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Google Apps: Communication tool of the 21st century

By Victoria Kallsen
On January 27, 2014

Since its beta-testing debut in 2006, Google Apps has revolutionized communication between individuals and organizations around the world, a change UConn students have been privy to since the university went to Google in the Fall of 2011. Encompassing a suite of services including Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google Hangouts, Google Groups and Google Sites, these applications offer a diverse selection in collaboration tools. Students often neglect the full range of possibilities offered to them through Google Apps, but never fear: this article is here to calm your fears about technology and allow you to embrace all the opportunities that Google has to offer.
Let's break down some of these core applications. Gmail is an email client and is the most effective and un-cluttered inbox you will ever have. In mid-2012, it surpassed Hotmail to become the largest email provider with 425 million active users. Google Drive has gone through a series of revisions since its inception at Google Docs. It currently boasts the creation of multiple document types, typically corresponding to the Microsoft Office suite, while also offering online storage services for other documents (such as PDFs or from MS Office). Google Calendar is an online scheduling system in which users can easily create events with notifications.
What can you create with Google Apps? With core services like Google Drive, you can create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, survey forms, and drawings. In Gmail, labels make organization so simple that you can automate the process with filters. For those with a lack of understanding of HTML code or Wordpress, quickly throwing together a comprehensive website with Google Sites can be done in minutes. A key feature in Google Calendar is the ability to create multiple calendars allowing one to share a work calendar instead of their personal agenda, and vice versa. The best part is that once you start creating with Google Apps, you have to work hard to actually lose your creations because it is all stored online.
Most look upon technology as a medium that separates us further, frowning at the supposed wall that is thrown up between users. With Google Apps, perhaps that wall is still there, but there are many well designed holes for optimal interaction. For example, Google Hangouts provides communication through instant messaging along with video and voice calls. Because of their free feature where multiple users can video chat at once, many more are finding ease in connecting. Invites can be sent via Google Calendar, allowing guests to RSVP online to your calendar event.
Collaboration may be one of the more powerful tools at the disposal of Google users. Because everything is stored online for you, sharing between users is nearly the entire point of Google Apps. Any Google Drive document can be shared between users, allowing for real-time collaboration on the same project, commenting on selected texts, chatting when multiple people are viewing the document and viewing previous changes in revision history, among other features. Instead of trying to bring different versions of a report together or later on trying to determine who actually did what, it's all there saved in the document. Instead of compiling a calendar as an individual, one can grant access to others in an organization in order to add their own input. If creation is the foundation of Google Apps and connecting with others the building, then collaboration is the decoration on that building, drawing focus to the beauty of the overall structure.
What terrifies many about Google Apps is the implication that using it is more difficult than continuing on with their current process. By maintaining this fear, people will lose out on the greatest organizational tool out there. Not only is there so much offered to anyone, most completely for free, within the apps themselves there are thousands of ways to customize why and how you use it. A Google Form may gather information for purchasing T-shirts for an organization, finding out about one's residents and their interests for an RA, or an RSVP for a birthday party. Truly, the best way to discover more about Google Apps is to dive into using the best email, organizational and productivity tool out there, and not look back.  

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