Sunday, September 13, 2015

Should you work offline with a Chromebook?

I recently purchased an Acer Chromebook 11 and things were running fast and great, but then not so much. I tried reducing the number of extensions, but still not so much. Then I read this article ( and here's the trick that worked:

Don't have your files available offline.

Your Chromebook will spend valuable time and resources making sure everything is syncing and up to date. I'm rarely without a connection, so I'm not so concerned about this (and the couple of files that I might need I can individually make available offline on my iPad).

I'm bad for having a lots of tabs open as well. When I move from one tab to another, they reload when they should already be displaying the content. Another trick I've found that seems to help is add extra swamp memory ( So far, that seems to be helping.

What's your favorite trick?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Create Dynamic Dropdown Menus in Google Sheets

Google Sheets is a great tool for tracking and entering data. The Validation command allows us to create a dropdown menu for people to choose from, which helps with consitency. But what if you don't know what the choices are going to be?

By using the UNIQUE function, you can create dropdown menus that automatically updated based on what users are entering. That way, our users can choose items based on previous entries or add a new item that will automatically update our list.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Easy Start to Google Hangouts

As part of the Google Apps suite of tools, MacEwan University has access to Google Hangouts. Think of Hangouts as conversations - you can carry on a conversation through text (like different messenger apps), through audio (like a telephone) or video (like Skype). Best of all, if you’re using Chrome, they’re all easily available through your browser - you don’t need to run a separate app or download any plugins.

If you’re using Google Chrome, I recommend downloading the Google Hangouts extension ( This places a button at the top of your window that will allow you to start a Hangout. It will also listen for an invitation to Hangouts and open the conversation window. As this is a Chrome extension, Chrome must be running for this to work.

Here’s a quick video ( that explains the installation process and what you can do with it. Although I didn't mention it in the video, you can also use Hangouts to make free calls to phone numbers in Canada and the United States.

For information on Hangouts visit Google’s Help Centre:

Monday, April 20, 2015

When NOT to delete a shared folder/file

Turns out that removing a shared item may not be as simple as we thought. After a long discussion with Google Support, I realized many trainers (myself included) didn’t realize that although a shared document can only be deleted by the owner, it is possible for that document to be removed from it's folder and placed in limbo. The conditions under which this could happen and the solution provided by Google Support are in this document:

So, if someone has shared a folder, deleting a document from the folder will remove it for everyone (owner included). Although the owner still have access to it, it will not show up in the original shared folder or within his My Drive — the owner will have to search to find it.

Lesson: don’t delete files from folders - remove yourself from the Share list.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Using a Web Site's Search Function Directly From Chrome's Omnibox

Ever have a brain fart and can't remember the title or an actor in a movie? In the past, I would open in a new tab and use the site's search function to find my answer. Now, I can do it directly from my current window. All I do is type in IMDB and hit tab — now I can use IMDB's search function without going to the site (the search results will be from the site):

You can add any web site's search to Google Chrome's Omnibox. With Google Chrome's settings, select Manage search engines

In addition to some standard ones Google already has, you can easily add your own. First you need to find the search result URL used on the web site. On Grooveshark, when I search for Queen, it displays:!/search?q=queen

I then substitute my query (i.e. queen) with %s. Chrome will use whatever you type in the Omnibox for %s.!/search?q=%s

Once you have your search URL, you just need to add the shortcut (what you type to enable the search) and the display name.

Remember, the shortcut is enabled after you type it and then hit tab:

Here's some ideas to get your started:

Google Drive:

Google Image Search:


For more information, see Google's documentation:

What search engines will you add?

Collaborating with Google Apps

A lot of people belief collaboration means having your Microsoft Word files in a shared folder, but that's not collaboration — that's sharing a folder.

Collaboration means work on a file together. Whether at the same time, or at different times of the day, Google's collaboration tools (Comments and Suggested Edits) removes the needs of multiple copies of a document as it gets sent back and forth between collaborators.

In this new video from Google, you'll see the best of the collaboration tips in action. Specfically, Comments and Suggested Edits, Notifications and Revisions (ie. versioning).

Another tool that is often under-used is the Email Collaborators command from under the File Menu. The best part is that it automatically include a link to the document you are currently working on.

What's your favorite collaboration tool?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Easily Send Email to Everyone Working on a Google Apps Document

There are many times while working on a document that I want to send an email out to everyone who's working on it (example: upcoming deadline). The Comments function ( is great when want to ask a question about a piece of text, but it's really not the right tool for general messages.

I used to spend time trying to remember who I shared the document with or actually went looking under the Shared settings, but there's a better way. From within the document, select Email Collaborators from under the File menu. Google will display an email window with all the collaborators of the document listed. Now it's just a matter of updating the subject line, the message, and select who I want receive the email.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Automatically Create Certificates and Collect Feedback Through Google Forms

At the end of my sessions, the last thing I have participants do is fill out a Google Form to demonstrate the power of Add-ons. Recently, I wanted to start collecting feedback on my sessions, but I knew that I would more than likely forget to send the email out. So, using 2 Google Forms and some add-ons (Autocrat, CopyDown and formMule) I created a process that is totally automated.

For this tutorial, I assume you're already familiar with these tools.

Here are steps:
  1. Provide a link to a pre-filled Google Form. While they'll submit to me their names and email addresses, I'll make sure the form includes the name of the session and the date already filled out (ensures consistency).
  2. Upon submission, Autocrat will create a certificate of attendance with each individuals' name, along with the session and date. Autocrat will send out an email with a link to that individual's customized certificate along with instructions on how to download it as a PDF.
  3. Later in the day, formMule will be triggered to send a message to participants asking them to provide feedback through a different Google Form. Using the already supplied session name and date, a link to an existing Google Form will be generated. The link will automatically pre-fill out the form with the session name and date.
  4. Participants will then be able to submit anonymous feedback through the form with the session name and date already filled out.

For more detailed information on the process, check out the video below:

Many thanks to +Andre Stillman and the New Visions Cloud Lab for these amazing tools!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Storing Videos on Google Drive

For many schools and organizations, uploading videos to Youtube is not an option. However, Google Drive not only provides a storage location, it will also process videos and create streamed versions — just like the videos on Youtube. Although they do not include many of the functionalities associated with Youtube (comments, indexing, time stamps, etc) you can link to and embed the video streams.


When you load a video to Drive, Google automatically creates a preview. Once the video has been processed, clicking on the video will take you to the streamed view. Click on the Share button and you can send the link for others to see.


From the Shared view (not the preview), the More Actions provides an Embed option. Just copy and paste the code onto your site.

Formats and Captioning

Google Drive supports a number of common formats, including .mov, .mp4 and .avi ( You can also add captions to your Google video (

Update: Files stored in Google Drive are subject to bandwidth limitations ( A great solution for sharing videos to your class or school, if you expect high traffic you may want to look at another option.

Note: the video stream below is stored on Google Drive. Because of bandwidth limitations of Drive, if this video is not available, please use: