Google Workspace is a collection of cloud-computing applications made by Google. Google keep changing their mind about what to call this suite of apps, so you may find examples of us referring to it as Google Apps or sometimes even G Suite (yeah, that one was a bit weird), but for now it's Google Workspace, and that's probably the best name yet... it certainly sums it up quite nicely: it's a workspace by Google after all!
The University of York has its own enhanced Google Workspace for Education domain which you can sign into with your email address. There you'll find various essentials of University life such as Google Mail, Google Calendar, and our cloud storage space: Google Drive. You'll also have access to a range of other Google Apps. Let's take a look...
A look at the wide range of Google apps available through Google Workspace For Education and how to make the most of them. We look at the cloud model and the collaborative sharing features in Google through the use of Gmail, Calendar, Groups, Drive, and much more, and demonstrate practical examples that can be adapted for your own work.
Your University Google account is tied to your University email address: sign into Google with your full email address and your usual password.
Once you're signed in, you'll be able to access all of the Google Apps we talk about on this page.
If you've got your own personal Google account, or a second University account, you'll need to watch for conflicts between those accounts. You can manage the account(s) you're signed into from your avatar/initials in the top right-hand corner of a Google application.
If you're juggling multiple accounts, it may be best to use one account in one browser (or browser instance) and another account in another. For instance, you might use your work account in Chrome and your personal account in Firefox. Or you could use two separate instances of Chrome: each synched to a different account.
Working collaboratively at a distance is complicated. Fortunately we can now create documents that multiple people can access at the same time — and even edit at the same time! This has the power to transform the way we work — if only we could stop the bad habits we've been develping for centuries...
Earl Siward wishes to negotiate a Peace Charter with his rival Lord James, but both live at opposite sides of a perilous swamp. So Siward writes his terms on a piece or parchment, and entrusts it to his best messenger: a little urchin boy called Scritch.
Scritch sets off from Castle Siward, and carefully descends the treacherous path that spirals around a curious avocado-shaped monolith. Local custom states that this strange landmark is a place of dark magick, and travellers are warned to pass by this spot as quickly as possible lest they be bewitched. So Scritch wastes no time and is soon at a fork in the road. There are two roads to Lord James' Castle: one through mysterious haunted woods, and the other through an unpredictable swamp. It's been relatively dry, so Scritch risks the swamp. The stepping-stones are slippery but Scritch treads carefully and is soon at the other side. He is almost upon Lord James's castle when he is beset by horrifying geese. Fortunately, Scritch brought a sandwich with him and is able to distract the geese and buy his route through. He reaches the castle, knocks on the door, and delivers his Earl's message.
Lord James reads carefully. He thinks a while, and then scribbles out some of Earl Siward's draft Charter, adding some notes in the margin and several new paragraphs on the other side of the parchment. He passes the newly revised Charter to Scritch to deliver back to his master. Scritch sets off again on the journey home. The geese are still there, but now it's starting to rain so they scatter. However, the rain will make the swamp crossing dangerous, and although the sun is starting to set, Scritch has no choice but to take the other road through the haunted wood. Keen to make it through as quickly as possible, Scritch breaks into a jog, but the wood is overgrown and Scritch trips on a bramble, grazing his knee. He dusts himself off and carries on, singing a song to himself to keep his thoughts from fleshing out the eerie noises of the dark and mysterious woods. Sore, tired, and terrified, Scritch finally reaches the junction again, and heads back up the spiral track to Siward's Castle.
This is the way we've written to each other for centuries. Sure, some details have changed: Scritch was replaced by the Post Office; we built a bridge over the swamp and cleared a better path through the woods; but the geese are still there and so is the distance. Technology has reduced the time it takes, but the principle has generally remained the same.
When email came along, we pretty-much carried on doing what we'd always been doing. Only we swapped Scritch for a mail server that would serve as our Post Office.
