FREE OFFICE PROGRAMS

Googling More…
Free Office Programs

If you are scratching your head, wondering what exactly is a “Google”, you have either just dropped in from another planet, or you have lead a very sheltered life. In reality, the vast majority of people in this hemisphere are Googling. Do you use Google for searching out your favourite anythings? If your answer is yes, you are certainly not alone. However, are you really using Google to it’s fullest? Chances are you are missing out.

In 2007, according to Internet World Stats, there were almost 335 million people living in North America, and 70.9% of those people used the Internet. Google is so popular that Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary added the word “google” to their dictionaries in 2006. To “google” means “to use the Google search engine” (MWCD) to get information. Although, Google offers much more than just the best search engine.

Many people today use a multitude of Google’s programs such as: Google Earth (many schools now using this program), gmail, YouTube, Google Calendar and so on. Google now offers 42 different programs, free of charge. Programs are being added on a regular basis, for instance: custom search and Google Health (where you can organize your medical records). Improvements to all of these programs are ongoing.

Google is getting so popular and intense, that colleges, such as Lambton College, are now offering courses just on Google programs. However, the most exciting breakthrough Google has ventured to take on is “GOOGLE DOCUMENTS”, otherwise known as Google Docs.

You may have heard of the ongoing “Turf Wars” between Microsoft and Google? If not, don’t worry too much about it. All you need to know is that Google does not charge for their Office programs nor do they charge you for online (“in the clouds”) data storage.

What exactly is Google Docs and how do I get a copy?

Google Docs contains three Office programs that are very similar to Microsoft’s Office. Google has changed the names of these three programs to: Document (Word), Spreadsheet (Excel), and Presentation (PowerPoint).

To get these programs you will need a Google account (unless you have already signed up). At one time accounts were by invitation only. Now you simply go to: http://www.google.com and in the top right corner click on “Sign In”. On the next page click on: “Create an account now”. Once you have an account with Google you are ready to get Google Docs.

Open http://www.google.com and click on “Sign In” again. This time, using your new account information, you can sign in to Google. Once logged on, you will be at the Google search site where you type in your search request. Just above that search box is the word: “more”. Click on that and you will see a drop-down with the term: “Documents”. Click on Documents and you will open up your new Google Office program. One more step: Click on “New” and you will then be offered Google’s Document (Word), Spreadsheet (Excel), and Presentation (PowerPoint).

If this seems a bit overwhelming at first, don’t worry. Once you get Google Docs open you will find very similarities to Microsoft Office. Click around to see what is offered and remember you cannot break anything so try out all the features in Google Docs.

To get all the features and then some, go to Google Docs Help Centre at:
http://documents.google.com/support/?hl=en Here is where you will find video tours of the Docs, how to use these programs at school and at work or home, and great video tutorials.

One of the best features, with Google Docs, is that they give you the option of saving all your documents, spreadsheets, and presentations online, or otherwise known as “in the clouds”, without charge. You can access your data from any computer, and from anywhere on the planet. Say you are traveling and you want to look up a file. You can either use your laptop and go online to Google Docs and simply open that file, even though the file is not on your laptop. You can even look at, open and retrieve files from any other computer that is connected to the Internet. That is what is known as storing data “in the clouds”; your data is safely stored on the Internet with Google.

In my computer classes I teach Basic Computer and Internet to Seniors and one of the first programs I demonstrate is Google Docs, because it is easy to use and it is free. Google offers so much more, that after you’ve test driven a few programs you will easily Google your day away. So next time you are using the Google Search, click on the “more” above the search box and discover the amazing world of Google.

Note: This article appears in SCUG Report, First Monday, and the Association of Computer User Groups Editorial Distribution.

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