Most of you have probably heard of Google Docs by now, right? You know, the online, free-ware alternative to Microsoft Office? Given that it’s completely online and all files are stored in the cloud it shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of you that it’s pretty much perfect for working on collaborative projects. Got a presentation you’ve gotta do with a couple other people? Make it in Google Docs, and you can all work on it as a group from your own homes, at your own computers.

Pretty sweet, isn’t it?

Of course, that’s assuming you know how to use all of the social features in Google Docs – not everyone does. Thankfully, the interface is quite simple to figure out and even simpler to use. Let’s have a look, shall we?

Saving in Real Time

The first thing you’ll want to know about is how Google Docs saves. It automatically saves every few minutes or so, and any revisions that are made in that period are saved with it. If you’re simply logged into the document, you can actually see the changes everyone else is making as they make them, as well as where they are in the document. (A small ‘bookmark’ indicator will appear. They’re color-coded, for easy identification)

Commenting and The Comment Stream

The first thing you’ll want to know about is comments. Got a question about a change one of your teammates made to part of the work? A comment about something you think would be a good addition to a section? Highlight a block of text that you feel pertains to what you want to say, right click, and then click “comment.” Type your comment, and everyone else who’s currently got the document shared to them can see it.

Alternatively, you can make a comment about the document at-large, by clicking on “Comments” at the top right-hand corner. This’ll also show you every comment that’s been made on the document to date. You can click on a comment, and you’ll be taken down to the highlighted block of text. If you have something to say about the comment, you can comment on it yourself, and if you feel you’ve already addressed an issue, you can simply hit “resolved.”

Real Time Chat

Online Document Manager, Gmail

Look up in the upper right hand corner, right under the “Comment” and “Share” buttons. It’ll tell you how many viewers there are. Mouse over one of the colored boxes to the right of that, and you’ll see their username. Click, and you’ll be taken into a group chat. Simple, right?

The Revisions Log

An old version of Revision Scaleback

If you or someone else made some changes to the document that you feel are better off gone, don’t worry. You can revert everything to a previous revision. You can also see exactly what changes everyone’s made. Simply click on the “File” drop-down menu and go down to “See Revision History.” You can see a history of the most considerable revisions, or every single revision that’s been made thus far.

Notifications, File Sharing, and Privacy

If you don’t want just anyone to have access to the document, you can adjust the privacy settings with the “Share” button, and invite other people to collaborate with you on the document. There are three levels – Private, Public on The Web, and Shared Link. You can also modify the privileges of each user as you invite them.

Image Credits: SixRevisions