for one Google Account cannot be transferred to a different account.”
What happens if my account is too full?
If you have met or exceeded the limit for your Gmail or Google Apps account, Google will start limiting your usage.
Gmail users over their 7GB or 25GB limit (depending on type of Gmail or Google Apps account) will stop receiving emails. Or as Google says, emails will “hard bounce”. Users at their maximum storage in Google Docs won’t be able to upload any more documents, and Picasa users will be restricted in the size of photos and videos they can upload.
Pictures up to 2048 x 2048 pixels and videos up to 15 minutes don’t count towards Picasa’s total storage limit and can still be uploaded. But if you reach your storage limit, any new photos uploaded to Picasa Web larger than the free size limit will be automatically resized to 800 pixels on their longest edge.
If you reach your storage limit when uploading to Picasa Web from the Picasa desktop software, you’ll only be able upload at free storage sizes. Larger uploads will not be automatically resized to the free storage limit.
Google provided BoxFreeIT with links to its storage policies which are included below.
How to use Google Apps on the iPad and iPhone
In my role I am always under pressure to bring myself fully into the Google ecosystem – which means moving from the iPhone and iPad to Android tablets and phones, and moving from my Apple MacBook to a Chromebook. However, I am coming to the realisation that I can have the best of both worlds using Google products with my iDevices.
Over the last couple of months Google has come to the party by investing time and effort to get their design skills up to “Apple Standards”. Google Apps’ new generation of iPhone and iPad apps I feel are better than their Android counterparts. Here are my favourite ways to use Google Apps on the iPad and iPhone.
My number one app on my phone is the Gmail app. It connects to my Google Apps account and provides a great alternative to the native iOS Mail app. It uses notifications instead of Mail’s push-email method (via Exchange ActiveSync) which lessens the load on my devices battery. And it’s designed to complement the Gmail web interface so colours of labels, conversation view, and all emails are easily accessible.
Chrome on my iDevices is very similar to my experience on my Mac. It is fast, easy to use and uses the latest Google browsing technology. I get extra, invaluable features when I log into my browser. I can sync my open tabs, bookmarks, passwords, and omnibox data from computer to my iPhone or iPad and vice versa. I can also send web pages directly from Chrome to the computer and access them offline as well. I rarely use Safari on either my iPad or iPhone.
Google came to the table by delivering the Maps application Apple wishes it could have given us. Google Maps on the iPhone is fast. It now uses a different type of graphics engine based on vector graphics which provide a better viewing experience than on any PC or Mac. And it now has voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions and a new interface that makes navigating around the app all that much better. The Google Maps iPhone app is a way better experience in comparison to its Android counterpart.
For all the social networks out there, my life revolves around only two – Twitter and Google+. Although there is much scepticism around the commercial performance and lack of content on Google+ comparative to others, in short Google is playing the long game here. Slowly but surely it is starting to integrate Google+ into all its products. This is evident in Gmail and search, as most people have a Google+ account without really knowing it. I also love the fact that Google Hangouts is available via this app so I can be on the road and join an internal hangout from my iPhone. The app is quick, easy to navigate and is integrated with more services, and I can see more people start to use not only the app but the social network more.
There has been a great emphasis on this product in 2012 and it will continue in 2013. Google Drive had a great year! Google introduced the Google Drive iPhone app last year, and later releases included a sync tool for our PCs and Macs that let users edit documents offline. Google also invested heavily on improving the quality of conversion from Word documents to Google Docs through the acquisition of Quickoffice’s technology. Also with the acquisition,Google Apps Business customers have access to QuickOffice for Google Apps which lets you edit Microsoft documents offline on your iPad.
Google voice search is better than the iPhone’s Siri. There are many comparison articles out there however my experience with both leads me to believe that Google Search is quicker and provides better results. On top of the voice search, the app also has the ability to engage Google Goggles Search which allows searches by taking a picture. It also allows searching within a webpage using the built-in text finder.
With the removal of the in-built Youtube app in iOS 6 users had to wait for the app to become available on the App Store. The good news is that the app is a much better implementation of the user interface and now looks and feels like other mobile versions of Google Apps. Although it has much the same features and functions as before the slick, new interface stamps Google’s continued success in designing great apps for the iPhone.
As most of my life incorporates some type of Apple product, I am hesitant to move over and join the droves of users joining the ever growing Google ecosystem. The good news is that, with the quality of the Google Apps being better than the legacy apps built for Android, I don’t have to.
Mail merge with Google Docs: the good, the bad and the ugly
So you use Google Apps and you want to send a sales letter to all your prospects? Or an invitation to all your customers?
Google Apps users are sometimes disappointed that there is no mail merge function in Google Docs, the word-processor, like there is in the desktop version of Microsoft Word. (The online version of Word in Microsoft’s cloud productivity suite, Office 365, also lacks this capability.)
Microsoft Word lets you create a form letter with merge tags that automatically pull names from your groups within your address book in Outlook or elsewhere, such as Apple Address Book on a Mac. The mail merged document can be sent to a printer, to new documents or by email.
