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(Cross-posted on the Gmail blog)

Gmail and Docs offer wide language support, however in some cases using the keyboard is less than ideal. Whether you’re a student trying to include a foreign phrase in your paper or an international consultant hoping to begin your message with a friendly local greeting, now you’ll be able to use your own handwriting to input words directly into Gmail and Google Docs with your mouse or trackpad.

To try it out, enable input tools in Gmail or Docs and select the handwriting input (represented by a pencil icon) of the language you want to use.
       
You can write single or even multiple characters at once in the panel to see them show up in your message or document. Currently, handwriting input is available in Google Docs for over 20 languages and in Gmail for over 50 languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Hindi and Russian.
Handwriting input makes the internet easier to use by people worldwide and is also part of a larger effort to break the barrier between languages, check it out in Google Mobile Search, Google Translate (Web, Android and iOS), and the Chrome browser.

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(Cross-posted on the Google Drive Blog.)

Google Drive lets you store and access your files anywhere -- on the web, your computer, your phone, or on the go. Whether you’re presenting slides in a boardroom in São Paulo or negotiating a Japanese contract in Tokyo, Google Drive speaks your language: 65 of them, to be exact, with the addition of 18 new ones today:

Afrikaans, Amharic, Basque, Chinese (Hong Kong), Estonian, French (Canada), Galician, Icelandic, Khmer, Lao, Malaysian, Nepali, Persian, Sinhalese, Spanish (Latin America), Swahili, Urdu, Zulu

You can switch back and forth as often as you like, and many of these languages are also supported by Drive’s spellchecker.

Love to collaborate? No matter which Drive app you’re using -- Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms -- you can work in real time in any language you choose while your fellow collaborators use another language.

To try Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides in another language, you can switch by:
  1. Clicking the gear icon in the upper right, then select Settings
  2.  Under General, select a language from the drop-down menu in the Language section. 
  3. Click Save. You’re done!
To change the language for Google Drive for mobile, go to your device’s language settings. If you don’t yet have Drive for mobile, you can visit the Google Play or Apple App Store to get the Google Drive app.

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(Cross-posted on the Google Drive Blog.)

With Google+, you can share what you want with just the right people. That might be pictures from your team offsite or an article from your favorite new blog. Starting today, you can also share the work you create and store in Google Drive, and people will be able to flip through presentations, open PDFs, play videos and more--directly in the Google+ stream.

(click the image above to view a presentation in the stream)

Forms shared in the stream, like feedback surveys or lunch order polls, are interactive as well and can be completed with just a couple of clicks.



To share, paste the link to the Drive file directly in the share box inside Google+. And, if you use Google Apps for Business, Education or Government you can make the post restricted to ensure that the discussion is only visible to people in your organization.

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(Cross-posted from Google Docs Blog)

Editing with others in real-time makes it easy to get stuff done in Google spreadsheets in only a matter of minutes. But with so many people working in the same space, it’s possible to modify a section that a collaborator didn’t intend to be touched. That’s why, today, we’re updating the Named Ranges feature in spreadsheets to let you also protect them.

To get started with Protected Ranges in a shared spreadsheet, highlight the cells you’d like to protect, right-click, and choose Name and protect range from the menu.

Click through the presentation below to see the feature in action.



Even more spreadsheet features added this month 

Along with the arrival of protected ranges, you can now add colors and patterns when you apply cell borders in Google spreadsheets. We also updated find and replace to make it possible to search using patterns (also called regular expressions). For example, “^[A-Z]+” will find all the cells that start with uppercase letters.

As always, Google spreadsheets is getting better every day, so stay tuned for even more features and updates in the coming weeks.

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Editors note: Today's guest blogger is Lisa Davis, Chief Information Officer at Georgetown University. 

