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3 writing tips when using Google Apps

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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Google apps have hundreds of features (some from Google, some from third parties) most users don't know about. In this short article, I want to share four tips that will make your life writing in Google apps easier (useful for students and professionals alike). 

Voice Typing

Over the years, I have spent hundreds of dollars on voice typing apps for Mac and Windows (most going to the Dragon Naturally speaking product line from Nuance software). 
For 85% of users, these expensive & complicated products are overkill, and Google makes it's excellent voice recognition engine available for free to all Google Docs users. 
Just click on tools and select Voice Typing.

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  • You can check out the Google Support doc explaining this feature here but it is so simple, you should be able to turn it on and start using it immediately. Remember that you can also dictate punctuation:
  • Period
  • Comma
  • Exclamation point
  • Question mark
  • New line
  • New paragraph

Write well with Grammarly

Grammarly is a free (has a paid upgrade) service that helps improve the quality of your writing by :

  • Checking your grammar
  • checking contextually aware spelling
  • recommending vocabulary enhancements
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In its simplest (free) form, Grammarly is a Chrome plug-in that works seamlessly with most web services (including Google Docs), and their correction engine is much more robust than simple word misspelling detection. 
You can upgrade to their premium service which costs ($11.66 a month when paid annually). In addition to all the features included in the free version, the premium service adds:

  • advanced check for punctuation, grammar, context and sentence structure
  • vocabulary enhanced suggestions
  • genre-specific writing style checks
  • Plagiarism detector that references more than 8B webpages

Most users will be perfectly fine with the free version so check it out.

Grade readability

The free Hemingway App allows you to paste content into its online editor and assigns a readability score. It uses colour highlighting to identify hard to read sentences. It provides tips on how to simplify the text, use of passive voice, etc. 

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There is a $19.99 premium version that operates as a standalone app (Windows and Mac only) but the web version works fine and is accessible anywhere you have a web browser.

Use a Chromebook

Those that have been following me for a while know I love Chromebooks. Chromebooks aren't perfect and won't meet everyone's requirements. Chromebooks do provide a stable, safe and reliable platform when using web-based services. 


Everything mentioned in this article is based on the web or is a chrome extension. These tips will work flawlessly on Chromebooks (whether a $200 Lenovo or a $999 Pixelbook). 

Google's FilesGo File Manager cleaner is now available as beta

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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TL;DR : Go here and download this app (while it's available).

Earlier this week, we saw FileGo leak on the Google Play Store but it was quickly taken down. FileGo is specifically built to help users (even novices) manage and clean files from their devices (duplicate photos, application cache files, etc).

FileGo also contains a function (similar to Apple's AirDrop) that allows Android users within close proximity to transfer files to each other. 

FilesGo is still beta software (aka it could still have bugs) but in my testing has been reasonably reliable and hasn't crashed yet (tested on a Nexus 6P and Note 8). 

Keep in mind that Google can change user eligibility once the app is officially released (may be limited to Android One users or restricted to certain regions) but right now it seems to be available to all users globally.

Important issues with the Google Pixelbook

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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So the Google Pixelbook is the most elegant expression of what a Chromebook could be. There are dozens of review on the internet extolling the wondrous virtues of the device. I think it is a fantastic device for the right user because it is fast, hassle-free and as secure as a mobile computing device can be.  

Instead of just writing another copycat article about the positives, I wanted to share some of the less than perfect elements of the device. To ensure you can make an educated decision.

Image courtesy Google 

Image courtesy Google 

Google Assistant 

I love the Google Assistant and was excited when Google added it to the Pixelbook. The problem is that the activation hot words only work when the device is on and the screen is on. If the device is idle and "sleeps", you will have to manually wake it up before you can trigger the Google Assistant. Consumers have come to expect always-on assistants (think Google home and Google Pixel 2 smartphone are always listening). 

I am a Google GSuite user and expected the Google Assitant (at least on their premium laptop replacement device) to integrate better for their business users. As an example, it won't be able to read you your agenda. 

Image courtesy Google

Image courtesy Google

PixelBook Pen

The Pixelbook pen is a great concept but your experience will depend greatly on the apps you are using. Google claims that the Pixelbook Pen API uses a low latency model that should deliver 10ms response times and this is true in certain apps like Google Keep. In Google Keep, using the pen feels akin to writing on paper. In apps like Adobe Draw or Microsoft OneNote, you definitely feel the latency. The latency is so bad that it makes the experience almost unusable. 

Android apps on ChromeOS

With the launch of the Pixelbook, Google finally graduated Android apps on ChromeOS out of beta. This is a push we have seen from Google for many months and they want to encourage ChromeOS (Chromebook) users to leverage the millions of Android apps to make the Chromebook the prefered mobile platform.

Some companies (like Adobe) have worked with Google to make their Android app Chromebook aware and thus using Lightroom on it is actually a great experience. It is fast, fluid and very functionally complete. 

Other apps are the polar opposite. With these less than optimal apps, you will experience:

  • incorrect app orientation
  • the app does not use the full-screen real estate 
  • app performance is sometimes erratic and will crash for no discernible reason

Conclusion

The Pixelbook is a beautifully crafted device that works relatively well. If the device had been a couple of hundred dollars less, I could easily overlook everything written here, but at $US999, my expectations are slightly higher. 

I think the Pen is still a beta experience and they should really provide one for free with each Pixelbook. More customers using the Pen means more telemetry and better design cues for v2 next year. I cannot recommend the $US99 pen right now. The Pixelbook pen is nothing more than a gimmick right now. 

Google hopes Hire gives it a better stronghold in corporations

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

Google sees the corporate world as an excellent cash cow and has been working hard to secure its place. Most recently we have the fruits of its labour with redesigned G-Suite offerings, the Jamboard and more.

Google is the king of data and has decided it can help HR do a better job with recruitment. Google Hire is a purpose built solution that promises to make the entire hiring process easier and more efficient (from finding to managing). 

The target customer is the small or medium organisation that may not be using any of the larger more expensive and complicated tools. 

  • A 2015 report by Bersin (Deloitte) claimed it took on average 52 days to fill a position (up from 48 in 2011) at the cost of $4,000
  • 48% of small businesses report there are few or no qualified applicants for the positions they are trying to fill (NFIB)
  • 27% of respondends believe lengthy hiring timelines are a major impedament to increasing staff headcount (Recruiter Sentiment Study 2015 2nd Half, MRI Network, December 2015)

So all in all, we can safely assume the hiring process is broken in small to medium size companies, which may equate to a nice chunk of change for Google (if it plays its cards right).

Google Hire leverages the G-Suite platform and integrates with email and calendaring. In addition to winning new business by offering innovative cost effective new solutions for the SMB market, it also adds value to G-Suite. 

It is conceivable that a long time Microsoft Office customer may eventually switch to Google's G-Suite if it has enough value added features. 

I have spoken to dozens of medium size start-ups that just don't want or need the big Office 365 offering and are just looking for an excuse to make the jump. It is small but targeted offerings like this that may make the difference.

You can check out the Google Hire website for more details.

Google allows you to receive 50MB email attachments

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

I've been a Google GMAIL user from the start and get excited when Google releases new features. The sultan of search has increased the inbound attachment limit to 50MB (from 25MB). Outbound attachment size is still capped at 25MB.

Sending and receiving attachments is an important part of email exchanges. While Google Drive offers a convenient way to share files of any size, sometimes you need to receive large files as direct email attachments. So starting today, you will be able to receive emails of up to 50MB directly.

This change is rolling out to users and should hit everyone in the next week.

Google announcement here.