Bringing the cloud to your desktop: App #4–Google Cloud Connect Toolbar

Google Cloud Connect Toolbar: http://tools.google.com/dlpage/cloudconnect

(You have the choice of downloading the MSI file to push out the installation to all computers on a network or downloading the individual instal file for single users. For personal use, just download the EXE file.)

Synopsis: Though the feature has been available for over a year or two now, Google’s Cloud Connect toolbar still amazes me. When this file is download and installed (in a process of less than five minutes), a toolbar appears beneath the typical Office toolbar on MS Excel, MS Word, and MS PowerPoint. The first time you access MS Word, MS Excel, OR MS PowerPoint, click on the drop down menu next to Google Cloud Connect. You will notice that you can choose to Open from Google Docs. If you select this option, you can migrate any of your Google Documents into one of your Office programs without download the file. And, when you have made your changes on the Office program, you can sync them back to the cloud. From the drop down menu, however, you must first select Google Cloud Connect Settings. In the dialog box that opens, enter in your account information. Select the default sync setting (I leave mine on the Automatic). And, choose your default save location. If you use a proxy, you must also click on the Proxy settings box and enter in the appropriate information. Once you have done that the first time, you never have to do it again for your account!

With Cloud Connect, you can choose to open any existing file (from Google Docs or from your hard drive/share) or create a new file (via MS Word, MS Excel, or MS PowerPoint) as you typically would. When you are ready to save the document (as you normally would), you can press Save. If you have your settings set to sync automatically, you will notice that the sync bar lights up green and a URL appears. This is the URL to your document on the cloud. If you login to your Google Docs account, you will see the file there as well. In the far right of the toolbar, you can adjust your share settings as you would normally from Google Docs. And, that’s it!

Integration: No more flash drives! As a technology coordinator, I see the horrors daily of students and teachers losing documents. With Google Cloud Connect, you can seamlessly back up all of your Office document to the Cloud. Therefore, documents are not tied to a single computer or device. In my district, our secretary writes the daily announcements on a PowerPoint slideshow. Since she has the Cloud Connect toolbar, when  she saves the file, it syncs to our Google Apps for Education space. She has her share settings set so the public can view it and a view can edit it. As an editor, I grabbed the embed code and placed it on our district homepage. Hence, she is making changes to our school Website from PowerPoint on her computer. Likewise, any student, if given the permissions, can make changes to the Website instantaneously. Instead of having to upload a new assignment or syllabus to their Website each year, teachers can make the changes on their MS Word document and it will automatically sync to their Website. So, the workload is cut in half. The Cloud Connect toolbar is great for backing up files, cutting out the workload, and giving authorship rights to students and teachers. Once you start using it, you will not want to go back.

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