Back to school … and back to Google Docs errrr Drive!

Back to school for Fall 2012 which means back to working on homework (in teams) which of course means back to Google Docs! How did MBA students work on group assignments before Google Docs!?!

I hear quite a few complaints and not too many compliments and I think the kind of things that you want to be able to do with Docs boils down to this question – why do you use Google docs?

Do you use it as personal cloud storage (the Dropbox-like Google Drive)?

Do you use it as a collaboration tool (to do team homework as an MBA student)?

Do you use it as a substitute for Office?

Some suggestions to make Docs more useful for collaboration (and a few general ones as well) –

  • The same interface as search. Don’t show me any docs at all (too cluttered right now, ugh!), just a big, empty, clean search box where I can search for any doc I want to work on. (Maybe show me the 3 most recent docs in the sidebar?)
  • Where did the archive function disappear? Please bring it back and think of adding an auto-archive after n days (n to be user-configurable).
  •  When someone updates a doc, send out an email update to the team saying what the person did. (It can really galvanize other procrastinating members of the team, like me, when they see more conscientious members working on stuff). Allow the update to be edited before it is sent out.
  • Let each collaborator assign action items to other people working on the same doc. Send out email alerts to collaborators.
  • Show all action items for all the docs you are working on as soon as you log in (welcome, here’s you to-do list, chop chop!).
  • When a collaborator with an action item opens the doc in question, take her straight to the section she is supposed to review or work on.
  • Allow Gmail to add attachments from Google Docs/Google Drive (right now attach-browse just takes you to your local machine).
  • All collaborative actions should be done without having to open the doc itself. For example, you should be able to share a doc, email as an attachment, etc without having to open the doc.
  • Often, when working on something, a team needs to share related links (bookmarks). There is no good way to do this right now.
  • When group editing a doc, allow one person to be the “Controller” – LiveMeeting, without LiveMeeting. Trust me, it is irritating to have to do a LiveMeeting every single time you want to group-edit a shared doc!

Okay end of rant, back to homework ;o)

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2 Responses to Back to school … and back to Google Docs errrr Drive!

  1. Ian S says:

    I like your list of improvements… but as a new Google Docs user (just started MBA program and using it for team projects), what are your ‘best practices’ on how to utilize the functionality that is already there.

    So far, I have created a new ‘collection’ and invited the team memebers to join the group. I plan on utilizing Google+ Hangout for multi-person video chat and love the functionality of seeing where each person it editing in the document based on colored cursors.

    Thank you for the advice!

  2. Manaswini says:

    Ian, welcome to B-school! Best practices off the top of my head –
    [1] Make sure people have a Google account. Have had many, many problems with sharing docs with non-Google addresses till I simply gave up. Not sure if they have fixed the problem.
    [2] Do final editing and printing from Office, some formatting like footers, etc just does not work very well.
    [3] We always assign one person as a gatekeeper who does step 2. Have an agreed upon deadline to get all individual edits in after which the doc essentially goes offline.
    [4] Have a notes doc along with the actual doc to be submitted. Dump stuff like links, etc all in there for reference. A collection per doc also works if you need to upload other related docs like PDFs, etc.
    [5] Excel still rules (and a lot of classmates are really good with the shortcuts, etc so may prefer to use it). We usually use Dropbox to share our spreadsheets.

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