Wednesday, October 23, 2013

5 Reasons Author Teams Should Jump All Over Google Docs

I am not now, nor have I ever been, an employee of or contractor for Google, Inc.

(Though wouldn't that be cool?}

However, I am a huge fan of several of their products including their document apps, known collectively as Google Docs:
  • Document (similar to Word)
  • Presentation (similar to PowerPoint)
  • Spreadsheet (similar to Excel)
  • Form (survey app)
  • Drawing (simple illustration app)
Granted, not the coolest names ever, but they get the point across. More important are the distinct advantages of using the apps when authoring a textbook.

To wit, my favorite five.

#1 Keeping it simple

The Google apps are simple to use and much more flexible than you might expect.

The clarity of the interface is a great thing for authors because it can help authors focus on content and not as much on making it all look pretty. I've had too many authors spend time making their manuscript look pretty, and then seeing all that lovely, truly magnificent formatting pretty much stripped out in preparation for the production process.

Take Google Document, for instance. This app has all the most commonly used functions of your typical Word user. Its toolbars look and feel familiar:

The app can handle tables, bulleted and numbered lists, image insertions, styles, and a bunch of other commonly used functions.

Does a textbook author need more? Not bleedin' likely!

#2 Always handy

When you create a Google document, you'll always have access to it, no matter where you are. I mean, as long as you have internet access.

Are you home? Go to your Google Drive and work on the document there.

At work? Do the same.

Driving in your car? What are you, nuts? Keep your eyes on the road!

#3 Saves automatically

Google will automatically save your work every few seconds.

Yes, seconds.

No more Oh, No, I Must Have Forgotten To Save All That Work!

No more, Remember To Hit Control-S!

Just keep on working.

#4 Sharing working files with co-authors and editors

When a document is saved on your or a co-author's Google Drive as a Google Docs file, you both can work on it at the same time.

Yes, at the same time.

And not just two people but how many ever you've got.

Add a chat or phone call through Google Hangouts and you've got yourself a writing extravaganza between, say, Seattle, St. Petersburg, and beautiful downtown Saganaw, Michigan.

#5 An even better "Track Changes"

People who tried Google Document last year will say that the app is great, but that it's no good for authors because it doesn't track changes," like Microsoft Word.

It does now.

Yes, Document, the Google version of Word, not only saves a file's revision history but it also remembers who made what changes to a document. Any changes made by anyone with edit rights to a file (extremely easy to set up) can be shown at any time. Like so:

Take that, all you Track Changes stalwarts!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

3 Tips for Googling Like a Guru

Do you ever have trouble finding the right search terms when looking for specific pieces of information?

Here are four quick tips that could help you narrow down your search to exactly what you're looking for.

#1 Quoth the raven, 'Nevermore'

Quotation marks (not The Raven, I'm afraid) can be a huge help in narrowing search results. Putting quotation marks before and after two or more words will return results containing that exact phrase.

For instance, putting quotation marks around quoth the raven will return results with those exact words in that exact order.

#2 Take away the minus

If you're looking for, say, information on diabetes, the kind with Type I and Type II, and you keep getting hits with "insipidous" in them, use the dash.

A dash before a word will eliminate pages with that word. So your search would be "diabetes-insipidous."

So use a dash. It's like word-math!

#3 The dots have it

So, you need the number of skin infections between 1920 and 1940. Use the ol' double-dot trick.

Two periods, placed between two numbers, tell the search engine to use the numbers as a range, like this:

          skin infections 1920..1940

Now, all that said, please know that today's search engines are just terrific at presenting what you're looking for. Sure, Google is probably most accurate, but Bing and Yahoo! aren't far behind.

Now...Seach away!