Going Google was an opportunity to reimagine technology’s role at Georgetown and unify our campus by moving to a powerful cloud computing solution that worked no matter where our users were or what device they used. We had calendars, mail, and file storage and sharing tools before, but they were fragmented and in dire need of replacement. Our email system was twelve years old, only allowed 250MB per user, and calendars were not universally adopted or user-friendly. When our 16,000 students started using Google Apps for Education back in 2009, we instantly noticed some dramatic benefits. So we’ve decided to complete the migration by moving everyone over to the same platform. By summer’s end our 20,000 students, staff, and faculty members won’t have to worry about hitting email quota limits, guessing what teammates’ calendars look like, or being frustrated by the technology around them.
  

While modernizing our technology was one motivation, we also wanted to invest in a long-term vision of moving our university into the 21st century. Doing this in-house would have amounted to a tremendous resource commitment both now and in the future, for a relatively small boost in the end user experience. Google’s tools were an affordable way to provide a sustainable infrastructure for our faculty and staff. 

The process of moving our users to Google was fast, painless, and will ultimately make our users more productive. We were really impressed with our community’s reception to the switch. It helped that about 30% of our staff and faculty already had personal Gmail accounts, but during our outreach events, even people without that exposure were excited to migrate. We did several demonstration events to answer questions, and provided hands on support for those who needed it. 

Working on projects and tasks has become much less painful after switching to Google Apps because instead of dozens of versions attached to dozens of emails, we can all work on one copy at the same time through Google Docs. The Corp, the student-run corporation at Georgetown, uses Google Apps to coordinate schedules, plan events, and manage other aspects of the business. With our 4,000 faculty and staff now using Google Apps as well, we are excited to see the innovative uses the whole campus will find for collaboration, enhancing the education experience, and becoming more productive across campus. 

We look forward to bidding farewell to the days of full inboxes, missed appointments, and inefficient technology. Going Google allows us to switch off our email servers and at the same time take a giant leap forward in the services we provide our employees and students.

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(Cross-posted on the Google Docs Blog.)

In April, we introduced Google Drive, a place where you can create, share, and keep all your stuff. Today at the Google I/O conference we announced two new ways to get things done in the cloud: offline editing for Google documents and a Drive app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Offline document editing 
No internet connection? No big deal. With offline editing, you can create and edit Google documents and leave comments. Any changes you make will be automatically synced when you get back online.

You can enable offline editing from the gear icon in Google Drive and find more detailed instructions for getting set up in the Help Center. Note that you’ll need the latest versions of Chrome or ChromeOS to edit offline. We’re also working hard to make offline editing for spreadsheets and presentations available in the future.

Google Drive for iOS 
We launched the Drive app for Android phones and tablets a few weeks ago, and starting today, Google Drive is available for your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.



With the Drive app, you can open PDFs, photos, videos, documents and anything else stored in your Drive while you're on the go. You can also search all your files, add collaborators to documents, and make files available offline to view them even without an internet connection. For blind and low-vision users, the app also works great in VoiceOver mode. Learn more about what you can do with the app in our Help Center.

Get Drive in the App Store for your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch running iOS 5.0+ and visit the Play Store to get the latest on your Android phone or tablet.

To learn more about Google Drive, visit drive.google.com/start.

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Cross-posted on the Google Docs blog.

Editors note: Hangouts On Air are live video chats, interviews, or performances that are broadcast to Google+. We’ll host these broadcasts from time to time on the Google Enterprise Google+ page to give you the inside scoop on our business and products.

Last week, we hosted our first Hangout On Air from the Google Enterprise Google+ page with Jonathan Rochelle, Director of Product Management, Jeff Harris, Google Docs Product Manager, Teresa Wu, Google Docs Community Manager, and Eric Brunnett, Director of IT at Trump Hotel Collection.

During the conversation, Jonathan Rochelle told us the story of how Google Docs, Google Drive and cloud collaboration came to be. What was once an experiment to bring desktop software to the web is now a collaboration and productivity platform used by millions of people in their personal lives and at businesses, universities, non-profits and government agencies around the world.

