October 2018 – Using G Suite – Google’s Office Apps

G Suite LogoFor years, one of the first tasks I’d undertake when I got a new computer would be to install Microsoft’s Office Suite, and move all my documents from back-up to the new machine. It was an annoying task, but necessary as I worked with a guy who literally wrote a book on how to use this software, and was adamant that all employees use it.

It made sense in those days, and still does for some power users, but as Microsoft moves to a pay as you go subscription model, and my needs for super-powered features have lessened, I have come to appreciate the simplicity (and price point!) of Google’s offerings in this realm, which they now call “G Suite.”


To use the G Suite software you need a computer, tablet or phone (I do not like composing on the phone, but it is possible!) and a Google account.  If you have a gmail address already, yay!  You already have a Google account.  If you don’t though, you will need to create one.  The video below walks through the very easy process for setting up a Google account.  If the email account you get as a result of the process is not one you plan to use, that’s ok, just make sure to give it a memorable name because you will need to use the Gmail email account as the user id to access the rest of Google’s services.

The video below gives a nice walk through. Some details may have changed, but the basics are the same.

How to create a Google Account in 2014

Google Calendar 

An online calendar is a beautiful thing, and you get one with every google account. It lets you add things to it in one place (like your laptop) and and view them elsewhere (like on your phone).  It can be set to send you reminders when you are out and about.  Used with a Gmail account, it can even detect when you’ve been invited to something and put it on your calendar.  I like to send my husband calendar invitations to stuff I don’t expect him to remember.

Getting Started with Google Calendar – Google’s text tutorial

The NEW Google Calendar 2018 – a helpful video tutorial targeted for teachers

Use Your Google Account on your iPad or iPhone  A very helpful guide walking through the different options.


Google Drive

Google Drive is Google’s cloud storage product.  It is the virtual hard drive where all files created using G Suite products are stored.   It’s not a bad idea to start your exploration of G Suite from Drive, at https://drive.google.com

Google Docs

Docs is Google’s word processing application, similar to Microsoft Word.  It’s for creating old fashioned letters, or reports, or lists, or any of the other things people used to use a typewriter for.

A nice text-based tutorial for using Docs is offered by Google here: Getting Started With Google Docs

A video tutorial is here: Google Docs Tutorial 2018

Docs will do almost anything a traditional word processor will do, with the added advantages of being cloud-based:

  1. Available from any device
  2. Possible to easily share drafts with other people, even while you are working on them

Of course, cloud-based has some disadvantages as well

  1. If you don’t have Internet, you can’t get to your document
  2. If it’s really sensitive, you might not wanting it hanging out on Google’s servers.

Many people prefer to save a “backup” copy on their local machine, or to share with people who have Word, and that’s easy using “Download as, and choosing “Microsoft Word” as an option.  It’s also possible to download things as .pdf documents which is handy if you don’t want others to edit your document.  Of course, you can also print them!

An intriguing new feature on Google Docs is “voice typing.” If you prefer dictating your letters, and you have a microphone on your device, this is now an option!

Google Sheets

When I was in MBA school, back when the dinosaurs roamed, my EDP (remember when it was called “electronic data processing?”)  professor told us of work in progress to build computer programs that write computer programs.  As a programmer (we were not “coders” then) who was, like most of us, lazy and really not enjoying the tedious process of typing out punch cards for each line of a program to make things happen on the computers of those days, I looked forward eagerly to the days this work would come to fruition!  As it turns out, my timing was excellent, and in my summer internship that year, I did a feasibility study for whether the firm should invest in one of those new-fangled IBM personal computers.  It turns out, I was able to justify the investment on the existence of a single program that could be run on it — Lotus 1-2-3, the MS-DOS version of the groundbreaking Visicalc program that had been developed for the Apple II.   Microsoft got into the game with Excel, and Sheets is basically Google’s version of Excel.

The spreadsheet is possibly one of the most versatile decision-support tools EVER.  It’s even possible to use it as a basic database program, because of the sorting and filtering capabilities.

Getting Started with Sheets is Google’s text tutorial for this app.

Google Sheets Full Tutorial 2018 is a nice video tutorial

People usually use spreadsheets for financial and other number crunching purposes.  It’s power is in making it really, really easy to do analyses that answer the question “what if things change?”

These days, there are websites that will do a lot of the traditional calculations for you, but I still like a spreadsheet I can tailor myself.

I like to keep my holiday shopping list on a spreadsheet, because a spreadsheet can be a simple database and I like being able to sort by different criteria

Christmas list for when I win the lottery

One of my favorite usages is for mapping out complicated decisions. I was taught this methodology at one of my first jobs, and the spreadsheet makes it easy to apply. I whipped this version up for my daughter and her med school pals, who had to rank different jobs they were applying to for the medical residency match.

Weighted Residency Selection Spreadsheet

The methodology works well for less weighty decisions as well — especially when there are multiple people who need to weigh in, as for say, vacation!

Vacation Selection Spreadsheet

Extra Credit!

You can combine the use of Sheets and Gmail, or Sheets and Docs, to do “mail merges” — automatic personalization of emails or documents.  Anson Alexander does a nice demo (slightly outdated, in that scripts are now in the “Add-On’s menu) of how to this: Create a Mail Merge with Gmail and Google Sheets

Even if you don’t have ambitions to send personalized junk mail around, this is a neat example of the many tools available to make G Suite even more powerful.

Google Slides

Google Slides is presentation software, like Power Point. It’s a handy way to organize a talk with pictures and bullet points and other stuff like that.  Good slide presentations use the slides ONLY to illustrate the points the speaker is making, so you just want to jot down a few words, so that people are not busy scribbling instead of listening to you.

Getting Started with Slides text guide from Google

How to: Quick Tutorial for Google Slides 2018  video