Google Drive (the app formerly known as Google Docs) is the best place to write online. It obsessively autosaves, allows you to easily share what you’ve written with friends, and can be accessed anywhere with an Internet connection. Last week, Google juiced up its word processor with a new feature called Add-ons: extra tools meant to make your writing process smoother.
You can find this new feature when you log into your account at drive.google.com and create a new document. At the top of the page, you’ll see the new tool (it may even have a little “new” sticker on it).
Select Add-ons, and then click Get add-ons. From there, you’ll be taken to a mini shopping mall of Drive extensions. It’s like Black Freaking Friday for your work documents! Join me as we tour the best of these new gifts for Google Docs.
Whenever I need to think of a synonym for a word, I open a new tab on my browser, misspell “thesaurus” and end up on some annoying filler website that exists solely because a large percentage of the population can’t spell “thesaurus.” This add-on cuts out those steps and brings up a sidebar of synonyms on the right. Just highlight a word and select Thesaurus. Your eyes will never have to leave your precious document again.
Every student knows that the most painful part of writing a paper is completing a bibliography to go along with it—especially considering all the varying formats to which professors so vehemently pronounce their loyalty. EasyBib pops up on the right of your document and allows you to search for a book, journal article, or website by title, ISBN, or keywords. Once you find what you’re looking for, you can choose from one of three style guides to format the text: MLA, APA, or Chicago. From there, all you need to do is click Add bibliography to doc, and the appropriate text appears. Now you can spend less time flipping through the pages of books and more time playing Threes.
I honestly have no idea how to use a fax machine. And while that may be an obnoxious Millennial flaw, it’s pretty obvious that email is quickly replacing that technology. HelloFax sympathizes with the fax-phobic, allowing you to participate in this ancient ritual without ever having to look away from your laptop. Just choose what you need to fax, add the machine’s number, fill out a cover page, and press Send. The first five pages are free. But if you’re a heavy faxer, a regular fax cat, you can upgrade. The starting rate is $10 a month for 300 pages.
4. Maps for Docs
When planning a trip, it’s often helpful to get a visual of the spots you’re going to visit. Maps for Docs cuts out a lot of copying/pasting by allowing you to highlight a place (Bryant Park, Empire State Building, Shake Shack) and automatically generate a Google Map of the location. It’ll embed the image right there in your document and allow you to resize it.
If you want to get hardcore with your address book, you can also try out Mapping Sheets. There you’ll be able to transform any spreadsheet of addresses into a Google map. So, if you’re planning a trip to New York and have a lot of friends in the area, you can get a visual on the best possible routes to take (and who lives by the best ramen joint).
5. Track Changes
I despise this feature, which shows, in the document, any changes you’ve made to previous versions of the text. Many people swear by it, however, and therefore are still clinging to the increasingly irrelevant Microsoft Word. If the Track Changes add-on means I can recruit more people to my happy place, however, I’ll take it. Plus, this version is much more visually pleasing.
This add-on gives you a space to meet with colleagues and friends over the phone and to take collaborative notes. Once you’re in a document you want to share, the tool will automatically generate a phone number and a group PIN for you to share with your buddies. From there, you can take notes for everyone to see and even record the conversation.
And that’s about it! You can see the whole add-on library here. Since they’re brand new, there’s likely more cool stuff to come. But, so far, even with just these six add-ons my workflow is poppin’. Make yours pop, too.
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