Monday, February 19, 2018

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
  • Email
  • 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
  • More info:  What’s So Great About Gmail?
Sample Uses for Family or Team
  • 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. “”) 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.
Get the app:


What It Does
  • Schedule appointments
  • Schedule events
  • Create reminders
Features & Benefits
  • Import calendars from other calendar programs.
  • Set up and “layer” several separate calendars (i.e., one for work, personal, medical, exercise, etc.).
  • View all, some or just one of your calendar layers.
  • Zoom in on an individual day or week or zoom out on a month or entire list of events (“agenda”).
  • Share your entire calendar or share one layer.
  • View and edit combined calendars (yours, your friends/family).
Sample Uses for Family or Team
  • Share one or more calendars & its reminders among family members.
  • Coordinate schedules.
  • Create an event or appointment, then send an invitation to one or more family members to accept or reject.
  • More info:  Share your [Google] calendar with someone
Get the app:


What it does
  • Captures and organizes notes, ideas, to-do lists and more as virtual note “cards”
Features & Benefits
  • Create a note by choosing to “draw” with stylus or finger, “dictate” using device microphone (with Google’s voice to text) or simply type with a keyboard.
  • Capture photos and attach documents to a note.
  • Create to-do lists with check boxes that can be “checked off” (marked completed) and tracked.
  • Re-organize to-do list items using “drag and drop.”
  • Color code notes and tag them with suggested labels (or your own custom labels) for search.
  • “Pin” important notes that you use often to the opening window of the app.
  • Assign collaborators to work on a note with you.
  • Schedule reminders to nudge you and your collaborators to take action on a note (These also appear in your Google Calendar).
  • Use powerful Google Search to search within the app and find any of your notes quickly.
Sample Uses for Family or Team
  • Share to-do lists and track items as they are completed.
  • Collaborate to create plans for a trip or a family project (dinner? wedding? special team meeting? “all hands” effort?) and attach pertinent photos, documents and links.
  • Maintain a family diary of important achievements, goals, etc.
  • Maintain a family reading list with links.
  • More info:  Get started with Google Keep
Get the app:


What it does
  • 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.
  • Share your entire photo library with anyone!
  • More info:
Get the app:

Photo Scan 

What it does
  • Scan and “clean” printed photos (e.g. old snapshots & printed pictures from a photo album) & save as digital files using your phone’s camera.
  • Back up scanned photos to Google Photos.
Features & Benefits
  • Removes glare from shiny photos by combining multiple scans (“… glare-free scans with an easy step-by-step capture flow”)
  • Automatic cropping based on edge detection
  • Straight, rectangular scans with perspective correction
  • Smart rotation, so your photos stay right-side-up no matter which way you scan them
  • Lots of filters and advanced editing controls
Sample Uses for Family or Team
  • Using smartphone’s camera, capture physical photos that only exist in old photo albums and convert to clean, editable digital photos
  • Capture images of paper/printed reference materials (snapshots in library archives, etc.) for research projects
  • Back up and share individual photos, special collections or albums with Google Photos
  • More info:
Get the app (for cameras only):


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.)
  • More info:
Sample Uses for Family or Team
  • 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.
Get the app:

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!  🙂