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18 Tips for Google Apps Users and Admins

4 minute read

Last week we asked our loyal newsletter subscribers for their favorite user (or admin) tips in Google Apps. We received an overwhelming amount of responses, so we needed to narrow them down to a few of our favorites. These tips cover everything from Gmail to Google Chrome, and tips for users and Google Apps Admins along the way. Thanks again to all of our newsletter subscribers for making this possible!


1. One tip I make sure to tell all my users is to manage their Labels by setting Spam and Drafts to ‘Show only when unread’.

For Drafts, this prevents an empty label from taking up space, while also showing itself when one has composed an email but accidentally forgot to send it. Its easy to get distracted and click off to something else and forget to send.

For Spam, it is much easier to keep the Spam label clean if its done in small batches. Open it, check for misdirected emails, empty it and the label goes away until new Spam comes in.

– Allen Schmidt, Systems Administrator for The Free Lance-Star Media Companies

2. Dragging labels onto emails is pretty slick. You can even drag multiple-clicked emails…just drag a label on one and it applies to them all.

– Allen Schmidt, Systems Administrator for The Free Lance-Star Media Companies

3. Here is what I call my ultimate combo, aka “How to Never Forget to Process an Email”:

  • Activate the Preview Pane Gmail Lab
  • Create a custom keyboard shortcut to mark an email as read
  • Select the “Unread first” Inbox type
  • In the general settings, set the Preview Pane “Mark a conversation as read” to “Never”

With this combination of settings my unread mail stays at the top of my inbox, when I read them (with the Preview Pane Lab), they stay unread, and I mark them as read only when I process them (with my custom shortcut).

My inbox is now a mix between a mailbox and a to-do list. I can quickly see what I have to do (top of my inbox), and I never forget to process an email (even if it’s old).

– Anthony Rodriguez, Jalis

Google Drive

4. I use the Google Drive ‘scan’ feature on my Android phone to scan expense receipts.

It takes about two clicks, the receipts get uploaded (and I believe OCR’d) to Google Drive as a “scanned_<timestamp>.pdf”. I throw the paper receipt away, and at the end of the week I search my Google Drive for “scanned”, report all the matching PDFs, and then trash them.

– Carey Jung, President of IT Freedom

5. We use Google Drive to keep a Spreadsheet of all of our phone extensions updated.

Doc 1 – Spreadsheet with first name, last name, extension, voice mail and room number
Doc 2 – Spreadsheet using importrange function from Doc 1 so that all extensions can be displayed on a single screen
Doc 3 – Publish Doc 2 and check to have it republished upon changes
Doc 4 – Use the importrange function to configure a “print version” for those old people who want a printed version. Add titles and formatting as desired.

Result – When someone moves, our secretary simply updates Doc1 and all others are automatically done!

– Bill Schafer

6. We often use Conditional Formatting (in the Format dropdown) to make cells automatically turn colors when a scheduling or other requirement has been fulfilled.

– The team from Tech Goes Home

7. On Macs, use command+enter to add a line break within cells.

– The team from Tech Goes Home

8. We find it helpful to teach folks to freeze columns and rows in Google Sheets.

– The team from Tech Goes Home

Google Apps Script

9. Use Doctopus to distribute Google Doc templates to students. Their work is handed in before they even know the assignment exists!

– Stephanie Jackson

10. Use Goobric to grade Google Docs from students.

– Stephanie Jackson

11. Use Google Forms and Flubaroo for multiple choice tests. You can instantly provide students with their score, as well as feedback on what they got right / wrong.

– Stephanie Jackson

12. I use the Google Snooze Script 30-50 times a day. It has helped me follow up effectively and become the #1 sales person in my office.

– Andrew Racine, Account Manager at ViWo

Google+ / Hangouts

13. Our “Most Effective Virtual Meeting” – Google Hangout with simultaneous sharing of meeting notes in Google Drive.

This allows for each person to post their inputs directly onto the meeting, sharing audio and other screenshots, while consuming no gasoline or wasting windshield time coming/going.

– Curt Hess, CEO of Our Maryland Home Team LLC

14. Limit your bandwidth if others say your audio or video is not smooth.

If you are in a Hangout and people say your voice audio cuts in and out (or your video is choppy), then you might need to limit your bandwidth. If someone else in your Hangout is not presenting smoothly, then they might need to limit their hangout bandwidth.

– Justin Gale, IT Administrator and author of

15. Stop Hangouts from constantly switching between talking participants (Hangouts with 3 or more people)

Have you ever been on a Hangout with three or more people, and were bothered by the video display jumping to whatever person is talking? You can easily stop (and restart) this feature by setting the focus (clicking) on any person’s picture in the list at the bottom of the screen. To go back to the auto-switching, click on the same person again from the visual list of attendees at the bottom, or click on anyone twice — once to set focus, and again to release the focus!

– Justin Gale, IT Administrator and author of

16. How to Share your Entire Desktop in a Hangout

Google was kind enough to give a Screenshare option, but confused users by not telling them that if they want to share their desktop, they need to choose the option for Fullscreen (then click Start Screenshare). If you pick anything else, you are only sharing that with people on the Hangout. If you want to share something else, you have to come back to the Hangout, close the Screenshare, then open it again, and pick something else.

– Justin Gale, IT Administrator and author of

Google Chrome

17. Make Mail, Calendar, Contacts Application shortcuts in Chrome.

  • In Chrome, browse to Mail (and / or Calendar, Contacts) and click the “Customize and Control Google Chrome” hamburger button in upper-right corner.
  • Choose Tools, Create Application Shortcuts.
  • Choose where you’d like to display the application shortcut.

Now you have quick and easy access to Mail, Calendar, Contacts or any of the Google Apps that you access every day!

– Scott Prince, OC Cloud Services

18. Use Clipular to take screen shots of images and then insert those images into a Google form (paste the URL of image). This allows an easy way for teachers to include sources (pictures, quotes, etc) into an on-line multiple choice test.

– Brian Plastow

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