I realized, while researching syncing Google Apps with Outlook, that there are a lot of lesser known—in fact, virtually unknown—features of Google Apps. Most of these are really cool, but not being talked about by Google, which is kind of a shame due to their general usefulness.
Today I’m going to cover some of the lesser known features and benefits of Google Apps that I think are at least as interesting as Google’s touted features, if not more so:
So you can write documents from anywhere. That’s cool. What’s better is that two people can work on the same document at the same time, with updates appearing in turn. Further it records every keystroke so if one person deletes the wrong sentence it can always be recalled.
Just share a file with some one, giving them editing privileges, and you’ll see their updates pop in as you work.
Have a document you want to send to some one, but unsure if they have the correct software to open it? Docs will allow you to upload .txt, .rtf, .doc, .docx, .odt, .sxw, .pdf .ppt, .pps, .csv, .xls, and .ods files, will convert them to Google Doc format, then allow you to share them with a public URL, requiring no login nor Google Doc accounts. Simply hit share, “get a link to share…”, and “get a link for anyone”, copy the url and save. You can even let the people who visit that link edit the document.
Google integrated this feature into Google search long ago, but few people realize it’s in docs. Upload a PDF and Google will analyze its content and reproduce it, allowing it to be opened by anyone even if they do not have Acrobat.
The caveat is that it doesn’t reproduce documents accurately, tends to remove gradients, and muddies vectors, so don’t expect your graphic heavy PDFs to show up perfectly.
What is cool about this, however, is that you can share PDF’s, like other documents, through a public URL that requires no login, so even if people don’t have Acrobat they can read your PDFs.
You’ve probably seen this pop up in your Google Docs window. You can set up folders to share with people or a group, allowing all files saved within those folders to be available to whoever wants to view/edit them. This saves a lot of the hassle of individually setting the sharing settings for each item.
Reader was the first to use this feature, but its available in docs too. With Google Gears installed you can take Google Docs offline, allowing you to work on and edit your documents even without an internet connection. Then when you reconnect it will sync back with your online versions.
Everyone knows you can use gTalk to chat, what a lot of people don’t know is that you can use it to translate in real time between two languages. Invite a translation bot (or two, in order to translate both ways) and it will take anything you say and translate it into another language.
Show multiple time zones:
Have to schedule meetings across time zones? Under settings select a time interval for “custom views”, then just set it to your default view.
Not implemented across the board right now, and only available to domains. Needs to be enabled by your domain administrator, but then it will show up in your Calendar window.
Another labs plugin, this allows you to show a preview of most attached files in gmail, without the need for you to switch to docs or another program. Again available under settings->labs.
Yet another labs featurette, this one delays all sends for a few seconds, giving you time to “undo” a send when you accidentally hit the button. Or suddenly regret telling your boss to screw off.
Bonus 11th feature: Go offline:
Like docs, you can take your inbox offline. You’ll need to install the offline module available under settings->labs.