A Dozen Free Google Apps to Keep Your Family or Team Organized [Part 1 of 2]
Does your family or team have documents, photos, plans & maps scattered all over the place? Google’s free apps help you consolidate, share & get organized!
Whether you’re trying to coordinate a virtual team or a far-flung family, you can easily reach the point where the “wisdom of the group” is scattered all over the place. One person has that photo everyone is looking for, while somebody else has the schedule in her calendar and other people have the invitations to the event and maps with directions to the venue. In short, working together or sharing family records and events can result in digital files and critical documents scattered all over the place!
The best way to bring order to this chaos is to get everyone connected with a common set of apps that allows the entire group to create, store and share their image files and documents using any device. And that’s exactly what the dozen free Google apps below are designed to do.
The Common Thread: Easy Access by Anyone from Any Device
ALL the Google apps described here are:
Cross-platform — You can use them with a mixed collection of Windows, Apple iOS, & Android operating sytems.
Cross-device — You can use them with any computer, tablet, or smart phone.
Accessible anywhere there is internet — The apps all are connected to your Google account. So whether you’re on a public computer at the library, visiting a friend and borrowing a device, using your computer at work or hanging out at home, you simply connect to the web, sign in to your Gmail account, and you’re ready to use any of these apps.
Available offline — Most of these apps allow some sort of offline file storage & use, as long as you have the app on the device you are using. So you can work with them when you don’t have an internet connection.
Allow collaboration and sharing — Most of these apps allow you to share files and folders containing collections of files. In most cases you can decide whether you want to share a file or folder as “read only” or designate the people you’re sharing with as “collaborators” and allow them to make changes and edits. The amount of control is up to you.
Let’s take a closer look at each app.
What It Does
Required as a prerequisite for using the other free Google apps
Features & Benefits
Automatically eliminates most spam before you see it using Google’s powerful crowd-sourced spam filters
Can collect all your email from other accounts (Yahoo, Verizon, etc.) & consolidate
Automatically sorts email into folders (Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, Forums)
“Learns” (i.e., you can teach it) how you want questionable email messages to be categorized and sorted
Each family or team member must each get their own free Gmail account. This allows them to connect and share all the apps, documents, and services described below.
One person can collect and manage email for several different people. Specifically, because Gmail can collect mail from other email accounts, a parent or spouse or team leader could pull in copies of a child or spouse’s or team member’s email into a single account. The “Send mail as…” feature allows Gmail’s outgoing email to display the email address (e.g. “John-Doe@blockhead.com”) that matches the outside mail source from which it was collected. See Gmail’s “Settings, Accounts & Imports” for details.
You can set up a Gmail address book group containing only the email addresses of those family or team members you want to share messages with. Then simply select this single group name as the recipient in the “To” field of your email message and everyone who’s in that group will get the message.
Stores all your photos and videos from all your devices in Google’s “cloud”
Features & Benefits
An unlimited (UNLIMITED!!!) number of photos may be uploaded. (I have nearly 20,000 photos in my account so far, stored online for FREE! And I add more every day!)
Automatically back up all your photos from all your devices to the cloud.
Create and share entire albums, individual photos, collages, animations, videos.
Use built-in editing tools to crop, clean up and beautify photos.
Find anything you can imagine among thousands of your photos using Google’s powerful image search capability.
Use Google’s incredible facial recognition search to find specific people at all ages of their lives, wearing hats, in groups, etc. (Really! It’s spooky how they can find the same person at age 45 or as a baby!)
No need to tag photos any more! Google’s Search will find you the photo you’re looking for!
Sample Uses for Family or Team
Create and share an album of photos from an event such as a wedding, family vacation, team training exercise or reunion.
Consolidate and archive a collection of photos of people or special events captured by many different family or team members using different devices, then share the folder with a web link.
Create and share a memorial album of photos of a departed loved one and display as a slide show at a funeral service.
Turn an online photo album into a physical, printed book commemorating a special event.
(For Smartphone cameras only, so not available at the Chrome Web Store)
What it does
Searches, finds and specifically locates destinations on an interactive map and gets real-time GPS navigation, traffic, transit, and details about millions of places, including user reviews and times of day these places are likely to be busy.
Features & Benefits
Getting a bunch of geographically-dispersed people to arrive at the same place at the same time can be a huge challenge! Google Maps can make travel coordination a whole lot easier. According to the app description, it can help you:
“Get there faster with real-time updates.
Beat traffic with real-time navigation, ETAs and traffic conditions.
Catch your bus, train, or ride-share with real-time transit info.
Save time with automatic re-routing based on live traffic, road closures and traffic incidents.
Navigate with lane guidance so you don’t miss a turn or exit.
Find pit stops along your route like gas stations and coffee spots.
Find top-rated restaurants and local businesses, wherever you are.
Decide on the best places to go with reviews, ratings, and pictures of foods and interiors.
Plan your visit and see menus, make reservations, and find when places are typically busiest.
Help others discover the best places by sharing reviews, photos and more.
Save places you want to or often visit, and quickly find them later from any computer or device.”
Use “Offline maps to search, get directions and use navigation without an internet connection.”
Use “Street View and indoor imagery for restaurants, shops, museums and more.”
Use “Indoor maps to quickly find your way inside big places like airports, malls and stadiums.”
Get “Transit schedules and maps for over 15,000 cities.”
Get “Detailed business information on over 100 million places.” (location, phone number, hours of operation, reviews, etc.)
Just look at that list of features above! It’s easy to see a zillion ways your team or family could benefit from using Maps. Specifically, if one person is able to get solid, accurate trip-related details and share these with everyone else, then your team or family spends less time wandering around lost and travel coordination is a breeze!
Create lists of places labeled “Favorites,” “Starred Places,” & “Want to Go,” then share these lists with family or team members or make a list public so anyone can find that special “meet-up” location.
In Part 2 of this series we take a closer look at Google’s Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, and Contacts, as well as five bonus Google apps or services you might want to check out. So Stay tuned!