Then, Eric Brunnett fielded questions about his company’s transition to Google Apps for Business and how they use shared Google documents and spreadsheets to streamline internal operations and communication. For example, they've moved away from relying on paper forms and long email chains by using Google Forms and Google Apps Scripts to create paperless processes that are more efficient and more trackable.

Last, Jeff Harris demoed some Google Drive features like shared folders and Google documents features like the research pane and contextual spell check, showing how the power of the web is used in Google Apps.



Follow the Google Enterprise and Google Docs Google+ pages to watch future Hangouts On Air and stay up-to-date on the latest news.

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Editors note: Today’s guest blogger is Dorothy Burt, a professional development leader at Pt England School in Auckland, New Zealand. Dorothy has been a Google Certified Teacher since 2008.

Here at Pt England School in Auckland, New Zealand our motto is “Strive to succeed.” But in our low socioeconomic area – an impoverished suburb surrounded by affluence – there’s an unspoken belief that success can be associated with your ability to get out of this part of town. 90% of our 600 students are of Maori or Pasifika descent, who are often found in the lowest achieving cohort. Raising student achievement levels for this demographic is a government priority – and a continued focus for the principal, management team, teachers and parent community at Pt England school. Recognizing our students’ natural flair for technology and expressing themselves through digital platforms, we began a journey to get our students excited about learning and improve their achievement levels through collaborative e-learning. We haven’t looked back since.

We migrated to Google Apps for Education in 2008. After training our teaching staff, we quickly began to see the advantages of working collaboratively. Our migration coincided with several neighbouring schools joining together to form the Manaiakalani Cluster – a group that works toward raising student achievement in literacy. Using Google Apps and other tools, we sought to create confident and informed digital citizens. While we quickly noticed increased student engagement, teachers felt that there was still a missing piece. Enter the Teacher Dashboard, an add-on from the Google Apps Marketplace that allowed teachers to get a bird’s-eye view of classroom activity across Docs, Sites, Gmail, Blogger and Picasa. Using Google Sites, the Manaiakalani Cluster manages the student learning environment internally, making the feedback exchange quick and easy.

The research from test scores collated in 2011 showed significant progress in literacy. Surveys, video observations and interviews with students now demonstrate a group of young learners who are highly engaged in learning.



They have a renewed sense of pride because their test scores improved, and – more importantly to them – people all around the world were reading their blog posts and complementing their success. The teachers also feel a renewed sense of engagement with their classrooms since they can centrally track and monitor student progress via the Teacher Dashboard.

Using Google tools has provided our students with equal access to learning opportunities and opened the door for them to be excited about the learning process and share their progress with the world. As a result, these students know that they don’t need to leave their town to be successful; the world now comes to them and shows them that they are.

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Editors note: Today’s guest blogger is Juan Merelo, technical services manager at Pratt Industries, America’s 6th largest recycled paper and packaging company headquartered in Conyers, Georgia. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

At Pratt Industries, we’re all about recycling, and we take pride in playing such a big role in maintaining a healthy environment. Every day, we collect thousands of pounds of paper from cities, schools and supermarkets across the country to create recycled packaging. More than 3,500 employees in 70 locations nationwide work together to make this happen, and we rely on technology to keep our operation organized and running smoothly.

In 2009, we ran into some problems when our Microsoft® Exchange server started failing. Since email is a critical communication channel for our business, we had to find a quick solution. We wanted a stable cloud-based network that would help us run our business more efficiently. The 99.9% uptime and cost savings associated with Google Apps made it a clear choice. And it’s a good thing we decided to switch because shortly after we signed up for Google Apps, our Microsoft® server unexpectedly crashed and we were forced to migrate all our employees immediately. In less than three days, we were able to set up nearly 2,000 Google Apps accounts, a task we thought would take weeks.