But one thing was subtly different: rather than the same piece of parchment travelling around in the possession of the loyal Scritch, we're making copy after copy:
Three computers, each with at least three copies of the file... and we've only just begun our collaboration. What's more, this is only two people collaborating on a file. Imagine attaching an agenda for a meeting and then sending that out to the ten people who are due to attend. That's at least 12 copies from a single email. And then you notice an error in the agenda and send out a corrected version — 24 copies...
And all of this is taking up more and more storage space and burning more and more electricity.
There are other complications with this model too — it's a very turn-based approach: Siward and James can't work on the document at the same time because then there would be conflicts to resolve between the two different versions. And even in a turn-based approach, there's the risk that you accidentally edit an older version and mess everything up.
If only there were another way...
Siward and James both have access to some cloud storage. Cloud storage is basically just a shared hard drive, albeit at the end of a very long wire! We've had shared network drives for decades, of course; they're older than email is. But the problem always used to be that only one person at a time could access a document and make changes to it; the other person would be locked out because real-time collaboration was too much for the computer to cope with.
But now we have collaborative documents like Google Docs: documents multiple people can access at the same time; documents multiple people can even edit at the same time.
So now Siward and James can have a single document in the cloud, and both of them can open it and make changes to it simultaneously. There's no longer nine versions of something; there's just the one.
It also means that if you're emailing out something like an agenda for a meeting, rather than attaching the document (which then becomes multiple copies of that document) you can just link to a single file in the cloud which everyone can access. And if something on that agenda changes, it changes for everyone; there's no need to send it out again!
We are living in the future and it is a magical place!
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Google Workspace is about more than just Gmail...
In the top right-hand corner of most Google related pages (including Google Search) you'll find a square made up of nine dots – – This is the app launcher, and it's your gateway to a world of Googly fun!
Listed on the app launcher are all the Google Workspace apps, and a range of other apps associated with your Google account.
The University of York uses Gmail as its email service. It integrates well with other Google Workspace applications.
Google Calendar is (as you might be able to deduce) Google's calendar tool. It lets you easily manage appointments and invite people to meetings and events.
Google Drive is the base of operations for all things Google. It's a cloud-based file storage system, which means that you can sign in through your web browser and access your files over the internet. You can also share access to files with other people, both within the University and beyond.
Like a lot of Google applications, it's gone through various names, so you might catch us calling it 'Hangouts' or 'Hangouts Meet' in places.
The University has two main meeting tools, both of which can be used with Google Calendar. The other tool, Zoom, has a lot more features, and a lot more stability (at least when used through the stand-alone app rather than via the browser version). Meet tends to be a lot more resource-heavy, so may cause problems on less powerful computers.
Integrated within Google Workspace are a range of collaborative Google Apps:
The main three Google Apps, Docs, Sheets, and Slides, are obviously analogous to the main three Microsoft Office tools (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), and they share many features with their Office equivalents. Office files can be edited in their equivalent Google Apps, and Google files can be saved in the associated Office format, so there's a degree of interoperability too. As a generalisation, the Google versions lack some of the more advanced features of the Office applications, but they also have a number of features that Office lacks, particularly in terms of facilitating collaboration.
Google Groups make it easy to communicate and collaborate with groups of people, such as project teams and departments.
A group is like a mailing list: it contains the email addresses of its members, but it also has its own address.
Using the email address for the group, you can:
Google Jamboard is a collaborative whiteboard tool that's part of Google Apps. You can create and share 'Jams' in Google Drive in the same way that you would create and share any other Google document ("Google Jamboard" is one of the options under the "More" menu when you press the New button in Drive).
Jamboard is very much a whiteboard: the tools available are limited to pens, post-it notes and images, so if you need to do anything more sophisticated than that you may find Google Slides a better collaborative option.
As well as the Jamboard web app, there's a mobile / tablet app with a few more features, and there's also a dedicated Google Jamboard screen in the Fairhurst that you can use with the software.
You can collaborate on a Jam in real time using the share options and you can download your Jams in PDF or PNG formats.