Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ten time-saving features of Google Apps

From updating reports, tackling to-do lists, scheduling meetings, organizing messages, reading blog posts on how to save time… our workdays are filled to the brim with different responsibilities. Why not let technology do some of the work for you? Luckily, there are great features of Google Apps that help us get these things done more quickly and efficiently.

In this post, we will highlight ten features of Google Apps that help to increase productivity and save time throughout your workday.
  • Priority Inbox in Google Mail
  • Find a Time in Google Calendar
  • Real-time Collaboration in Google Drive
  • Collaborative Inbox in Google Groups
  • Embed a Calendar in Google Sites
  • Include a Google Form in the Email Body
  • Turn an Email into a Task
  • Create Filters in Google Mail
  • Download Drive for Mac/PC
  • Share a Folder in Google Drive

1. Priority Inbox in Google Mail

Priority inbox makes checking your mail much easier, by separating your mailbox into up to four different sections. The default sections include: Important and Unread, Starred, a Custom/Optional Section and Everything Else. The result is a more manageable inbox and the ability to recognize higher priority messages in the top sections, as opposed to them coming in chronologically and being mixed in with less important messages.

Importance markers are applied automatically to messages that Gmail recognizes as important using signals like who you email, which emails you open and keywords that appear to be of interest to you. If messages are classified as important and you disagree, you can train you importance ranking by clicking on the yellow importance marker next to a sender’s name to remove it. Gmail will adjust its ranking automatically and priority inbox files your messages appropriately into sections for you, which saves you time when you’re checking your emails throughout the day.

In the example below, we configured priority inbox with a third section for messages in our Inbox with the “Action Items” label applied to them. This section is optional and customizable.

2. Find a Time in Google Calendar

If you are often scheduling group meetings, you know that it is very time-consuming to determine a meeting time that doesn’t conflict with guests’ busy schedules. Instead of comparing the schedules of those individuals you want to invite to your meeting, let Find a Time in Google Calendar do the work for you.

First create your event, add a description, add guests, and add rooms or resources. Next, click on the Find a Time tab on the Event details page and the feature will recommend a time that works for all guests and resources added to the event. If you have permission to view the calendars, Find a Time will display up to ten schedules side-by-side. You can move the timebar to different times and use the arrows to scroll to different days, if needed. The time and date you select will auto-populate into the event details.

3. Real-time Collaboration in Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms or Drawings

Real-time collaboration in Google Drive documents makes the processes of creating, editing and proofreading much easier. Just share your document with your colleagues and allow them edit, comment or view permissions. Depending on their permissions, everyone can work in the same document simultaneously on revisions. Edits are auto-saved so everyone with access to your document can rely on having the most up-to-date information. Additionally, collaborators can ask questions or give direction via chat, or add comments throughout the document to share their suggestions or opinions.

4. Collaborative Inbox in Google Groups

A collaborative inbox is a great type of Google Group for project teams, support departments, hiring managers and other groups of individuals who use shared mailboxes. In the Google Groups forum, team members can read and track messages, reply to posts, take topics, assign topics to other group members, tag topics to categorize them, mark topics as completed, mark topics as no action needed, and more. Group members can save time and avoid duplicating efforts by managing and organizing topics in the forum view. For convenience, they can also receive messages and replies to the group in their Gmail inbox. For more information on Collaborative Inbox and the other Google Group types, check out our previous post on Best Practices in Google Groups.

5. Embed a Calendar in Google Sites

If you use Google Sites for creating a company intranet or for managing projects, you may want to consider embedding a calendar into the site to display your upcoming events. Your intranet could include a calendar, so employees can quickly check out important upcoming events, company-paid holidays, pay days, and so forth. Your project site could include a calendar to display timelines, deadlines, tasks and more. A calendar on a project site is a great way to display project milestones to team members as well as clients.
You could even embed a calendar in a Google Site and make it public on the web, so individuals outside your company can view your scheduled events and recognize availability of things like rooms or resources. For example, if you allow people outside your company to book rooms or resources, you can embed a Google Form into a site right next to a Google Calendar, and allow others to request reservations via your form, for specific dates that appear to be available on your calendar.

6. Include a Google Form in the Email Body

Google Forms are a quick way to collect data from individuals inside or outside your organization. For example, you can send a form to gather feedback on services, or collect menu selections when planning an event. Why not make it easier for individuals to respond to your form by including the form directly in the body of an email?  This will encourage others to respond more quickly since they won’t have the extra step of clicking on the link to access the form.

After creating your form, click Send form in the top, right corner of the Form. Next, add email addresses and check the box next to “Include form in email.” The form appears when recipients open the email, where they can mark answers and click submit. Form responses are received in real-time, so you can start analyzing the data immediately. For more information on Forms, check out our previous post, How to get the most out of the new Google Forms.

7. Turn an Email into a Task

Google Tasks allows you to keep track of your own to-do lists, as well as items that others have delegated to you. You can create additional task lists for different projects, add due dates and notes to tasks, mark tasks as complete, and email a task list to someone. Additionally, you can turn an email into a task in just a few clicks. So, the next time you receive an email that includes a to-do item(s), select the email and click on the More menu above your mail list. Choose "Add to Tasks" and a task will be added to your task list. The subject of the email will be the name of the task, and a link to the email is included with the task so you can quickly reference the email at a later time.

8. Create Filters in Google Mail

Filters save you time because they can automatically take action on emails that match a specific criteria as they flow into your mailbox. For example, you can create filters to automatically archive messages from a specific sender, star messages from your boss, or apply a label to messages with certain keywords. Check out our previous post to learn How to use filters in Google Mail.

9. Download Drive for Mac/PC

When you download and install Google Drive for PC/Mac on your computer, a Google Drive folder is added to your computer. There is a two-way sync between this folder and your Google Drive on the web, so you can open or organize the contents saved in Google Drive right from your computer. A great time-saving benefit of Google Drive for PC/Mac is the ability to sync files to your online account by simply saving the file or moving the file to your Google Drive folder on your computer. After doing so, your important files are accessible on any device - your computer, tablet or mobile phone - where you sign in to your account. 

To get started, sign in to Google Drive on the web and click on “Connect Drive to you desktop” in the left sidebar. Next, select the Download Drive for Mac/PC button and follow the steps to begin syncing your important files so they are saved securely in the cloud in Google Drive.

10. Share a Folder in Google Drive

If you need to share several files with the same group of colleagues, don’t spend the time sharing each document with each person. Instead, create a shared folder for your team. You can move files into the folder and share the folder with individuals who need access to its contents. To do so, select the down-arrow next to the folder and choose Share. Just as with sharing of documents, you can choose different visibility options and limit permissions for those individuals or groups you invite to access your folder. The contents of the folder will inherit the sharing permissions you set for the folder.

If you are not currently utilizing these features of Google Apps, we hope that you have recognized a few ways to incorporate them into your current workflow to help you get more done in less time. If you want to share how your organization is currently using one or more of these features of Google Apps, or if you have questions regarding a topic reviewed in this post, please leave your comments below. Additionally, if you would like to schedule Google Apps training for your organization, or just want to learn more about Dito's change management services, please visit the Change Management and Training section of our website.

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