Google Docs has also saved us time and money – and helps us get things done more quickly. When parts of Alabama were hit by tornadoes, one of our mills went offline. To get the facility back up, we needed an IT person on the ground. I had to drive several hours and spend valuable time to fix the network. After the tornado, we used Google Docs to sketch out plans for restoring our systems. Now, if a facility goes down, we can easily share step-by-step instructions and photos with on-site employees to rebuild the network. And because we use Google Docs to share these instructions, they can access the plans on any device with an Internet connection.

More recently, we had to change network circuits at 60 of our plant facilities. Previously, we would fly an engineer to each location to gather critical data for the changeover. Now we’re able to coordinate the project remotely with shared spreadsheets in Google Docs. We provided on-site contractors with secure access to our spreadsheets, so they could collect and organize data at our facilities. Google Docs saved us two months of work and close to $60,000 in engineering costs, and we collected more accurate data because it was input directly at the project site.

Google Apps has given us new ways to make our business significantly more efficient. I’m constantly amazed at the ways our employees are using the products, and I’m looking forward to seeing even more innovative uses.

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Posted by Sarveshwar Duddu, Software Engineer

Cross-posted on the Google Docs blog.

Today we’re introducing the research pane—a new feature that brings the web’s wealth of information to you as you’re writing documents.

The research pane taps into Google Search directly from Google documents, so whether you want to add a cool destination to your itinerary for an upcoming trip to India or you're looking for the perfect presidential quote for a political science paper, you don’t even have to open a new tab.

You can access the research pane from the Tools menu by right clicking on a selected word that you want to learn more about, or by pressing Ctrl+Alt+R on Windows or Cmd+Alt+R on Mac. From the research pane, you can search for whatever info you need to help you write your document. With just a couple clicks you can look up maps, quotes, images, and much more.



If you find something you like, you can add it by clicking the insert button or, for images, by dragging them directly into your document. If appropriate we’ll automatically add a footnote citation so there’s a record of where you found the info.

Hopefully bringing knowledge from the web to Google documents will make your writing process just a little bit more efficient.

Posted:
Vadim Gerasimov, Software Engineer

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog, the Google Docs Blog, and the Google Mobile Blog.)

As I was sitting on the ferry commuting to Google’s Sydney office this morning, two thoughts occurred to me. First, Australia is beautiful. If you’ve never been here, you really should visit. And second, it’s amazing how productive I can be with just my Android phone and an Internet connection. I was responding to email, reading news articles, and editing documents—just like I do at the office. Only the view was better!

We want to give everyone the chance to be productive no matter where they are, so today we’re releasing a new update to the Google Docs app for Android. We've brought the collaborative experience from Google Docs on the desktop to your Android device. You'll see updates in real time as others type on their computers, tablets and phones, and you can just tap the document to join in.

We also updated the interface to make it easier to work with your documents on the go. For example, you can pinch to zoom and focus on a specific paragraph or see the whole document at a glance. We also added rich text formatting so you can do things like create a quick bullet list, add color to your documents, or just bold something important. Watch the new Google Docs app in action:




If you want to hear about the latest Docs news or send us feedback on the new app, visit Google Docs on Google+.

Gotta run—I’ve got another ferry to catch!

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(Cross-posted from the Google Docs Blog.)

Back in October, we released a preview of a brand new version of Google presentations, designed to make it easier to share ideas with others. We've been busy polishing the app based on your feedback and today we're excited to enable the new editor for all new presentations.

We’re also introducing a number of performance improvements and making it easier for you to collaborate by bringing the discussion feature you’ve used in documents to presentations.



With discussions in presentations, you’ll be able to:
Comment on a shape or an entire slide to give context to your discussion.
Send an email notification by adding someone to a comment.

Resolve comments to let collaborators know that they’ve been addressed, and to reduce clutter in your presentation.

Plus, to make it easy to get feedback without giving up control of who can make changes, you can now give others the ability to comment on (but not edit) your presentation.

