Tuesday, December 12, 2017

7 Helpful Hacks for Google Tools

On the 7th day of Tech-Mas my true love gave to me… 7 Helpful Hacks.

Note: This post is part of my "12 Days of Tech-Mas" series for 2017. You can see all of the posts for each day as they get released in the main post here: "12 Days of Tech-Mas 2017".

Google tools have so many awesome features, options, and settings, that it is easy to miss some of the cool things their products can do for you. In this blog post we are going to take a look at seven helpful hacks to get more out of your Google experience.

The criteria I used for coming up with this list of tips and tricks include:

  • These are built-in features in the Google tools, rather than something that needs to be installed separately such as extensions or add-ons.
  • These should provide some benefit to you such as saving time, improving organization, avoiding problems, or making you more efficient.
  • These tips should be lesser known features of common Google tools.

Certainly you may be familiar with some of these tips, but hopefully you will learn a few new tricks, or at least be reminded and encouraged to use some of these options. As always, I would love to hear your favorite lesser known Google tips. Please share your ideas in the comments at the bottom of the post.

Tip #1 - Put Emojis in your Drive File and Folder Titles

The more you use Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and Drawings, the more your Drive can become an unruly mess. Of course you can, and should, create folders and subfolders to move and organize your files. Still though, everything can tend to blend together in a sea of documents.

One creative way to help distinguish your many files and folders is to personalize them with emojis right in their titles. That's right! You can add emoji images to the titles of Drive folders, Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Drawings, and more. This can help make files and folders jump out for anyone, but can be especially useful for younger students. Here's how:

First, you need to copy the emoji you want to add to the file or folder name. You can generate and copy emojis from a wide range of sources, but one option is inside of a Google Doc.

  • While in a Google Doc, click "Insert" then "Special characters".
  • From the "Symbol" menu in the top left, choose "Emoji", and then you can choose a subcategory as needed.
  • In addition to browsing for an emoji, you can also type in a search term or even draw a picture to find the emoji you want.
  • When you find the emoji you want, click on it to add it to you Doc.
  • You can now select the emoji in your Doc and copy it.

Now with the emoji copied, you can paste it into the name of a file or folder.

  • Select the file or folder in Google Drive.
  • Right-click and choose "Rename" or click the "three-dots" button and choose "Rename".
  • In the "Rename" window, paste in the copied emoji.
  • Click "OK" to accept the new name.

Your file or folder will now have an emoji in its name!

Tip #2 - Show Bookmarks as Favicons

In addition to managing large amounts of files, you may also find yourself collecting a lot of bookmarks. As we come across great websites, we often add them to our favorites in Chrome by clicking the "Bookmark this page" star icon in the web address bar. This is great to hang onto useful pages, but can be a challenge when you get a bunch and they no longer fit on your bookmarks bar.

There are several options to managing your overflowing bookmarks (including making folders) but one helpful trick is to reduce the amount of space each bookmark takes up. When a bookmark gets saved, it includes both an icon (called a "favicon") and the title of the page. What you can do is remove the title, just leaving the favicon. Since most sites have easily identifiable favicons, you will still know what the bookmark is for, and will be able to fit many more on your bookmarks bar.

Here's how:

  • Save your bookmarks as normal (click the star icon on the far right end of the web address bar).
  • Right-click on one of the bookmarks and choose "Edit".
  • In the "Name" box you can completely delete the existing text, or you can edit it to something much shorter.
  • Click "Save" when done.
  • Your bookmarks will now take up much less room so you can fit more on your bookmarks bar.

Tip #3 - Change your YouTube Playback Speed

YouTube is a wonderful resource for students and educators alike. No matter what your question is, there is very likely a YouTube video out there to provide a detailed answer or demonstration. With so much great content, one of the drawbacks is there is never enough time to watch everything.

Well it turns out that most folks can listen much faster than people can talk. So wouldn't it be nice if you could listen to YouTube videos at a faster speed? Well you can! Here' how:

  • Start playing a video on YouTube as normal.
  • Next click the gear icon in the bottom right corner.
  • From the pop-up menu, click on "Speed".
  • You will now get several speed options from "0.25" (a quarter of the normal speed) up to "2" (twice the normal speed).
  • Choose the speed you want and the video will now play at that rate.

This is a great way to save time when watching a video. You can get through my monthly 2-hour Google User Meetings in just one hour!

Tip #4 - Undo Send in Gmail

Did you ever wish you could un-send an email that you just sent out? As soon as you clicked "Send" you saw the typo, or realized you chose the wrong recipient, or reconsidered the tone of the message. Well thankfully you can do this with "Undo Send".

