In May 2013, the organisation I was working with made the move to Google Apps for Business. This was a significant change for staff that have always worked in a Microsoft-centric environment. Those that had worked in Outlook, were now required to work from a browser to send and receive their email and manage their calendars. Many of the staff had used Gmail, Hotmail and other web-based email clients in their private life, so these changes did not challenge them significantly.

The biggest change for people to become accustomed to was around managing files: such as word documents, spreadsheets and presentations – in the cloud. Previously these files were “managed” on a file server located in the organisation’s server room.

In moving to Google Apps for Business, staff had to become accustomed to managing their files within Google Drive. Google Drive offers many advantages over a standard file server arrangement. One of these is Search. Search is what Google is known for and they have used this experience to revolutionise how an organisation can discover their own content. Staff can retrieve a trove of organisation content by searching file names, content and – through the use of OCR – images that contain words.  Searches can even identify objects within images such as a cows or dogs. To assist searches on file names, conventions for naming were established.

Users can upload a wide range of file types which includes images, Microsoft Word, Excel and Presentations. These files are scanned for viruses by Google on upload.  A recent update to Google Drive allows users to edit most of the documents from the browser. On moving to Google Apps, we encouraged all staff to use the Google documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

The reason I like Google Documents are that they are simple to use and that I can edit the document as it sits on the server from my laptop, tablet or mobile phone. It requires very little bandwidth. I can also download a copy of the document to continue work on it when I know that I am not going to have an internet connection.

The collaborative features of Google Documents are a delight. It changes the way you work with another person or amongst a team. People that have been given permission can edit the document at the same time as other editors. Every word entered by each user is saved in real-time as edits in a revision history.  You can clearly see who made which edits.

Track changes can be a nightmare to manage when a Microsoft Document is sent out to various editors. That paradigm changed with Google Documents a number of years ago. There is only one version of the document – one point of truth. Changes to content within a document become a conversation.

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These comments flow in the margin to the right of the content. When a discussion has been completed and relevant changes made, the comment can be marked as resolved and will disappear from the margin. They can however still be retrieved for later review.

A recent update to Google Documents, now includes Suggested Edits which is very similar to Track Changes. I still find tend to use comments though, especially when co-authoring documents.

This is a fairly dated video, but it explains very simply the concept of Google Documents.