If you’d like to convert existing presentations to the new version of the editor, create a new presentation and import your slides by selecting Import slides from the File menu. To learn more about how to import your old presentations, check out these instructions.

With discussions and real time collaboration, we hope you’ll love working together in Google presentations. We’re rolling out these changes slowly over the next several hours. If you’d like to give us your feedback live, we’ll be hosting a Hangout tomorrow at 2:30 EST to talk about the latest updates to presentations. Stop by our Google+ page to find out how to participate.

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Posted by: Steven Saviano, Software Engineer

(Cross-posted on the Official Google Blog and the Google Docs Blog.)

A year and a half ago, we released completely new document, spreadsheet and drawing editors. Google Docs has been picking up speed ever since with more than 60 new features and millions of new users. Today we’re rounding out the suite by previewing a new version of presentations with faster collaboration and more features.


A collaborative approach
Presentations are made to be shared—whether it’s presenting your thesis to your professors or inspiring colleagues at a conference. And the best presentations are made together, collaborating with others to build a compelling story that captivates your audience. Creating presentations together is easy because you can:
  • See exactly what others are working on with colorful presence markers
  • Edit with your team members simultaneously from different locations
  • Use revision history to see who made changes or to revert to earlier versions
  • Say hello, start a conversation or share new ideas using built-in chat


More than 50 new features
In the new presentations, we’ve added many of your most requested features, including:
  • Transitions to move between slides with simple fades or spicier 3D effects
  • Animations to add emphasis or to make your slides more playful
  • New themes to create beautiful presentations with distinct visual styles
  • Drawings to build new designs, layouts, and flowcharts within a presentation
  • Rich tables with merged cells and more options for adding style to your data



What’s next
We’re gradually rolling out the new presentations. To get an early start, click on the gear icon in your document list, and select Document settings. Then, from the editing tab, check the box to “Create new presentations using the latest version of the presentation editor.” Learn more about getting started with the new presentation editor over at our Help Center.

Many of the new features were built using technologies that are only available in modern browsers. If you’re using an older browser you’ll be able to view, but not edit, the new presentations.

With today’s launch, the Google Docs suite is now built on a single, solid foundation. Now that the groundwork is in place, you can expect more useful and collaborative features, delivered faster than ever before.

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(Cross-posted from the Google Docs Blog.)

Earlier this year, we introduced the Google Docs app for Android. Since then, many users have downloaded the app and enjoyed the benefits of being able to access, edit and share docs on the go.

Today’s update to the app makes Google Docs work better than ever on your tablet. With an entirely new design, we’ve customized the look to make the most of the larger screen space on tablets. The layout includes a three-panel view, which allows you to navigate through filters and collections, view your document list, and see document details, all at once.

Looking at the details panel on the right side, you can see a thumbnail to preview a document and its details before opening it. From the panel, you can see who can view or edit any doc.

New 3-panel view for improved browsing


Autocomplete makes sharing with others on the go even easier


These features are now available in 46 languages on tablet devices with Android 3.0+ (Honeycomb) and above.

You can download the app from the Android Market and let us know what you think in the comments or by posting on the forum. Learn more by visiting the help center.

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Earlier this year, members of the blind community shared a powerful message with us about the importance of accessibility. On the Official Google Blog today, we announced some accessibility enhancements to our products, including new keyboard shortcuts and improved screen reader support in Google Docs, Google Sites and Google Calendar. For blind students and employees who rely on assistive technologies to access the web, we hope these improvements will make it easier to use our products.

To answer your questions and discuss how today’s product updates affect blind users in businesses, governments and schools using Google Apps, we’d like to invite our enterprise customers to join us for a webinar on September 21.

Accessibility Updates for Docs, Sites and Calendar
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
12:00pm-1:00pm PT
Sign up here

To learn more about accessibility features in Google Apps, please visit our help center. For information more generally about using Google products with screen readers, how to send us feedback and how to track our progress, visit google.com/accessibility.

