We’ve touted the benefits of using Google Drive in the past. This time, we’re going to talk about a new(ish) dimension of capabilities within Google Docs (and Google Sheets, though we’re not getting into that today), that empowers users to integrate functionality from a multitude of different services directly, contextually, within Google Docs.
Google introduced add-ons to Google Docs and Sheets about a year ago, but the ecosystem of add-ons was pretty immature back then. Now, with a year gone by for services to develop add-ons, the choices are richer and more useful.
First, in order to get/manage/activate/deactivate add-ons, you should open up a Google Doc. Look at the toolbar across the top of your sheet–there should be a tab that says “Add-ons.” Click it, and then click “Get add-ons.” There you go. Now it is important to remember that add-ons won’t automatically activate after you’ve added their functionality to your doc. You have to activate them. Click “Manage add-ons” to do so.
Now for a quick rundown of the add-ons that are out there which may be useful to you!
Uberconference allows users to start and administer teleconferences around documents. It’s free for up to 10 callers, and it’s as simple as activating it in a shared doc and sending the number and pin password to your target participants. The sidebar that opens in your doc will allow you to moderate/manage some aspects of the conference, such as muting certain callers.
I’ve used it in the past for tutoring students on the papers that they’ve written in Google Docs. It’s incredibly useful to unite synchronous, auditory communication over the phone with synchronous, visual, collaborative interaction via the Google Doc.
gGraph Handwriting, Mathematic Notation, Graphing and Statistics
gGraph offers a great deal of functionality for all manner of notation, even voice-to-symbol mathematical notation, and will generate then insert graphs for you derived from your equations. Additionally, it will generate and insert little images made from handwritten notes you can also make into the sidebar. If you’re writing a paper that has math in it, then it can be of great use.
One of the first useful add-ons available for Google Docs was from EasyBib, and it remains extremely valuable still. The ability to not leave Google Docs while you’re verifying/generating citations is really amazing. On the student end of the assessment process, it allows the writers of large papers to keep writing with minimal break workflow when they need to enter a new source. For the purposes of assessment, it makes checking that sources are correctly cited that much easier.
Translate, like EasyBib, allows for contextual, quick service that makes it possible to keep writing without breaking your creative flow. It functions very simply. Highlight text, choose a language you wish to translate the words to, and then click translate. The words are generated quickly and are easy to copy and paste wherever they’re needed.
Finally, there’s Codepretty. This isn’t useful to everyone, likely, but for those of us who handle code a lot, the color formatting of coding programs makes the job of navigating a sea of code much easier. While not meant to replace those programs, it is still nice to see the collaborative-cloud functionality of Google Docs given the ability to automatically color format the code that’s entered into it. For odd jobs, or touching up, or sharing a string of code between coders on the fly, this is pretty cool stuff.
Probably the best way to learn how add-ons can serve you is to get in there and play around yourself, but hopefully the add-ons covered above can get you started with something you’ll find useful!