Free. Online. Available from anywhere. These are only some of the advantages of cloud-based productivity apps.
As a trendsetter when it comes to its cloud productivity suite, Google’s platform gets even better with add-ons, which extends the usefulness and functionality of the service even more.
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Gmail is an essential part of the Google Suite. From Gmail, you can access Google Drive, and with it, a plethora of native and third-party apps to enhance your experience.
If you navigate to the bottom right of the Gmail sidebar you will see a white plus sign (+). This will lead you to the Google Suite Marketplace where you can find the Gmail add-ons. There is only a small selection so far, as the Gmail add-ons are a relatively new feature.
Despite the limited selection, the ones all Gmail users should be installing are:
This is a cloud-based platform used to store things such as files, images, videos, music, etc.
- You will need to get a free Dropbox cloud account.
- Install the Dropbox add-on and connect it to your account.
- A Dropbox icon will appear inside your new email window. Use it to connect to files inside your Dropbox account.
- The file will be downloaded once the recipient clicks on the email attachment.
This is an ingenious way to get around the 25MB attachment size limit that all email services offer their users.
This is an online project management tool with a free option that will suit most people. With the Trello add-on, you can add new cards from emails you receive - without leaving your Gmail inbox. Project management with this list-making tool has never been easier.
This is a MUST-HAVE for email management. You can use it to track who is opening your emails or send emails at a specific time. You can use it to snooze emails to have them come back to the inbox later (although Gmail has now introduced their own snooze feature). Streak is actually a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform for salespeople, but these features can be used by anybody. It’s a delight to use.
This video conferencing tool is gaining many plaudits as an alternative to familiar options like Skype. Using the Zoom Gmail plugin, you can start video meetings, schedule meetings, and see a list of all your upcoming meetings.
Paper contracts are fast becoming a thing of the past, but with the rise of remote working, contracts are needed now more than ever. Electronic signing of documents is now the hot trend, and DocuSign is the industry leader. Using the Gmail add-on, you can quickly and easily open PDF contracts, add your electronic signature, and send the document back.
Accessing the Google Docs add-ons in Google Drive is extremely easy. Simply go to the Add-Ons menu at the top of the screen, and choose Get Add-Ons. When you install some, they will also appear in this menu where you can access them easily. The ones in the screenshot above are the ones I particularly like and use on a daily basis. But I especially recommend:
By default, Google Docs only gives you a certain number of fonts. But if you are a designer or a font geek you may want a wider selection. Extensis Fonts is therefore what you need. However, if someone else who is viewing your Google document does not have the font installed, it will default on their end to something else such as Arial or Times New Roman.
Stephen King once said that you should never use any word that you have to look up in a thesaurus. Nevertheless, there are still times when a thesaurus becomes useful. This add-on places a thesaurus search engine in your sidebar. Now you can impress everyone with your incredible vocabulary.
There is a clique of people who prefer to type their blog posts inside Google Docs and then upload those posts to WordPress (instead of just typing directly into WordPress). This add-on will make it easy to transfer the Google Doc to your WordPress site where it will sit as a draft until you are ready to publish it. Despite the name, this also works on WordPress.org sites if it has Jetpack enabled.
For a lot of people, the very idea of spreadsheets evokes a feeling of terror. Spreadsheets have a learning curve, but once you’ve figured it all out, you’ll realize that they are a very powerful tool. Google Spreadsheets provides add-ons that try to minimize that learning curve somewhat.
Here are some of the best:
In a big spreadsheet, it can be easy to have duplicate entries, so in the interest of keeping things neat and tidy, Remove Duplicates will do exactly that. This has saved me more times than I can remember.
10. Template Gallery
Quite often, the standard spreadsheet layout will more than suffice. But there may be times when you need a spreadsheet for a very specific purpose (such as payslips or business taxes). If so, this template gallery can give you layouts for every conceivable situation.
11. Save as Doc
This add-on converts a Google spreadsheet into a Google document. This is useful for spreadsheets with large amounts of text, which may get cut off by the size of the cells.
If you need to replace one thing inside your spreadsheet, it can be extremely tedious going through the sheet cell by cell and changing things one at a time. Advanced Find & Replace does it for you right away, saving you oodles of time.
Google Forms is being used more and more to collect information by small companies, groups, charities, and employers. Forms provides an easy way to ask for and collate information without having to code any complicated pages.
To access the add-ons in Forms, you have to click the three vertical dots in the top-right hand corner of the screen.
If you are sending out a form with the potential to get a lot of replies, you will find this add-on extremely invaluable. It will email you when you have replies sent back so you don’t always have to check.
Who wants to see a boring form with no eye candy? That’s why you should add an image or two to brighten it up. 123RF is one place to look for something to spruce things up.
If you need to impose a time limit on the form’s completion, then Quilgo lets you do that. Using this add-on, you can create and distribute student exams via Forms and have the exam end at a certain time using Quilgo.
The word “PowerPoint” has become synonymous with slide presentations - the kind that you would normally see at business conferences and university lectures. Google’s online answer to this is Google Slides, and although it works rather well, it hasn’t yet taken on the kind of traction that PowerPoint has. Therefore the number of quality add-ons is currently rather limited.
Nevertheless, here are five good ones:
16. Unsplash Images
Like Forms, Slides would be a pretty drab affair if there were no graphics. Text-only slides are guaranteed to have everyone watching snoozing in no time. Unsplash Photos lets you search for stock footage and insert it directly into the slide.
This wouldn’t be of much use if your slideshow is a small one. But if you have a huge number of slides, then generating a clickable table of contents for the beginning of the presentation would be extremely helpful. That way, if you want to quickly jump to a particular slide, you just have to click the relevant link to be taken directly there.
If you use Slides for school, then jumbling them up like flashcards is good for learning and memory exercises. If you learn something in a set order, then eventually your brain gets stale and memorization stops. But if you randomize the slides, and learn things in a different order, it speeds up the learning process again. Slides Randomizer will do that for you.
There are so many other Google Drive add-ons available through the Google Suite Marketplace, so 18 barely scratches the surface. But if you start with the ones recommended above, you will be in pole position to see just how powerful Google Suite really is.