SiliconFilter

Google Docs Gets Customizable Styles, Sparklines and Google+ Sharing for Forms

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Google just announced some welcome new features for Google Docs. Maybe the most important of these updates is Google Doc's new-found ability to apply changes to a document's style and formatting across the document with just a few clicks. This means that if you want to change how subtitles look, for example, you don't have to go through the whole document anymore and change them one by one. Instead, you just change the style of your subtitles once and then apply it to the whole document. If you use Microsoft Word or Apple's Pages, for example, you know that this isn't a revolutionary new feature, but it can definitely save you quite a bit of time.

Sparklines google docs

Sparklines in Google Docs

In addition to the new customizable styles, the spreadsheet application now also features support for sparklines, an increasingly popular way of presenting data in a glanceable visual format. Other new options for spreadsheets in Google Docs include the ability to create more sophisticated charts "including different Y-axes on either side of the chart, formatting options for the axis and title text, and all sorts of other customization for how your lines, bars, or pies are displayed."

Sharing Forms

Google already featured Google+ sharing in Google Docs, but with today's update, it also lets you share right from the form editor.

But there's more…

In an interesting move that becoming more common among Google products, the Google Docs team has also decided to bundle new feature announcements instead of writing a new blog post and announcement for each small update. Here then are the other updates Google made to Docs over the last month:[list]

  • Adding images to your docs from a high quality stock photo gallery. Simply go to Insert > Image, select Stock photos, and then search for the images that you want.
  • A more streamlined format for document discussion notifications that batches multiple discussions into a single email.
  • Quickly opening and selecting items from specific menus with keyboard accelerators. For example, when using Google Chrome, Ctrl+Option+E on a Mac and Alt+E on Windows or Linux will open the Edit menu.
  • Copying and pasting via the context (right click) menu in documents when you have the Chrome App installed.
  • Easily adding Google drawings or Google Groups discussions to a Google Site from the Insert menu.[/list]

 


11:29 am


Your Google Docs are Now Ready for Takeout

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It seems like most of the news coming out of Google these days is somewhat controversial, but here is a nice little piece of good news out of Mountain View: you can now easily download an archive of your documents in Google Docs with just a few clicks. Docs, Google announced today, is now part of the Google Takeout service, which allows you to download all of your data from services like Buzz, Picasa, Google Voice and others.

You could, of course, always download your documents from Google Docs already, but this new feature will make it easier for users who want to quickly create a complete backup of their data or move to a different service.

One nifty feature here is that Takeout also allows you to choose which format you want your data to be exported in (Microsoft Office, OpenDocument, PDF, plain text etc.). The downloads themselves are always compressed as ZIP files.

Google Takeout docs



12:49 pm


Google Apps for Business Users Finally Get 24×7 Phone Support

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Until now, Google Apps for Business users who pay a monthly or annual per-user fee to use the business versions of Gmail, Google Docs and similar services under their own domain names had one problem: the only real support option was over email. While that may work for most problems, quite a few users actually prefer to get an immediate answer and to talk to somebody knowledgeable over the phone. Starting today, Google now provides 24×7 phone support for Google Apps for Business users for all issues related to the product’s core services. These include Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar, among others.

As Jocelyn Ding, Google’s VP for Enterprise Operations notes in the announcement today, “In the early days, our customers reached us mainly through email, and our 24 x 7 phone support was limited to critical issues. To improve the experience of our customers, we now provide 24 x 7 phone support to small, medium, and large Google Apps for Business customers for all issues affecting the core services.”

Here are the phone numbers you can call: [list]

  • U.S. Technical Support: 1-877-355-5787
  • International Technical Support: 1-404-978-9282 [/list]

Customer Satisfaction Among Google Apps Users: 80%

According to Google’s own numbers, customer satisfaction among Google Apps for Business users is 80% for business customers and 90% for large business customers. While Google glances over this, the fact that 20% of business customers aren’t fully satisfied with Google Apps is quite a high number and surely one of the main reasons why Google now offers phone support.

Google has always had an aversion against offering support by phone. After all, Google is the company that didn’t offer phone support when it launched its first phone. It’s interesting to see that this seems to be changing now.

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5:35 pm


Google Docs Presentations Get Real-Time Collaboration, Transitions and Animations

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Just about a year and a half ago, most of Google’s productivity apps in the Google Docs suite received major overhauls that brought real-time collaboration and a number of other new features to Google’s online document, spreadsheet and drawing tools. One tools that was left out of that refresh at the time was Google’s online PowerPoint rival Google Docs presentations. Today, Google is changing this by bringing real-time collaboration, animations, rich tables and about 50 more new features to the presentations application.

While the apps feature set obviously can’t quite compete with Microsoft’s PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote, making easy collaboration the focal point of the product gives it a competitive edge. As Google notes, “the best presentations are made together, collaborating with others to build a compelling story that captivates your audience.” Now, with Google Wave-like character-by-character real-time collaboration, that should get a bit easier for Google Docs users.