There are at least three ways to run a mail merge within Google Apps, though long-time Microsoft Office users will not find them quite as simple and in most cases only work for sending to email.
Here are the three best workarounds.
The Good – Google Contacts + MailChimp or other email marketing service
If you are wanting to merge a large number of email addresses with an email message then using a web-based email marketing service such as MailChimp or Campaign Monitor is a good option.
MailChimp has the advantage of sitting in Google’s Marketplace app store which means that it has some level of integration with Google Apps. Single-sign on between for Google Apps users means you don’t need to remember another username and password, which is a big plus for convenience.
- MailChimp can automatically import all your contacts from Google Contacts.
- Great features such as segmenting lists, statistical analysis including open rates, campaign management, and so on.
- Best suited to newsletter-style content as it includes unsubscribe information on each email which gives it away that it’s not a personal letter.
- Can’t send attachments yourself. MailChimp offers to host attachments up to 10MB in size.
- Can’t automatically import groups within Google Contacts. If you just want to email your sales prospects you have to export the group manually and import it to MailChimp.
The Bad – Use a Google Spreadsheet template
The excellent Digital Inspiration blog has a tutorial that includes Google Spreadsheet template that includes a basic mail merge script.
You can use this template to automatically import any group within Google Contacts and send a message to all the group’s members. No further scripting is involved if you stick to the template outline.
Click on this link to get a copy of Digital Inspiration’s template. Your browser will display a security message asking to confirm making the copy before it creates the Google Spreadsheet template.
The Mail Merge option appears in the document menu after the Help tab. There are two options in the Mail Merge menu; import a group from Google Contacts, and send mail merge.
- No scripting required. Works as advertised, quick and fast.
- Can be saved in the Google Docs file system and reused as needed.
- Template works with standard Gmail accounts as well as Google Apps for Business.
- Limited ability to send graphical content.
- It’s a bit weird writing an email with each sentence on a separate line of a spreadsheet.
- Best for simple text messages.
The ugly – Google Forms + Google Spreadsheet
Google has a tutorial on how to do a mail merge using a spreadsheet of names and email addresses and the in-built Script Editor. The tutorial takes an example of a spreadsheet of data collected by Google Forms and turns it into a mailing database. It’s not for the faint-hearted so if you’ve never scripted before, the long strings of code will be a bit daunting.
- You can do some pretty powerful stuff such as automatically embedding maps customised to each recipient. Check out the demo at 40:20 using Google Maps.
- You need to learn how to code basic scripts.
Top 8 Questions about Google Apps
I field many questions every day about Google Apps, the cloud and how it should be implemented in business. Some questions keep recurring on topics such as security, support and exporting data. The questions are not only asked by small businesses but by large-scale enterprises. I’ve put together a list of the eight most common questions about Google Apps. Each question has a short response which I will expand on in subsequent posts.
1. How does the Patriot Act affect me?
Most businesses shouldn’t be concerned about the Patriot Act because it’s irrelevant. The Australian government already has an agreement with the US to hand over data stored in Australia rather than go through the courts, as the Patriot Act requires.
2. How secure is Google Apps?
Google was architectured from the ground up to not only be a cloud services, but also to be the most scalable and secure product on the market. Google has built very secure data centres worldwide, it can also invest in security in both human resource and implementation at massive scale. This is shown through the many certifications received including FISMA, ISO 27001 as well as security audits, for example SSAE 16.
3. Can I test Google Apps by running it in the cloud and on my server at the same time?
The short answer is yes. During deployments there’s usually a period of coexistence which can last a couple of weeks or longer, depending on the number of users and phases of migration. Google splits bigger deployments into three phases; core IT, early adopters, and then a final Go Live release. This ensures the deployment goes to schedule and any risks are mitigated, increasing the chance of a successful implementation. In each phase there are various levels of coexistence, including sending and receiving email.
4. Can I still use Outlook (or other email client) with Google Apps?
Yes. Although Google Apps is a cloud service and has the Gmail interface in the browser, Google also has many other options, some of which allow you to connect from a desktop email program. These options will be shared in a later article.
5. Will my mobile devices still work with Google Apps?
Mobility is the heart and soul of Google Apps. Google Apps was built to be available anywhere, any place, on any device. As long as your device has a web browser you will be able to access your mail and services. There are some caveats on connecting Google Apps to inbuilt device applications. Each category of device best-practice connections will be shared.
6. What support or service-level agreement does Google offer business users?
Many will be familiar with Google’s consumer product offerings for example, Google Search, Blogger, Google Analytics, Google Maps. These services are offered mainly free to the consumer, and therefore have a minimal amount of direct support from Google. However, Google also sells business versions of its products such as Google Apps for Business and Google Maps. Google provides support for these subscription services to ensure an enterprise experience for business customers.
7. How do I export my data from Google?
Google is very open about their data policy around both its enterprise and consumer offerings. Google believes that all your data belongs to you and offers various ways of getting both consumer and enterprise data out of Google with migration tools and export services such as Google Takeout.