This is an option in the Gmail settings that lets you choose a short grace period in which you can recall an email message you just sent. Here's how it works.

  • Go to Gmail as normal.
  • Click the gear icon in the top right and choose "Settings".
  • On the "General" tab of the settings screen, scroll down to the "Undo Send" section.
  • Check the box to "Enable Undo Send".
  • Then choose the number of seconds you will be allowed to cancel a message, from 5 seconds to 30 seconds.
  • Scroll down and click "Save Changes" when done.

Now when you end an email, you will get a pop-up window at the top of the Gmail screen.

  • If you want to cancel the message from really being sent, you can click the "Undo" link within the number of seconds you have chosen.
  • If you undo the message, it will return to the normal edit mode where you can make changes to the message before sending it out again, or delete it entirely.

Tip #5 - Insert Quick Text in Google Docs

Chances are, when you are writing a Google Doc, there are probably common phrases you use a lot. This could include:

  • Your name
  • The name of your school
  • Your web address
  • The name of the class you teach
  • Common student feedback phrases
  • And so on…

Because you type these common phrases so frequently, it could really save you a lot of time in the long run if you could make the process quicker. Well, Google Docs has a neat feature where you can created short codes that turn into long text when typed. Here's how it works:

  • Open a Google Doc as normal.
  • Click "Tools" in the top menu bar.
  • Click "Preferences" from the drop-down menu.
  • Be sure the check the box for "Automatic substitution".
  • Now in the "Replace" column you can type in the short code you want to use.
  • Note: You will want to use something that you would not normally type, such as using the tilde symbol "~" or such.
  • Next in the "With" column you can type in the long text you want to automatically be entered anytime you type in the short code.
  • Click "OK" when done.

For example, I could make my short code in the "Replace" column be something like "~caa" and then have that replace with my Control Alt Achieve web address of http://www.controlaltachieve.com/ anytime I type that in.

Tip #6 - Go Incognito in Chrome

One of the great things about signing into Chrome with your Google account is having everything synced. You can access your Gmail, Docs, history, passwords, extensions, and much more. As great as that is, however, sometimes you may not want to be you.

For example:

  • A friend, co-worker, or family member may need to use your computer. It can be a pain to sign you out and sign them in.
  • Or you need to help troubleshoot an issue for someone, and it would really help to temporarily log in as them, but you don't want to leave their account on your computer afterwards.
  • Or you are creating a website and would like to see it the way other people will, rather than how it appears to you are the owner.
  • Or you want to run a web search, but don't want all of your previous searches to bias the results.

In each of these cases (and more) you can temporarily not be you by using a feature of Chrome called "Incognito Mode". When you go Incognito:

  • You get a new browser window where you are not logged in, and where nothing gets saved to your history or profile. 
  • You can log in with a different account if you want.
  • When you close out of the incognito window … poof … nothing from than session is kept on your computer.

To use Incognito simply do the following:

  • Open your Chrome browser as normal.
  • Click the "three-dots" button in the top right corner.
  • Click "New incognito window" from the drop-down menu.
  • You will now have an incognito session that you or a guest can use.
  • When done, simply close that incognito window and nothing from that session will be saved on your computer.

Tip #7 - Search for your Photos with Keywords

Google Photos is a fantastic tool in the suite of Google programs. If you are not using it yet, you certainly should. Google Photos provides loads of awesome benefits including:

  • Unlimited storage of photos
  • Automatically save any picture you take on your phone
  • Automatically sync images from your computer
  • Create fun animations, collages, photo books, and more from your pictures
  • Share albums with others
  • And more!

One of the "and more" features of Google Photos is the search tool. Over the years you will likely take hundreds (thousands?) of pictures. It can be quite a challenge later to find a specific photo that you want. Thankfully Google has you covered.

When you save pictures to Google Photos, Google's artificial intelligence scans through your images to recognize and tag what is in each photo. All you have to do is type in a search term and Google Photos will bring back your pictures that match that keyword.

For example, I typed in "guinea pig" for my search term in Google Photos.

  • The results I got back included several pictures of guinea pigs we have had as pets.
  • I did get a few other images such as a hamster and a baby rabbit, so the machine learning is not always perfect, but it is way more efficient that trying to scroll through years of images.

Post by Eric Curts. Bring me to your school, organization, or conference with over 50 PD sessions to choose from. Connect with me on Twitter at twitter.com/ericcurts and on Google+ at plus.google.com/+EricCurts1

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