It’s worth noting that Microsoft, with its Office Web Apps is also now making online collaboration a focal point of its web initiatives and that the online PowerPoint app does offer a number of features (and great document fidelity) than Google.

image

Here are some of the other new features that Google highlights: [list]

  • Transitions: to move between slides with simple fades or spicier 3D effects
  • Animations: to add emphasis or to make your slides more playful
  • New themes: to create beautiful presentations with distinct visual styles
  • Drawings: to build new designs, layouts, and flowcharts within a presentation
  • Rich tables with merged cells and more options for adding style to your data

[/list]

Getting Started

Google notes that these new features were designed for modern browsers. Anything newer than Firefox 4, Safari 4 and Internet Explorer, as well as Google’s own Chrome browser should work fine, though.

To get started, head to the “Document settings” from your document list and check the box next to “Create new presentations using the latest version of the presentation editor.”

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3:52 pm


Google Promises to Make Google Docs Available Offline Soon

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For the last few weeks, Google has been soliciting product ideas for Google Docs. Since the start of this program, just under 4,000 users have submitted about 2,000 suggestions. Today, Google announced its plans to give priority to three of the top ideas. These include better header and footer functionality, the ability to create vertical merge in spreadsheets and – most importantly – making Google Docs available offline.

(more…)



4:44 pm


Google Introduces a Priority Inbox for Your Documents

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Google Docs just announced a user interface overhaul of its documents list. This new interface makes it easier to organize and find the documents you upload to Google Docs. Google introduced a set of filters that now allow you to organize your files by type, visibility state (whether you shared it online, with friends, etc.), last modified date and, of course, by name.

In addition, Google Docs can now organize files by priority – similar to Gmail’s Priority Inbox. Just like in Gmail, this new feature looks at a number of signals to evaluate how important a file is to you and moves the most relevant documents to the top of your list.

Google Docs priority-1.jpg

Google Docs now also features a preview pane that shows thumbnails of your documents and some basic information about them. Next to this, Google also renamed “Folders” to “Collections.” Files, according to the company, can “live in multiple collections.” All of this culminates in the new “Home” screen that allows you to quickly access the documents you access the most often.

Another welcome new feature that makes the web app even more like a desktop app is that you can now use your Shift or Control keys to select multiple files.

The refresh will be rolling out over the next few days. For Google Apps for Business users, the roll-out will take a bit longer if your administrator hasn’t enabled pre-release features for your company.

Google Docs_new_list-1.jpg



12:47 pm


One Week With the Google ChromeOS Notebook: An Experiment in Total Cloud Computing

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cr_48_notebook_small.jpg

It’s been just about a week since Google’s Cr-48 prototype ChromeOS netbook appeared on my doorstep. Since then, I’ve been putting it through its paces, including during a short trip to a press event in Detroit, and it’s turned out to be a surprisingly useful machine.

A Few Words About the Hardware

I’ve read quite a bit about people’s problems with the current hardware, especially the trackpad. I don’t know if I just got lucky, but besides the widely chronicled issues with slow video playback (which I tend to attribute to Flash more than to the hardware itself), the trackpad and everything else on the Cr-48 worked as expected. Indeed, while the 3.8 pound Atom-powered netbook is clearly no a speed demon, it’s perfectly adequate for browsing the Web and the speed feels similar to the browsing experience on the iPad.

cr48 packaging

Q: Is Living in the Cloud Really an Option Yet? A: Kinda

At the end of the day, the Cr-48 is really a radical experiment on Google’s part that tries to answer whether it’s really possible to live in the cloud without wired Internet access and native apps outside of the browser. After all, ChromeOS gives you nothing but a browser and access to WiFi and Verizon’s 3G network (with a meager 100mb of free data transfer on Verizon’s network). You don’t get any native apps and with the exception of a few early ChromeOS apps like the NYTimes app, most of the current apps don’t offer an offline mode yet. For the most part, you don’t even get access to the notebook’s local storage (a fast 16GB SSD drive).

What was interesting to me, was that the Cr-48 made me realize how much of my current computing needs can be satisfied by ChromeOS. I already read all my email through various Google and Google Apps accounts, for example, and Google Docs is perfectly adequate for taking notes during a meeting.

At the same time, though, Google Docs is still not able to handle complex documents. For those, I prefer Microsoft’s Office Web apps, but those apps are – of course – not as tightly integrated with Gmail as Google’s own productivity apps.

Thanks to Seesmic and the new online version of TweetDeck, the Cr-48 satisfies all my Twitter needs, and as a long-time MOG subscriber, all my music needs are fulfilled as well. For blog posts, I can just write in the WordPress and MovableType online editors. And for the most part, that’s all I do with my laptop today anyway, so the Cr-48 turned out to be all I needed during my last business trip earlier this week (thanks, fittingly, to Delta’s Google-sponsored free in-flight wireless, too).

But Would I Use it as My Only Laptop? Probably Not Yet

That said, though, would I use the Cr-48 and/or ChromeOS as my one and only notebook anytime soon? Probably not – while it fulfills a good chunk of my day-to-day computing needs, there are those four or five apps I need (like Skitch for screenshots and Skype for VoIP calls) that just don’t run on ChromeOS today. A full switch to Google’s new operating system really isn’t an option yet – though with time, as more ChromeOS apps become available – this could change.

For now, ChromeOS is an interesting experiment and I fully expect to continue using the Cr-48 as a secondary notebook when I head out to the local coffee shop.



12:26 pm