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(Cross-posted on the Google Docs Blog.)

In the past several months, we’ve added new discussion and commenting features to improve collaboration in Google documents. As an engineer, I often create docs with design concepts and send them to my team to review and provide feedback, and we use the commenting features to facilitate these discussions. Sometimes, I want to let team members view and make comments without allowing them to directly edit my document.

Over the next few days, we're releasing a new sharing option so that you can let people view and add comments to your documents without giving them edit access. To give comment-only access to your document, click on the Share button. From there, add in the contact you’d like to share your document with, and select Can comment.


You can also choose to give comment-only access to anyone with the link or anyone on the web by changing the sharing settings within the document. To do this, click Change in the sharing settings window and change visibility options to Public on the web or Anyone with the link, then change the access options to Can comment.

Similarly, if you’re using a Google Apps account, click Change in the sharing settings and select either “People at [your domain] who have the link can access” or “People at can find and access.” Then change access option to Can comment.


Users that have comment-only access can view your document and add comments throughout -- without being able to change the content of the document directly.

We hope this latest feature in discussions helps you get the feedback you need while providing you with more control over the content in your docs. So comment away and tell us what you think -- below or in the forum.

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Posted by Alan Warren, Engineering Director

(Cross-posted from the Google Docs Blog.)

Not our best week. On Wednesday we had an outage that lasted one hour and meant that document lists, documents, drawings and Apps Scripts were inaccessible for the majority of our users. We use Google Docs ourselves every day, so we feel your pain and are very sorry.

So what happened? The outage was caused by a change designed to improve real time collaboration within the document list. Unfortunately this change exposed a memory management bug which was only evident under heavy usage.

Every time a Google Doc is modified, a machine looks up the servers that need to be updated. Due to the memory management bug, the lookup machines didn’t recycle their memory properly after each lookup, causing them to eventually run out of memory and restart. While they restarted, their load was picked up by the remaining lookup machines - making them run out of memory even faster. This meant that eventually the servers couldn’t properly process a large fraction of the requests to access document lists, documents, drawings, and scripts which led to the outage you saw on Wednesday.

Our automated monitoring noticed that attempts to access documents were failing at an increased rate, and alerted us 60 seconds later after the failure rate increased sharply. The engineering teams diagnosed the problem, determined that it was correlated with the feature change, and started rolling it back 23 minutes after the first alert. In parallel, we doubled the capacity of the lookup service to mitigate the impact of the memory management bug. The rollback completed 24 minutes later, and 5 minutes after that the outage was effectively over as the additional capacity restored normal function.

Since resolution, we have been assembling and scrutinizing the timeline of this event, and have assembled a list of steps which will both reduce the chance of a future event, decrease the time required to notice and resolve a problem, and limit the scope which any single problem can affect. We intend to take all these steps; some are not easy, but we're committed to keeping Google's services exceptionally reliable. In the meantime, rest assured that we take every outage very very seriously, and as always we'll post a full incident report of what happened to the Apps Dashboard once our investigation is complete. Again, we apologize for the inconvenience and frustration which the outage has caused.

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(Cross-posted on the Gmail Blog.)

The great thing about web apps is that you can access all of your information on the go, and we’ve introduced ways to use Google Apps on a variety of devices like mobile phones and tablets. But it’s inevitable that you’ll occasionally find yourself in situations when you don’t have an internet connection, like planes, trains and carpools. When we announced Chromebooks at Google I/O 2011, we talked about bringing offline access to our web apps, and now we’re taking our first steps in that direction. Gmail offline will be available today, and offline for Google Calendar and Google Docs will be rolling out over the next week, starting today.

Gmail Offline is a Chrome Web Store app that’s intended for situations when you need to read, respond to, organize and archive email without an internet connection. This HTML5-powered app is based on the Gmail web app for tablets, which was built to function with or without web access. After you install the Gmail Offline app from the Chrome Web Store, you can continue using Gmail when you lose your connection by clicking the Gmail Offline icon on Chrome’s “new tab” page.


