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Collaborating with Google Suite
Table of contents
Adding a Shared Drive
You have probably been sent an email invitation via Google Drive, or may have just had a link shared with you along with the link to this document. Click on that link and you will arrive at the Shared Drive page. If you are not logged in to your Google Account, you will be prompted to login. If you do not have a Google Account, you will need to create one (see Creating a Google Account).
Once you are logged in and are on the destination in the link, you will see a page similar to this one:
A summary of the parts of the page:
- Left sidebar and “drives”. This shows your personal drive at the top and your shared drives right underneath. The “Shared drives” are drives that belong to an organization and that you have been invited to participate in. Somewhat confusingly, there is also “shared with me” below that. The “drives” above the divider are a little more real. The items below are more like different views on the things you have access to.
- Title area. You can see here the name of the drive you are currently working with. Below the title you can see how many people are participating in the drive and also the domain the drive belongs to. In this case, the drive is called “VEC”, is shared by 8 people and belongs to holytrinitytoronto.org.
- Quick Access. You will see here files that you (or possibly others) have opened and changed recently. This can be a very convenient way to pick up where you left off. The number of files visible and how they are displayed will depend the size of your screen and settings in your account.
- Content sidebar. This may not be visible immediately. You can show or hide it by clicking on the icon in the top right corner. It will give you various information about where you are and what you have selected, depending on where you are. The “Details” tab in this area will show information about what you have selected. The “Activity” tab is very useful and shows you the most recent additions, changes and deletions in the folder you are in.
- Folder and file list. This area shows the files and folders in the current folder or drive. Whether these are displayed as icons or a list is controlled by the little box just to the left of the Content sidebar icon mentioned above:
Navigating your Shared Drive
The left sidebar performs a task very similar to that of the Finder or File Explorer on your computer. The little arrows beside each drive or container let you “open” or “close” a particular part of the tree. This can be a quick way to find the folder you want to get to. Files are not visible in the left sidebar—folders only.
Here you can see that the Shared Drives container is “open” (arrow pointing down), as is the VEC drive. The folders inside are “closed” (arrow pointing right) and likely contain more folders inside them.
As you navigate around, you will see the contents of the centre pane change. If you double click on a folder in the centre pane, it will open the folder here in Drive. If you double-click on a file, it will open in the appropriate Google App if it is a Google document. If it is some other kind of document, it will open in a preview window and you will need to either download it to open in the appropriate app or you may be able to convert it to a Google document.
Since you are doing this particular work in a collaborative environment, it is probably best to keep documents in a Google format unless something special is needed. Converting back and forth between MS Word and Google Docs is likely to create quite a mess of files that you need to keep track of.
Using Drive to create and organize files
To create a new document (or upload a document from your computer), you will choose the “New” button near top left.
If the file (or even a whole folder) already exists from some other source, you will choose “file upload” or “folder upload”.
If you are creating a new file, you may choose the document type from the list. However, you should know that your organization may have templates that should be used for some documents. For example, this organization has a template that is used for VEC Minutes. To access the template, you will need to move your mouse to the little arrow at the far right of the document type to be able to choose “From a template.” On the Templates page, you can choose a template or create one from an existing document. The first page includes templates from your organization and the “General” page has many useful templates for many sources.
You can edit the file you created using the tools in the Drive web app. You can edit at the same time as others as well. Each person (other than yourself) will have their cursor marked in colour and their name will appear beside it. This is a very useful way to collaborate, especially if you are having a meeting at the same time on Google Meet or even the telephone.
In addition, you can, instead, switch modes using the little “Editing” menu in the top right corner of the document. If you switch to “Suggesting”, any edits you make will be flagged and be offered as suggestions to the document owner. This is a great way to collaborate when you can’t talk and work on the document at the same time as the conversation becomes embedded in the document itself.
An important aspect of this is the ability to add comments to a document. You can add a comment by right-clicking with your mouse and choosing “comment”. Comments provide quite a lot of room for more discussion without disrupting the document itself. The comments will not normally be printed (though can be if you wish). Comments will be resolved when someone decides they are.
You can move files that you may have created in a personal Google Drive into the Shared Drive for others to use. This is different from sharing them. You should also know that if someone has shared a file with you, you do not own it and cannot move it into a Shared Drive. Moving a file into a Shared Drive involves a transfer of ownership, so you have to be the owner to do it.
- Navigate in your drive to the file you want to move.
- Right-click on the file and choose “Move to”
- The next box to pop up will show you the folder you are already in (probably “My Drive” unless you are very organized. It’s not the most intuitive display either.
- Click the left arrow and you will move to the “parent” directory. Keep doing that until you can see a list that looks something like the one at right.
- You can then navigate back up, choosing “shared drives”, and then VEC or whatever your shared drive might be and keep going into the destination folder.
- When you have made your way to where you want it to be, click the blue “Move here” button and your file will be moved.
Faster method of moving a file or folder
If you are handy with your mouse and the magic of drag and drop, you can click and hold on an item and drag it into the left sidebar hovering over each folder in turn, causing it to open until you reach your final destination and can drop it.
My mouse is not visible in the Screenshot at right, but is dragging the file “model A” over to “Minutes & Agendas->2019”.
One of the great things about using a collaborative system like Google Drive is that it keeps a version history (only for 30 days though, so be aware). This means that while you can save various versions for posterity as you wish, there is no need to keep creating new versions as you collaborate on a document. Because you are all working on the document in one place, there is only one current version. And if something really goes wrong (within 30 days), you can easily go back to an earlier version. You can save both copies or just revert to the earlier one.
If the file is a Google file of some kind, you can view the version history by opening the document and using the “File” menu to find the “Version history” menu item. Under that submenu you have the ability to “Name the current version” for future reference or “See version history” and revert to an earlier version or save an earlier version to a new file.
Google provides quite a good search function that will let you find the file you need quickly, provided you know some part of the name (or content).
Just above the title area is a search box. It will search your entire Drive area including Shared Drives. If you just want to search within a particular drive or folder, you will use the title area. The last item in the title line, will have a little arrow beside it. If you click on this, you will get many options (which we will not address right now), and one of those will be to “search within folder-name”. If you choose that, you’ll get a search box that lets you search in only that folder (and any child folders).
Using Drive with Google Meet
If you are using Google Meet for your meeting, it is likely because your organization uses the Google Suite for email, file sharing and other collaboration. Google Meet is not the most popular meeting platform, but it is still a good choice. In fact, it has some advantages over other platforms, including the fact that it does not require a special application and simply works in your browser.
If you have been sent a meeting invitation, it’s best to make sure you are logged in to your Google account before you click on it, but it’s likely not required. One reason to be sure you are logged in already is to ensure that you have easy access to any documents that will be shared or used during the meeting.
Because of the collaborative power of using the documents directly in Google Drive, that is often the best way to share documents in a team meeting. Sometimes though, you will need to make a presentation.
You can share almost anything on your screen to Google Meet, however, you need to have the document or presentation or video already open. This is true for all meeting software. To share a Google document or slides, you’ll want to open them using the drive web app before your meeting.
Once you have done that, you will be able to share that open document (in a browser tab most likely) to other p[eople in the meeting. However, this way does not allow for collaborative editing—for that use the collaborative editing mentioned above.