Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Google Apps, Extensions, and Add-Ons

I absolutely love Google Chrome.  Chrome can do so much that other browsers cannot approach.  Firefox is alright.  Safari, it's ok.  Internet Explorer... really?  I haven't even tried Microsoft Edge yet because I'm so convinced that even if it's an upgrade from Explorer, it still won't be too great.  Does anyone want to bring back Netscape?  That might be better than Explorer, in my opinion.  But I digress...

My favorite thing about Chrome is all of the great applications, extensions, and add-ons that you add to the browser to enhance your browsing experience.  At last count, I have over 40 extensions added to my browser and countless apps and add-ons to Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms.  Slides, unfortunately, does not have add-ons yet.  I'm sure that at some point in the not so distant future, some genius is going to develop an add-on for Slides and we will have those to choose from as well.  Whatever it may be, an app, an extension, or an add-on, they all make my life simpler and more efficient.

If you are reading this, most likely, you already know about these.  You probably have tons of them yourself, and I'm sure you could share something awesome with me that I don't know about yet.  If you do have something, be sure to post something in the comments, tweet @SocStuEdTech, or send an email to anderka1@nv.ccsd.net.  I always am looking for more of these, because I love saving time and making my life easier.  For the sake of the rest of this piece, I want to share one of my favorites for each category.

One of the biggest issues that I face sometimes is that I want to convert a Google Doc into a .pdf file.  This is where the app DocuSign comes in.  The main purpose of the app is to create .pdf forms and share them out to have users sign.  While I don't need to have people sign documents often, it's definitely a great feature I may need to use in the future.  For now, I simply use the program to upload a Google Doc, convert it into a .pdf, set the fields that I want to be able to edit, and finish.  It saves the .pdf forms in its own folder automatically created in Google Drive and allows for users to open the form and edit away.  If it is a form that I know I am going to regularly use, I simply make a copy of it, do what I need to do with the form, rename it, and save it to another folder in my Drive.

My new favorite extension is more of an add-on than it is an extension.  You will find it in the Google Chrome Web Store like you would any extension, but it works in Google Docs like an add-on.  If you were to look for it in the add-ons menu of Google Docs, you would not find it.  This extension is called Draftback.  I came into this extension when I was looking for a plagiarism checker.  One downfall of Google Apps is that there isn't a free plagiarism check (yet).  My school uses turnitin.com, but then I would have to either have students submit work through there or copy and paste their work over to check for plagiarism, which was something I wasn't interested in doing.  Draftback is NOT a plagiarism checker.  However, what the extension will do is create a report with a running total of all edits on a document (one edit is equal to a keystroke; if I ran the extension on this blog, I would probably have close to 5000 individual edits, or even more).  It will also create a report that shows when a student started working, when they finished, and how many edits were made during the session.  Since I have shown my students this program, plagiarism off of each other has been cut significantly.  I still need to look for copying from outside sources, but I don't have the problems of copying off of each other anymore.

I was definitely tardy to the party on this one, and many were stunned when I mentioned the add-on that I had never used it, but I use it so much, I cannot help but share it out.  Doc to Form is exactly what it sounds like; this add-on allows you to convert a Google Doc into a Google Form quickly and easily.  Previously, it would take me upwards of 30 minutes to copy and paste info from a Doc to a Form.  Now, that process is down to about 5 minutes.  It allows you to create fields that are text-based, multiple choice, dropdown, and checkboxes.  The only downfall is that it only allows you to create a 10 item form from the Doc.  However, for a small donation to the developer (as little as $3, and a link is posted in the help section of the add-on), you can have the limit expanded up to 50 items.  This really came in handy when I was creating my semester exams back in December.  Find this add-on in the Google Docs add-on menu by entering "Doc to Form".

Periodically, I will post more of my favorites.  Please share any favorites that you have.  If you share something that I try and really like, I'll give you a special shout out in a future post and tweet.

Until next time...