Google Calendar and Google Docs let you seamlessly transition between on- and offline modes. When you’re offline in Google Calendar, you can view events from your calendars and RSVP to appointments. With Google Docs you can view documents and spreadsheets when you don’t have a connection. Offline editing isn’t ready yet, but we know it’s important to many of you, and we’re working hard to make it a reality. To get started using Google Calendar or Google Docs offline, just click the gear icon at the top right corner of the web app and select the option for offline access.

IT administrators can deploy Chrome Web Store apps to users en masse by setting up organizational policies for Chrome.

Today’s world doesn’t slow down when you’re offline and it’s a great feeling to be productive from anywhere, on any device, at any time. We’re pushing the boundaries of modern browsers to make this possible, and while we hope that many users will already find today’s offline functionality useful, this is only the beginning. Support for offline document editing and customizing the amount of email to be synchronized will be coming in the future. We also look forward to making offline access more widely available when other browsers support advanced functionality (like background pages).

Posted:
Eric Zhang, Software Engineer

(Cross-posted from the Google Docs Blog.)

Today we’re introducing page-level permissions, a new feature that will allow you to control who can view and edit your Google Site on a page by page basis.

Using page-level permissions, you can make some pages private for certain users while keeping other pages public for everyone to see. For instance, let’s say you have a Google Site that you’ve shared with your team and your manager. You can allow your team to see one set of pages, let your manager edit another set of pages, and keep yet another set of pages private for only you.

Only site owners have the ability to enable this feature, which is turned off by default for new and existing sites. To turn on page-level permissions, go to More Actions > Sharing and Permissions.


From there, click Enable page-level permissions. Then, in the dialog box, click Turn on page-level permissions.


Once page-level permissions is enabled, you’ll have three options to choose from:
  • allow a page to inherit all of your site-level permissions
  • elect to include future site-level changes to a page
  • prevent a page from inheriting any future changes made at the site-level


Using page-level permissions should give you greater control over who can edit and access your Google site. To learn more about setting page-level permissions, take a look at our getting started guide. Let us know what you think in our support forums.

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We’ve all been frustrated by technology that gets slower, less reliable and less useful over time. Google Apps is different – it actually gets better automatically week after week without patches or updates to manage. People can absorb this stream of innovation without being distracted from their workflow, so this month we’re taking a look back to highlight the most interesting ways that Google Apps has grown up over time. Last week, we started with Gmail and Google Calendar.

Today we’ll break down how Google Docs and Sites support better teamwork, mobile productivity, ease of use and trustworthiness – four areas where Google Apps excels. We’re holding a webinar next Thursday to explore these developments (details below), so join us if you’re interested in learning more. We hope you’ll find a few capabilities here that you didn’t know about before, or haven’t tried in some time.