8. Can I use Google Apps offline?
The short answer is yes. Up until last year the number one requested feature was the ability to write emails and documents offline in Gmail and Google Apps. With advancements made in both code and browser, a number of Google products now no longer require users to always be online. I will take you through each of these.
What is the difference between the free and paid versions of Google Apps?
When you sign up for a free account of Google Apps (called the Standard edition), you’re not getting all the best things that Google Apps has to offer. To do that you need to buy the Business edition for US$65 per user per year. This edition is mandatory for businesses with more than 10 user accounts.
What do you get for your money? BoxFreeIT asked Anil Sabharwal, Google’s head of mobile product management, Google Docs (pictured on right), for the answers.
Google lists the benefits of the paid edition under three headings. Support and SLA, application features and mobile features.
1. Google Groups
Google Groups, which lets people send messages to members of a group, is accessible by those with a Gmail account or Google Apps standard edition – but it will only let you create public groups.
Google Apps business edition lets you create private groups for which you can manage membership and the information posted within them. Google has given Groups a wider purpose – as a way of controlling access to internal documents.
Folders containing sales material and quotes can be linked to a Google Group set up for sales staff, for example. When a person is made a member of that Group they then have access to all those documents.
Anil says Google Groups is valuable in replacing distribution lists. A business with franchisees in several cities could set up a Google Groups for each store.
“If a person joined our Sydney store all of a sudden they have would access to a thousand documents. If they transferred to Melbourne, they would have access to a completely different thousand documents. They don’t have to get manually added to (share settings for each document), it just happens instantaneously.”
Google Groups can also replace public folders for email. In another scenario a travel agency links its inquiries form to a Google Groups for its agents. Instead of the inquiries form emailing all the agents with no way to know who was following up on a lead, a Google Groups would show all agents which leads had come through and who had assigned themselves to each.
“It becomes a single inventory of every customer inquiry that’s come through the site. You can go back and say, ‘We got in touch with this customer and they’re going on this trip’”, Anil says.
2. Google Video
Anil calls Google Video “YouTube for your business”. It’s only available in the business edition and is used for sending out messages internally or hosting training videos.
Google executives use Google Video internally every quarter to tell staff about results, wins and product announcements.
3. A bigger, better Gmail
Google Apps standard edition gets 7GB inbox in Gmail, just like the free Gmail account. The Business edition gets a 25GB inbox and optional email archiving and discovery, which can expand the usable space for email even further.
Standard edition users are also limited to sending emails to 500 recipients a day. That quota can be quickly reached through extended email conversations with large numbers of recipients. Google counts names in the to, cc and bcc fields towards that total.
The maximum number of recipients rises to 3000 a day for business users.
4. Outlook for holdouts
Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook lets users continue with Outlook as an email client but use Google’s servers for processing email. Google Apps Sync lets an Outlook user and a Google Calendar user see each other’s free/busy schedules.
The tool is designed for large companies that have decided to shift from Microsoft Exchange servers to Google Apps but want to reduce upheaval to staff by letting them stay on Outlook.
Google Apps Sync is only available in the business edition.
5. Phone support
Standard edition users get help through Google’s forums, which effectively means searching for the answer to someone else’s question or posting your own and waiting for a reply from Google staff and fans.
Business edition users on the other hand can call a 24×7 phone number for support.
“For business, that immediate response to deal with their particular scenario – with someone on the phone who can look up their account, look through their control panel, understand what settings are there, make modifications in real time as required – that’s a pretty significant benefit,” Anil says.
What about support for apps bought in the Google Apps Marketplace that connect to Google Apps?
Anil says that any issue which has to do with buying, installing or integrating an app will be supported by Google Apps; if it’s application functionality then the user has to contact the vendor of the app.
Anil adds that Google works with its top vendors in its marketplace to ensure they provide an equal level of support to Google Apps customers.
6. Compensation for downtime
While standard and business editions of Google Apps run on the same servers in the same data centres, only business users receive compensation if Google Apps stops working for a period (has “downtime”). Google Apps’ SLA (service-level agreement) gives credits to businesses if they are unable to use their Google Apps accounts.
A business can receive a maximum 15 free days a month if service drops below 95% availability, or one and a half days downtime that month.
A standard edition user receives no compensation and, more importantly, has no way of finding out how long the problem will take to be fixed. A business edition user can call the support line.
“With the business edition you can contact someone and say, ‘For some reason my Gmail appears to be down’, and we can isolate it. It’s understanding that this particular user has that problem and there are things we can do to help get that user back up and running,” Anil says.
“In the rare cases where outages happen they only typically affect half a percent of our users because of the way in which we manage our data in our systems.”
Google tries to keep the features gap to a minimum between the standard and business editions, Anil claims. The main difference between the two is the number of users permitted.
But Google believes businesses will be better off on the business edition even if they have less than 10 users. Google has “tens of thousands of businesses” in the single digits, Anil says.
“If you’re five users that’s $250 a year. Considering everything else you’re managing in your business, knowing that you have the comfort of having that support and SLA and guaranteeing you have access to the exact same set of products that Flight Centre has, that’s a very comfortable feeling.”
So, how do the paid versions of Google Apps benefit your business?