Google Docs New Features – Markdown support!

Markdown was pretty popular a few years ago. So what is Markdown? It is a lightweight markup language that allows you to add formatting (bold, italics, lists, hyperlinks, images, etc.) to plaintext documents. You can read more about it here.

Basically it lets you to format your text and document without the need of a toolbar or special mouse clicks. This may sound a little confusing and it is at first but it is a good way to write as it removes lots of distractions and lets you focus on your words. I’ve used it a lot in the past, especially with blog posts. I switched away from it when I switched over to Windows – I couldn’t find a text editor I liked that supported it.

At any rate – that may be changing as Google Docs now supports Markdown! You have to enable it but it works! To get started create or open a Google Doc. From the menu select Tools and then select Preferences (I believe this was previously named Tools).

From your Preferences window, check the box that says Automatically detect Markdown. That’s it – now you’re ready to format using Markdown. The Google Doc itself will not remove its keyboard or anything. It will still look the same, but now when you use Markdown syntax as you type, it will automatically format it according. Check out the GIF below.
Looks like I recorded too much space 🙂

Not all Markdown syntax is supported in Google Docs though. I tried to add an image and it just would delete. I also tried to make lists and to no avail, so I guess it’s not perfect but this is a pretty new feature and hopefully Google will continue to add more and more support to it.

Sometimes I like to write on a blank screen while creating. It’s also nice to try different markup languages too to stretch one’s brain from time to time. Heck even WordPress supports it now!

Google Docs new features “@”

Google Docs has recently (maybe a month or so ago) released some new features and I think they are genuinely useful. When you open a new Google Doc it prompts you right from the start to type the “@” symbol. Check out the gallery below to see what it looks like, because it is pretty extensive.

That is a lot of different features all from a little @ symbol. I won’t go into all of them as many are self explanatory but I do want to touch on a few of them.

Nice features

I like how you can mention people in a doc. When you do this they do NOT get a handy little email notification that links back to the Google Doc itself. You might be thinking why? Well think of a large project and you are mentioniong people left and right, you don’t want to blow up their email with all of these mentions. The Google Doc does give you this handy little reminder though.

Another cool thing is the ability to work on an email draft. I know you can do this in Gmail itself, but sometimes the email may need a second set of eyes. Here you and a colleague can craft the greatest email ever and when you’re ready to send, you can ship right over to Gmail by hitting the Gmail button you see below.

Another really cool thing is Meeting Notes. Let’s say you have a meeting schedule (like I do). Let’s say i have a meeting with Omar about Coffee (he really does know a lot about that stuff) on June 17th and it is on my Google Calendar (it has to be on your Google Calendar). If I select Meeting notes this is what shows up on my Google Doc. you can even attach this Google Doc to the meeting event on your calendar so everyone invited can see it!

Project Roadmap is also another nice little addition Google has added. Here it will make a table with some drop down menus to boot.

Now you can create your own customizable drop down menus but from what I can tell is that you need to add them to each cell individually by typing the @ symbol inside it.

That’s pretty much it. I think these additions are more than just window dressing or alternative ways to format your text. This is something that adds some much needed functionality into an already solid word processing program. Well done Google!

Google Forms – Choice Eliminator Lite Add on

Welp that was quick. Not too long ago I wrote about the Choice Eliminator 2 add on for Google Forms. This Add on allows you to put limits on how many times a choice can be made and then it will eliminate that choice from the form. Think about people signing up for appointments, you only want one person at a time – this (in theory) could achieve that.

The bad news is that Choice Eliminator 2 is no longer available 😦

I am not sure the reason and the developers website doesn’t really have any info about it as well. My thought is that Choice Eliminator 2 has been replaced with Choice Eliminator Lite (also made by the same developer). So I thought I’d take a quick look on how that works and whether you can count on it.

Installing the Add-on

This is pretty easy. First, open up a new Google Form (this only works in Google Form, not Docs, Sheets or Gmail). In the top right hand corner you will three dots next to your account icon, click that. A drop down menu will appear and you select Add-ons.

A new window will appear and form here you will srarch for Choice Eliminator Lite. When it comes up click on it.

After you click on it, you can read its description and scroll through its images and more. Most important of all you can click the Install button and this will make the Add-on available to all of your Google Forms. Don’t worry though, it is not active until you start using it with specific forms, so it is not going to mess up anything you’ve already made.

When you install it the first time, it will ask for permission to do some actions. Go ahead and approve those and now you are ready to start using it.

Using Choice Eliminator Lite

Before you start using Choice Eliminator Lite, go ahead and create your form. Here is a sample form I quickly threw together.

Then select the question with the times by just clicking on it and now it is time to start using Choice Eliminator Lite. Go to the Puzzle piecec near the top right hand corner and click on it and then select Choice Eliminator Lite.
A little box will then pop up, click Configure.

Just like Choice Eliminator 2 you will get a Take Note!!! box that pops up. This basically tells you to use drop down menus instead of Multiple Choice questions. More on that later.