Designed for Teams
Google Docs and Sites were built from the ground up to make teamwork seamless. Being able to simultaneously edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations without the hassles of attachments is just the start.
  • Great documents come from great discussions, so in addition to collaborative editing, Google Docs also enables conversations right alongside your content. Comments can be directed to specific co-editors, who can then respond in the document’s discussion panel or over email.
  • Sometimes you want to collaborate freely with others in a spreadsheet, but other situations call for a bit more control. Data validation lets you enforce cell input restrictions. You can also protect sheets – making them view-only – or hide sheets entirely within a collaborative workbook.
  • Forms in Google Docs also offer a structured way of collecting information in a spreadsheet from others. Questions can be multiple choice or open-ended, and your surveys can include branching logic to display different questions to a respondent depending on how they respond to earlier questions.
  • When a document, spreadsheet or presentation isn’t able to truly capture an idea, try a collaborative drawing. The same real-time co-editing found in those other formats is part of the drawing editor, too.
  • Across documents, spreadsheets, presentations and drawings, revision history lets you see any edit made by any collaborator since the file was created, which comes in handy when you need to revert changes or view a previous version.
  • Google Sites can really bring a collection of information together neatly – including embedded documents, spreadsheets and presentations – into a collaborative team, project or public website. Anyone with edit access can contribute and share, no programming skills required.
  • In today’s world of distributed contributors, working across language barriers can be critical. With automatic document translation, site translation, and even a translation spreadsheet function all powered by Google Translate, being productive in multiple languages has never been easier.
  • If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it, so we added built-in analytics within Google Docs and Google Sites, which provides content owners with aggregate stats and metrics about who’s accessing their files and sites.
  • Beyond collaborative documents, spreadsheets, presentations and drawings, you can upload and share any type of file with Google Docs, including pictures, videos, and special file formats like CAD drawings. Simply upload to Google Docs and decide who should have access. You can even set permissions to a mailing list, which automatically adjusts access as individuals are added to and removed from the group.
  • Shared collections is a great way to efficiently manage sharing access across a group of files. Instead of sharing file-by-file, you can share a whole folder of information all at once.
  • And if you’re looking to bring more efficient collaboration to Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint without upgrading to Office 2010, give Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office a try.

Productive Anywhere
Mobile access to email, contacts and calendar information is pretty common now, but access to documents, spreadsheets, presentations and team sites across all major smartphone platforms is unique to Google Apps.
  • Unlike software and files that live on one specific computer, you can access and work with information in Google Docs and Google Sites from any computer without hassles like software licenses and VPN connections.
  • Beyond simple mobile document viewing, you can edit documents and spreadsheets from Android and iOS devices. This can be a faster way to make a simple change than firing up your laptop.
  • The Google Docs mobile app for Android allows you to browse, search, open and share your Google Docs files from your phone or tablet. This app even lets you convert mobile phone pictures into editable documents.
  • Google Sites are also optimized for smaller screens through automatic mobile rendering. When you’re viewing a site on a small screen, we can automatically display a version of the site that’s easier to use on your phone or tablet.

Simple & Affordable
Google Docs and Sites bring together the best of two worlds: the power of the web and the richness of traditional software applications, all at a dramatically lower cost than buying, installing and managing client software.

Pure & Proven Cloud
As with Gmail, the collaboration tools in Google Apps for Business are backed by a service uptime guarantee and transparent system performance information. And compared to sharing information using old tools like thumb drives, Google Apps can help businesses keep their data a whole lot safer, too.
  • Our 99.9% uptime SLA guarantees reliable access to Google Apps, and our commitment doesn’t have any exceptions for planned maintenance. This is because our systems are designed to handle updates without interrupting service for customers.
  • Our publicly available status dashboard offers transparency about the health of our systems, and 24x7 phone and online support is there when you need it.
  • Google goes to extensive lengths to protect the customer information in our data centers, including extensive personnel background checks, security-focused processes, advanced technology, and around-the-clock physical protection.
  • Google Docs and Sites have completed a SAS 70 Type II audit, and have achieved the U.S. Federal goverment’s FISMA certification.
  • With default https connections, your information is encrypted as it travels from your web browser to our servers. This helps protect your data by making it unreadable to others sharing your network.
  • Google Apps accounts can be further secured with 2-step verification, which requires users to sign in with something they know (their password) and something they have (their mobile phone). With verification codes available via SMS, even basic mobile phones can serve as powerful authentication devices.

As with Gmail and Google Calendar, Google Docs and Sites have been on a fast innovation path (85 improvements last year alone!) that you just can’t get from typical software upgrades every three to five years. So if you missed any of these new features over the years, give them a go – you’re bound to find a few that’ll help you work more efficiently. And if you’d like to hear more about many of these updates, join us for a free webinar next Thursday.

A look back as we move ahead: Google Docs and Google Sites
Thursday, August 4th, 2011
9:00 a.m. PDT / 12:00 p.m. EDT
Register here