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This Lockdown DOES Feel Different

Excellent article around real life use of Google Docs and more generally online collaboration

How this "web collaboration" stuff can really work over at the Google Librarian Central with the Google Docs & Spreadsheets: Collaborating in the Classroom or Library article.

It ends with the following excellent tips:
Tips for first-timers
  1. Don't be shy – jump in and go for it. You'll find the tool bar, spell-check, and other elements of the word-processing software very familiar, but with a huge advantage over traditional applications. Your documents will be saved automatically about every 20 seconds or so. As long as you have access to a computer connected to the Internet, you have access to the document. It's saved online so you don't have to think about file space, file names, folders, or anything else that could come between you and the document.
  2. Change the name of your document any time you like. Once a document is saved, it's easy to change the name. Just click on the title and type in the new name.
  3. You must collaborate! Don't hesitate to share your document with others right from the beginning – this is the heart of the application. Simply click on the "Collaborate" tab and follow the prompt to type in the email addresses of your chosen collaborators. Then watch as your collaborators join in. Everyone can work on the same document simultaneously, in real time. You can choose to accept their edits or stick with your original version – everything is saved in "Revisions."
  4. When you're ready to print, don't forget to use the "Print" button in the Docs & Spreadsheets menu (not the "print" function in your browser).


Tips for veteran users
  1. Don't overlook every editor's best friend: the comment. You can click on the "Insert" tab to insert a comment with the click of your mouse. The comment box appears and lets your collaborators know who has commented and when. I recommend placing your comment at the end of a paragraph, so you won't disrupt the layout or interrupt the flow of the writing.
  2. Check out the "Revisions" section and explore all you can do there. You can review earlier drafts of a document and compare two versions. If you're using Docs & Spreadsheets in a classroom or research seminar, this lets you easily see the changes students have made based on your comments – no more searching around to find out if they actually listened to you.
  3. Use "Tags" to organize your documents. Once you've saved your document, it goes into the "active" document list. From there you can tag the document to file it. My wish list for the next version of Google Docs & Spreadsheets includes adding a familiar filing system of folders for tagged documents, but in the interim the tags alone are useful.
  4. Publish your documents on the web with the "Publish" tab. You can choose to point to your document on your blog or website – just use the unique URL. It's an easy way to share your document with larger groups of people or the general public.
  5. If you're a Google Earth fan, you can introduce students to it by having them research an area of the world, then use Docs & Spreadsheets to collaborate on text for "placemarks" that everyone can view.

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