Using Google Docs For School Sign Ups


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A how-to guide on using Google Docs to manage school sign ups for parents, like party planning and field trip driving. Developed for my kids' school, but shared with the hope that other parents will have an easier time coordinating school activities.

Additional resources like ready-made templates are available at

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Using Google Docs For School Sign Ups

  1. 1. Using Google Docs for School Signups<br />Why Use Google Docs For Sign Ups?<br /><ul><li>It’s efficient. Organizers avoid sending and receiving multiple emails. Everyone can see what everyone else is bringing/doing, what is still left to sign up for, so everyone shares the responsibility.
  2. 2. It’s flexible. Because it’s a spreadsheet, you can create any type of sign up that you need. Parties, field trip drivers, mom’s night out, fundraising projects, etc. can all be done.
  3. 3. It’s accessible. Anyone can access Google Docs through a browser or even on mobile devices like the iPhone.
  4. 4. It’s free. Need I say more?</li></ul>Shortcomings Of Google Docs<br /><ul><li>People not online won’t be able to use it.
  5. 5. To set one up, you should know how to use spreadsheets.
  6. 6. Permissions can be difficult to set.
  7. 7. Easiest way is to make the sign up public.
  8. 8. So you need to have rules in place to preserve confidentiality, eg. use only first names/last initial of kids.
  9. 9. URLs are long and ugly – and easy to break when sending by email.</li></ul>How To Get Started<br /><ul><li>Determine what needs to be brought or done.
  10. 10. Create the sign up.
  11. 11. Add information about the event.
  12. 12. Set up permissions and get the link to send to people.
  13. 13. Optional: Create a short URL.</li></ul>Step 1: Make A List Of What Needs To Be Brought Or Done<br />Here’s an example of the list for a teacher appreciation breakfast. Make a similar list for field trip drivers, etc. <br /><ul><li>6 people to set up from 7am-8am
  14. 14. 2 people to bring 1 dozen bagels each
  15. 15. 1 gallon of orange juice
  16. 16. 1 pound of ground coffee
  17. 17. 2 tubs of cream cheese
  18. 18. 2 fruit platters
  19. 19. 1 dozen baked goods
  20. 20. 6 people to clean up from 9am-10am </li></ul>Step 2: Create A Sign Up<br /><ul><li>Go to (note: there is no “www”). If you have a Google Account, go ahead and sign-in. If you don’t, you’ll need to create an account.
  21. 21. Select “New” and then “Spreadsheet”. OR skip down to #6 and copy an existing sign up. You can also upload a spreadsheet you create in Excel – see #8 below.
  22. 22. Next step is to rename the sign up and save it. Click on “File” then select “Rename…”
  23. 23. Rename the document. Pick a descriptive name like “Breakfast Sign Up for 2nd Grade”. Then click “OK”.
  24. 24. At this point, your sign up will auto save itself. If you don’t see this happening, give it a minute, or refresh the page. You should see the on the right an indicator that shows when it was last autosaved.</li></ul>Note: If you created the sign up from scratch, you may see a gray bar at the top of the sheet. Click on the cross-hatched area and drag it above Row 1 and out of the way.<br /><ul><li>OR Copy an existing Google Doc. For example, copy the Teacher Breakfast sign up.
  25. 25. To copy an existing sign up, go to “File” and then “Make a copy”. Templates available:
  26. 26. Teacher breakfast sign up:
  27. 27. Field trip sign up:
  28. 28. You will be prompted to rename the sign up. Rename it and then click “OK”. Your new sign up will be ready to do, already set up for autosaving.
  29. 29. You can also create a sign up in Excel and then upload it to Google Docs. </li></ul>Step 3: Add information about the event<br /><ul><li>Add information about the event at the top of the page, such as the name, date/time, location. Include general instructions on how to use the sign up, such as “Please enter your name in the yellow field next to something you can bring or do. It will save automatically. If you have any questions, email or call xxx-xxx-xxxx.”
  30. 30. Here’s an example of what this section could look like if you are creating it from scratch:
  31. 31. Format and highlight the sign up any way you would like, using the formatting tools.
  32. 32. Add the sign up items.
  33. 33. Create a sign up item for anything someone would sign up for. Example: If 6 people are needed for set-up, then create 6 lines. Put the items in columns, and if needed, a place for the sign ups.
  34. 34. Highlight the rows next to the sign up items, so people know where to put their names. To do this, click on the multi-colored square and choose a color.</li></ul>This is what the Breakfast Sign Up Template looks like. <br /><ul><li>Adding rows or columns. If you need to add a row or column (for example, adding a new item):
  35. 35. Put your cursor where you want the new row to go.
  36. 36. From the menu, select “Insert” then what you want to insert, e.g. “Row above” or “Column to the right”.
  37. 37. If you insert something in the wrong place, press Ctrl+Z, or click “Edit” and then “Undo” in the menu.
  38. 38. Deleting rows or columns. Similarly, if you want to delete a column or row, do this:
  39. 39. On the side margin or top margin lick on the row or column you want to delete. For example, click on the gray “13” to remove Row 13.
  40. 40. Right click on your mouse, and select “Delete row” or “Delete column”.</li></ul>Step 3: Set Up Permissions And Get The Link<br />This is perhaps the most confusing part of using Google Docs, and where problems usually arise. You need to make the page “public” AND you have to allow people to make changes to the sign up without signing-in. <br />Privacy note: Because these sign up will be viewable by the public, caution people not to enter children’s full names if they are going to be in the sign up (for example, for field trip car assignments). Instead, use first name and first initial of the last name if needed. <br /><ul><li>On the upper right hand side of the screen, click on “Share”, then select “Get the link to share”.
  41. 41. Click on the two boxes next to “Allow anyone with the link to view (no sign-in required)” AND “Also allow them to edit”.
  42. 42. Then select and copy the entire URL.
  43. 43. Click “Save & Close”. You may want to open up another browser window and paste that URL into it to make sure it works.
  44. 44. At this point, you can simply cut and paste the long URL into an email, but it tends to break. Here’s an example:
  45. 45. To avoid this, make sure that the link in your email is actually the entire address, and not chopped off. Depending on your email program, you can highlight text in the email and paste the URL manually.
  46. 46. Another way to avoid this is to shorten your URL – if you’re having problems, go to the next step. </li></ul>Optional Step 4: Creating A Short URL<br />A URL shortner takes a long ugly URL and makes it short and easy. So this URL: <br /><br />Becomes this one:<br /><ul><li>Copy the URL you want to shorten. Go to “Share”, then “Get the link to share”.
  47. 47. Go to There is no “www” and no “.com” in the address. Paste the long URL, then click “Shorten”. Another URL shortening site that’s good is
  48. 48. At this point you’ll see a shortened URL. You can simply use that short URL – copy and paste it into the email. </li></ul>But you can also create a custom name. Type in a custom name with no spaces and then click “Save”. You’ll now see your new short URL that you can copy and paste into the email. Do NOT copy the link with the “+” at the end. <br />Troubleshooting<br />“Someone accidentally erased all of the sign ups!” <br />You can “time travel” with Google Docs, and take the sign up back to the point before the accident. For example, let’s say a pet guinea pig got thrown on to the keyboard and erased a bunch of sign ups, so that it looks like this. <br /><ul><li>Go to “File” then select “See revision history”. </li></ul>You will see that changes are highlighted.<br /><ul><li>Click on “Older” until you get to the version that you want, then click on “Revert to this one”.