Monday, December 2, 2013

GTOD #33 - Adding an Attachment to a Calendar Event

Some of the best features in Google Apps are not official parts of the applications themselves.  Instead, they are corralled under the "Labs" heading.  A couple of weeks ago I talked about the unsend function in mail... this is an email lab.  Google Calendar has labs, too.  In fact, it contains one of my favorite labs... one that allows you to add an attachment to a Google Calendar event.

Turn On Event Attachments
To get started, go to your Google Calendar page and click on the Settings "gear".  From the resulting list, select the Labs option.

A whole long list of calendar labs will appear.  Scroll down to Event attachments and check the Enable button.

Don't forget to click the Save button located at the bottom or top of the labs page.  You will now be able to add attachments to your calendar events.

How to Attach Documents to Events
Attaching a document to a calendar event is pretty straightforward.  Begin by clicking on the Create button in Google Calendar.

Go ahead and fill out all the pertinent details of your event.  If you have multiple calendars, make sure to put the event on the correct one.  Additionally, use the description section to communicate additional information.  If you are using gCal with your students you can (and should) add class announcements and messages in this space.  To add attachments click the Add Attachment link (go figure).

Ok, this part is the only tricky aspect.  ALL event attachments have to be in your Google Drive account.  If you are attaching a document that is already in gDrive, this is pretty easy... just browse to the file.  Otherwise, you can upload your documents to gDrive and attach them to your calendar event all in one motion.  There is a critical catch here... the viewer of the event documents must have the correct view permissions on the document otherwise they won't be able to open them.  I solve this issue by having a folder in my gDrive called "To Share with Students".  This folder is a public folder so I know that anything inside of this folder is viewable to everyone (crisis averted).

Once you have the documents you want attached they will show up on your event.  You can view them or click the X to delete them.  You can also add additional at this point if you want.  Please notice the permissions warning... make sure your guests have the proper permissions to open and view your attachments.

 If everything looks good, click Save.

Now anyone who has permissions to view your calendar will see the event.  To view the description and attachments they will need to click on the event and select the More details link.

 This will pop up the goods.

That's pretty much it! It might take you a few attempts before you begin to realize how powerful this functionality can be.

I personally think that adding attachments directly to calendar events can be an elegant time saver and can replace email or even an LMS as the primary mechanism to communicate with students. Try it out.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

GTOD #32 - The Fastest Way to Enter Calendar Events*

You've probably noticed that there is usually more than one way to accomplish a task in most software programs.  When presented with multiple ways to accomplish the same task, I always look for the fastest, most efficient way to get this done (this is why I love keyboard shortcuts).

Google Calendar is a great productivity tool and you can make it even better by knowing the fastest (and often easiest ways to get your events recorded).  The following tips are for the web version of Google Calendar... for adding events through a mobile device you should use dictation.

Enable Calendar Shortcuts
I've talked before about the Gmail shortcuts I use all the time.  Well, Google Calendar has shortcuts, too.  Like the shortcuts in mail, you have to turn them on first.  Head over to your calendar settings and scroll down to the keyboard shortcuts section and choose "Yes".  Make sure to save and you will be taken back to your calendar.

Take a look at a list of Google Calendar shortcuts.

Quick Add
Now we are ready to get cracking.  Quick add is perhaps the fastest way to add in basic events. Now that you have shortcuts enabled, press the Q key to open Quick Add (or click the small arrow to the right of the create button.  This will bring up the Quick Add details box.

You can enter your events in (mostly) plain English, just follow this basic formula: WHAT, WHEN, WHO and WHERE.  The WHAT and WHEN are required.  Let's try it out.

Click Add or press the enter/return key to add your event.

You can be add longer events, just keep with the basic formula.

But Wait, There's More
You can send event invitations, schedule reoccurring events, and more through Quick Add... it's just a matter of knowing the shorthand.  Google has a nice little overview here.

Spend some time learning the Quick Add short hand and you will be entering events quickly and efficiently.


*OK, I admit the title is a bit overstated... the fastest way to enter events is typtically situation specific.  You should, however, be familar with, and know how to use, Quick Add (man, there are a lot of commas in that sentence).

Friday, November 15, 2013

GTOD #31 - Whoops! How to Unsend an Email

Trust me, I know the feeling... you just sent an email and realized that you:
     a) Sent it to the wrong person
     b) Noticed that it had typos or incorrect information a split second after hitting send
     c) Shouldn't have sent at all (bonus tip: don't email when angry)
     d) All of the above

You can avoid much of this potential anguish if you turn on the undo send function in mail.  To turn on undo send, start by heading over to mail settings.

Once you are in the settings part of the mail world, head on over to Labs (the slightly experimental "holding bin" for some of mail's best features).

You should spend some time later looking at the good stuff in Labs, but for now scroll down (or search) for and enable the Undo Send function.

Don't forget to click the Save button (ironically, since Google is so good at auto-saving for us)

You'll be taken back to your inbox but you are not quite finshed just yet.  Head back to the settings and scroll down a bit on the General page (which is the page to which you will be taken upon clicking on settings).  You should see the Undo Send: options.  Make sure that you have the Enable Undo Send option checked and select your cancellation period (5-30 seconds).  It is during this cancellation period that you can prevent your email from being sent.  It's not a huge amount of time but it might be enough to spare your reputation.  Scroll to the bottom of the page and hit Save.

So, you are all set up... how does it all work?

Go ahead and compose and send your email just like you normally do.

Now, pay attention, because the clock on your undo is ticking.  You will notice after you send your email you will get a message that appears at the top of your inbox that confirms that your message has been sent (note: it actually has not been sent... It won't really be sent until the cancellation period has elapsed).  Your keen eye may spot the Undo button next to that message.  Click that Undo button and your message will not be sent.

