I have been a Gmail user pretty much since the beginning. I was lucky enough to get an invite early on from a very generous person. I haven’t really started using Google Docs until the last year or so though. However, in the past few months I have come to truly enjoy using Google Docs.

There are two basic ways to use Google Docs. If you have a Gmail account, you pretty much already have a Google Docs account. You can also setup your domain, if you are the owner of your domain, to use Google Docs. I set up my own domain to use the Standard version of Google Docs, and I use Google Docs on my personal Gmail account as well. It works pretty much the same either way. You can learn more about the specifics of using Google Docs on your domain here.

In this post, I am concentrating on using the non-domain version of Google Docs. Most of these things will be true if you are using Google Docs on your domain, but consult the previous link for more specifics.

Why I Like Google Docs

  1. It is free!
  2. You can access your docs anywhere there is an internet connection.
  3. It’s a great way to share files.

Free!

Just like free beer (I don’t think that is a myth?!), Google Docs is free. Well, maybe not as good as free beer, but pretty damn sweet! Like most things Google, Google Docs is free to use, and has a pretty large storage capacity.

For years, I have been tied to using MS Office. Which, as I am sure you know, can be quite pricey. There are other free alternatives out there too (like OpenOffice.org), but Google Docs doesn’t even take up any hard drive space. So it is free free, as far as I am concerned.

Always Available

If you are like me, you have used a flash drive to carry documents or relied on emailing them to yourself. With Google Docs, your files are available anywhere you have a computer with an internet connection. I can’t tell you the number of times I have gotten somewhere and realized I either left my flash drive at home, or forgot to email myself the document I needed.

Always having access is a huge advantage to me. I work on lots of things at home and work. So no more loosing productivity. The files are just always there and available.

File Sharing

No, not the kind of file sharing you might get arrested for!

Any file type can be uploaded to Google Docs as long as the file size is under 1GB (pretty frickin’ huge file!). When uploading, make sure you uncheck the box that converts the file to Google Docs. Otherwise, your nice PDF/doc/PPT/etc, will be converted to a Google Document. This isn’t necessarily bad, but some of the formatting may be lost in the conversion.

Additionally, just about any kind of document you receive in an email can be saved into Google Docs straight from the email. The files will then be listed in your list of files, and you can share them as you would any other Google Doc.

OK, so those are all great reasons to use Google Docs, but you might be asking, “How do I use it??”

Read on my friend, read on…

Uploading Files

This couldn’t be more easy.

  1. In the upper lefthand corner of your Gmail screen, click on the Documents link. This will take you to the default screen for Google Docs.
    Google Docs Link
  2. Now click on the Upload button, just under the Google Docs logo.
    Upload to Google Docs
  3. Select the file or files you want to upload by clicking the “Select Files to Upload” link. You can choose to convert your files to a corresponding Google Docs format or not. As mentioned above, I typically don’t choose this option. Depends on what suits you and your file best. Whichever you choose, the original file on your hard drive will still be intact, and you can re-upload, if you don’t like the results of the first upload. From here, you can choose the Privacy level and folder for the upload too. Of course these can be changed later on if needed.
    Upload Options
  4. Click the “Start Upload” button and that is that.

Straight From Your Email

This is even simpler than the upload. Let’s say you have a document emailed to you, and you would like to have that document available in your Google Docs. Well here is how that works…

  1. When you open the email you should see a link at the bottom of the message for the attached file. There will be two or three options depending on the file type. Typically you will either want to click on “View” or “Open as Google ____”.
    Gmail to Google Docs
  2. If you clicked on “View”, you will then want to click the link that says “Save in Google Docs”. Voila! The emailed file is now available as a Google Doc. You can share, edit, or whatever, just like any other file in Google Docs.
    Save in Google Docs
  3. If “View” wasn’t an option and you click on “Open as Google ____”, that is all you have to do to have the file available in Google Docs. Simple.

Note: This will definitely convert these files to a Google Docs format no matter how you open them with Google Docs. This is kind of the nature of the beast when you are going straight from your Gmail to Google Docs.

Sharing

The sharing ability of Google Docs is one of the biggest selling points to me. There are many times you might want to let others view certain files on Google Docs.

Currently, my fiance and I are planning our wedding. We used Google Docs to create and edit our list of people who are getting invitations. We both could edit and view the file at anytime. We were also able to share the list with our parents so they could view and/or add people to the list. This made things a lot less stressful for all of us.

I also use Google Docs to share the free ebook I have on my blog. It has been great because I never have to worry about bandwidth limits or a third party site hosting the file being down. My ebook was even created in Google Docs. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter to see this in action.

Never fear though, any documents you want kept private will be.

To share a file:

  1. Open your Google Docs list of files by clicking the Documents link in the upper lefthand corner of your Gmail inbox (see image above).
  2. On your list of files, put a check in the box beside the file you want to share.
  3. Click on the Share button to see your list of sharing option.
  4. Choose “Share Settings”.
    Share Settings
  5. Under “Permissions”, click on the “Change” link.
    Change
  6. I typically choose the option, “Anyone with a link”, and check the box for “Allow anyone to edit”. This will allow you to share the link with anyone even if they don’t have a Gmail account. Otherwise, they have to already have Gmail to view and edit or sign up for Gmail.
    Settings
  7. Click “Save”.
  8. The next page will give you the link and lots of sharing options.
    Link

That is it. You have now shared one of your Google Docs.

Compatibility

As with anytime you transfer documents between different office suites, there are likely to be some formatting issues. I work with both Open Office and MS Office in addition to Google Docs. When I convert to or from Google Docs, I sometimes get some text formatting problems. Sometimes the fonts don’t transfer 100% (sometimes they do). I think this is especially true when you create a document with a non-standard font.

In one presentation I created in Google Docs, the images moved around a bit when I converted the file to a .ppt file.

Have a better method for sharing files? Tells us in the comments below…

??Bradley Durham is a web design professional and owner of Bradley Durham Design Studio. He specializes in WordPress theme design and customization. To find out more about his unique take on web design, check out his blog.