Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Building Buildings in Google Docs

Everyone who knows me knows how excited I get about collaboration - and how especially excited I was when Google Docs' drawing tool was launched as a collaborative editing surface. On a few occasions, I've initiated collaborative scribbling sessions with 3 or 30 people simultaneously, just for the creative kick we all get out of it (an especially active session was triggered by my favorite web-tech blogger, when her quick ping to her followers triggered a flood of creative participants).

When I saw the quality of content a few others had created when we added drawings to the Google Docs Template Gallery, I was inspired to try some myself. So, for a few moments (ahem) per day over the past week, I ventured on a more soloist approach in an attempt to create some useful and realistic-ish drawings of some great city landmark buildings. I initially set out to draw, in rough form, just the Empire State Building. Hmph... that was easy enough - so I just kept going. Transamerica was a bit more challenging, and the Space Needle required some artistic license. My favorite building (second of course to my real favorites), the Chrysler Building, almost made me cry give up - but I persisted and even got that into a form which (when squinting) is acceptable...
So the template drawing is in the gallery (full preview here) - enjoy it, use it, laugh at it, or make fun of my rare obsessive behavior which resulted in these drawings. Maybe next time I'll invite a few dozen of my closest artistic friends to collaboratively create every other landmark building in a tenth of the time ;)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Google Sites - Hiding Site Activity Links

Whenever anyone asks me how they can easily create a web site - guess what I say...
"Get lost freak!" (no, not really, but give me an excuse to use a quote from a kids movie, and I take it)... anyway, I say Google Sites! It really is an easy way to get content up on the web quickly - so while I may be biased, I think Sites is the most accessible tool with the right balance of features and simplicity for the average web user.

There's one thing still about our current version of Sites that I've encountered enough times that I felt I should just post about it and point people here the next 5 times I'm asked:

"How do I get rid of that Recent Site Activity link at the bottom of every page?!"

It's not the intention of most Site authors to give people a link to all the "recent activity" on a site - they just want viewers to see the current version in most cases.

Well, it's not the most obvious thing to find... Here's how to change that:
  1. Sign in to Google Sites and open your site
  2. Click the Gear/Flower ("More Actions") button on the upper right corner and select "Manage Site" option in the menu.
  3. On the left side under Site Settings, click the "General" Option.
  4. The 8th option down (or so) is called "Access Settings" - which has 2 selectors, labelled:
    • Users who can access site activity:       and
    • Users who can access revision history: 
  5. Set BOTH of those options to "COLLABORATORS ONLY"
  6. Click SAVE CHANGES (at the top or bottom of the page)
Hope that's helpful... ping me here if not (and I promise not to use a silly line from a kids movie to dissuade you).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How to TURN ON the NEW Google Docs editors

You may have heard that Google actually offers a product which lets you create, edit, share and collaborate on spreadsheets, documents, presentations and drawings using only your browser (nothing to download, etc... ) - yeah, yeah, I thought so.
You may have heard that there was a recent update to the product which made the editing experience more realtime, more collaborative and just generally faster and better - yeah, I thought so.
You may have heard that if you are a current user of Google Docs, you need to TURN ON these new editors explicitly - no? You didn't hear that part?  Well - it's only temporary... but you do need to do that!

Enough people (more than 1) have asked me this question, that I thought I should just post a quick How To, so I can point people here once... even though this post will be useless soon, when the new editors are standard for everyone...

So, the story is different for spreadsheet and document editing...

For Spreadsheets - very simple... When you are editing any spreadsheet, just look for the "New Version" link in the upper right side of your browser screen. Once you click that, ALL your spreadsheets will open using the new version of the spreadsheet editor (except for a small number of those which use a couple of lagging features which are not yet supported).   If you decide you need to switch back, do the reverse, and use the "Old Version" link in the upper right.

For Documents - less simple, but easy still.... Click the "Settings" link in the upper right side of your screen. Then, click the "Document Settings" sub-menu. In the dialog which shows up, click the "Editing" tab - and then check the box which says "Create new text documents using the latest version of the document editor. Only New Documents will use the new editor... old documents are currently forced to use the old editor.  Just for now...

One more thing to know - if you are on a Google Apps Domain (meaning at school or work or in an organization which uses Apps), you'll only see that new document editor option if your domain administrator wants you to ;) - so ask them if you don't see it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Amazing feats in collaboration (in nature, not technology)

The Atmosphere conference at Google's Mountain View, CA campus this past Monday was exciting and fun and attended by hundreds of interesting CIOs/CEOs and interesting people - there was even a great set of announcements from our own Google Docs team, which was of course a highlight for me. But, whether or not you believe in cloud computing or have any interest in the technology side, if you have any interest in collaboration, you must watch this video from the conference. This presentation by Janine Benyus, the President of the Biomimicry Institute, was, for me, the most educational, intriguing and awe-inspiring presentation of the whole day (yes, even more than seeing several people edit the same doc or drawing at the same time ;).

It turns out, that as much as we think we're innovating in the area of collaboration, we're actually just catching up and still, perhaps, way behind the collaborative systems present in nature.