Once the cancellation period passes, the Undo button will disappear and your message will actually be sent (bye-bye).

So, the Undo Send function does have its limitations but it's probably better than nothing.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

GTOD #30 - Pause your Inbox... Work in (relative) Peace

It's OK, we've all been there.  You're trying to catch up on your email and you are diligently working away but those pesky new messages keep arriving... oh, how well they distract you from your old email. Naturally, this ensures that email continues to pile up... and that the cycle continues (sound familiar?)

If only you could press pause on your email to prevent new mail from coming in while you work on your existing email... wait a second, you can with Inbox Pause (applause).

Once you install Inbox Pause you will see a bright blue pause button appear above your compose button. Now, anytime you want to prevent new email from appearing in your inbox all you have to do is click this button.

A dialog box will appear and you can elect if you want an automatic response to go to the sender of the email you are ignoring pausing (think "vacation responder").  You can customize the message if you want. Personally, I don't pause for a long enough stretch of time where I feel the need to use this so I always uncheck the auto-responder box.

While you are paused, an informative banner will appear at the top of your email (lest you think you have become suddenly unpopular).

Don't worry, email will continue to pile up while you blissfully work in your "paused" inbox so you won't miss anything.  When you are ready for the deluge of email to begin anew, simply click the "unpause" button and you will be rewarded with those emails that were received while you were "taking an email vacation".

I know some of you will be tempted to permanently leave your email in pause.  While I don't believe that there are any technical reasons preventing you from doing this, there are most likely social consequences... so play nicely.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

GTOD #29 - Easily One of my Favorite Gmail Security Tips

Have you ever logged into your Google Mail account on a public computer (airport, library, etc.) or a friend's computer and then realized later you may have forgotten to log out...?  Naturally, this is a cause for minor panic.  The thought of someone rummaging through your email is disconcerting.

Google has thought of this and you can remotely log out of your Google Mail accounts. When you are in your Google Mail simply scroll down to the bottom of your inbox and you should notice an account activity summary.

This informs you about how many other locations your email is currently open (potentially valuable information to you) and if you click on the Details link you will receive even more information as well as the ability to log out of ALL other email sessions.  Let's take a look, click on that Details link.

Notice the Sign out all other sessions button.  Use this if you are paranoid (which can be a good thing, after all, people are out to get you).  This page also displays additional information about your account.  It's a bit nerdy but can be informative.  For example, if the Location says China and you haven't been to China than you probably know your account has been compromised and you should log out of sessions and change your password immediately.

Google will also provide you with alerts for "strange" behavior (like you always log in from VA but all of a sudden a Ukraine IP attempts to login to your account).  Scroll to the bottom of this activities detail to see the alerts options.

But Wait, There's More
Google also provides you with another way to see detailed account activity.  Click on your Account button located near the upper right corner of your screen and select the Account link.

On the resulting page click Security > Recent Activity on the left side navigation.  You'll see your account activity.  The nice thing here is that there is a button to change your password if you see something odd.

The goal here is to be aware of your options.  If you think your account has been comprimised you can investigate and do something about it.  You should try to manage your own digital security periodically.  Just saying...

If all you remember is the "sign me out of other sessions" button that's probably good enough (for now).


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

GTOD #28 - Where O Where Are My Images in Mail?

So, I just received (what I hope will be) a great blog post via my email and the pictures in the email do not appear.  What's up with that?

Google Mail is actually protecting me here.  You see, spammers similar ilk (what a great word, ilk) can use images to their benefit and discover information about you.  To Protect you, Google defaults email to not display images.

So, if you get an email like the example above, one where you want to see the images, click the Display images below link.

If you ALWAYS want to display the images from the sender of that particular email, click the 2nd link.  I do this for my orders.

Once you click either of those links, you will see the pictures.  Yeah!

But Wait, There's More
Google is pretty smart and they have set up mail to automatically display images for people you have sent a couple of emails out to (the assumption here is that you must trust them enough to email them more than once).

Pretty cool.


Friday, November 8, 2013

GTOD #27 - Connect to More Apps in Google Drive

The basic creation apps in Google Drive are very useful and I use all of them very frequently. For the most part they have completely replaced my need for MS Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

But, did you know you can connect to additional creation apps and access these from within Google Drive? Think of this as a Google Chrome Web Store for content creation apps.  Click on the Create button in Google Drive and go down to the Connect more apps link.

This will bring up the apps you can add to Google Drive.  Use the categories drop down or the search to find something that looks interesting.  

Move your mouse over the app you want to connect to your Drive account and click Connect.

Many of the connected apps will appear under the Create button in Google Drive.  The first time you try to use them you will likely have to provide the app with access to your Google Drive account.  You may also have to use "Sign in with your Google ID"... every app is a bit different so read the information that pops on your screen.

What is so cool about connecting these apps to your Google Drive is that they now (mostly) work as Google documents.  They will open and save right from your list of files.  Sort them into folders, share them and more.

A Few App Suggestions
Cacoo - Create diagrams, flowcharts and more.  A simple brainstorming tool.
GeoGebra - Every math teacher I know likes this one (I have no idea how it works)
PowToons - Creative animations
WeVideo - Cloud-based video editing (really!)
RealTimeBoard - Manage collaborative projects
Kaizena - Voice annotate on gDocs (a bit clunky but I love the potential)

There are tons more.  Look around.

One Final Note
Being web-based applications... they don't always work well 100% of the time.  Keep this in mind and be patient.

Extend the power of your Google Drive by connecting it to additional apps!