When you close it, you will see the editor on the right hand side as its own pop out window.

You have very limited options here. You can either till it to Eliminate Choices or not. I imagine if one choice is selected it will disappear from the form. So, there is no way to assign a limit to each choice, for example if you wanted to allow three choices for my 4:00 meeting, then this Add-on will not work for you.

OK – now that is done, let’s test it out.

Always, always test

The heading says it all. Don’t just trust it is set up and working, always test it out before opening it up to the public.

To test it out I had it loaded the form link in a Chrome browser and then another in Microsoft Edge and finally another in Firefox. I wanted to test how long it would take to remove an option.

The good news is that it is pretty quick to process and remove the option. It only took a few seconds. Even if the someone took a time and another person picked that time, it would return an error for the second person and ask them to pick another time.

On the other hand, if they made the same choice within a second or two, then it is a good chance that it would allow both of those answers through. The only service I’ve ever seen that reliable limits is using the Form Ranger Add-On but that is not as easy to set up.

Conclusion

If you used to use Choice Eliminator 2 because you could allow certain quantities for specific questions, this cannot do that. This will let someone make one choice and that is it. For that purpose it is fine, it works well enough. For something more robust that lets you put different limits on different questions, then you need to use Form Ranger. I made two posts about it (Part 1 and Part 2). It does take a little bit to set up but it will absolutely work.

Google Drive – Make a template

It is back to school time! I thought I would start this school year with a pretty simple tutorial on how to create a template that you can reuse over and over again. If you have ever used Google Classroom then there is a type of version of this already there. When you make an assignment and attach a Google Doc, Sheet or Slideshow then you have the option to make a copy for each student. That way the original stays untouched and each student will have their own copy to play with!

Well in Google Drive you can make a template that you can use over and over again without the original getting sullied. Be aware though that the template will be accessible by the whole organization. If you cannot do this from your school account, you should reach out to your IT team and reference these instructions so they can turn this on for you.

Continue reading “Google Drive – Make a template”

Google Tables (Beta) – An introduction

Most people are not too familiar with Google Tables. It is a database that lets you keep records on tables and then lets you make associations from data on one table to another table. Here are some real world examples of what Google Tables can do for you or your school.

  • Keep inventory of all your devices
  • Create a ticketing system so people at your school could request IT (or any) help
  • Organize a convention – You could organize all the speakers and who will be attending their workshops and also organize all the attendees and have all their schedules at the tips of your fingers

In fact Google has a number of templates that you can use right away. They have those mentioned above but also booking rooms/shared spaces, project management, creating a directory, new employee onboarding and more.

Continue reading “Google Tables (Beta) – An introduction”

Google Chrome – Tab groups

How did I not know about this?! If you’re like me, then you rarely have more than 10 tabs open at a time. However, not everyone is as . . . considerate to their computer as I am. I have seen colleagues of mine have anywhere from 30-50 tabs open and not feel shame!

I know each browser has there own way of managing lots of tabs and there are more than a few extensions out there that can help people as well. Since my school uses Google, it only makes sense for me to use Google Chrome, plus I like all the extensions they have to offer, but this feature is built right into the browser itself. No need to install anything else or create an account with a third party. Just open tabs up and group them!

Continue reading “Google Chrome – Tab groups”

Google Classroom and Multiple Accounts

There are a lot of people out there using the Google Classroom app. We have encouraged our parents to log into the app as their child. That way they can see what their kid sees and have a real understanding of what is happening in the classroom.

A question we have received is “What do I do if I have more than one child?” or “How can I view all of my children’s Google Classroom assignments and materials? These are good questions and while it is pretty easy, it may not be the most obvious thing. Continue reading “Google Classroom and Multiple Accounts”

ITBabble Virtual Learning Solution Webinar

I’ve developed a very flexible solution with iPads and some ergonomic tools/devices.   

The main goal was to have tech that was useful all the time, not just during quarantine, and tech that didn’t strain the network with video standards that can’t be handled by personal home networks. The investment would be useful for 3-7 years, or the duration of the equipment lifecycle. The tablet form factor I chose was the iPad, but this could be done with Android or Chromebook tablets.

This model eliminates document cameras, allows for hand writing on paper or real whiteboards, allows for digital whiteboards, and you can ergonomically adjust things so people feel like they are sitting next to someone. 

Teachers can freely move around the room to demonstrate labs and other experiences that are eliminated in most virtual scenarios. 

You can even do choir, band, and art. 

If teachers/hosts have laptops, this allows for  two cameras in every space. Students can flip between the iPad and the host device. 

The conferencing software doesn’t matter. You can use anything for your video conferencing. 

If people need to work from home they just take the iPad, and literally replicate their teaching environment.

This idea can be summed up in a single simple statement: The iPad is a Person in your Classroom.

If you would like to know more, please complete the form below.

https://forms.gle/5CwcQxSSd9vxmjiMA