Online productivity tools workbook
1. Starter activities
2. Listings of what is available
3. Main practical
4. Blog entry for this class
Case studies of Google apps implementation in education and business
a. University of Westminster
b. Erith group
1. Starter activities – the small but useful tools
A. Doodle - an online scheduler.
UCD Library staff do not all use an online calendar so we cannot use that to fix meetings of say 8
people. In the past to fix up a meeting of 8 people I had to: find 4 or 5 time slots that suited me; e-
mail out to all 8 people to see if they were free on these; wait for their replies; create an Excel sheet
to collate the replies myself, one row per son, and see if there was a free slot for the meeting.
Nothing is provided to Library staff in the way of software to assist but I now use Doodle for this
This is a single function tool, no account needed, no download, works great.
a. Fill out this dummy schedule I have set up with your availability (can just be fictional availability)
b. Create your own meeting schedule to invite people to fill out:
go to http://www.doodle.com/main.html
Click on “Schedule event”
Fill out title and your name, that is all you need do for this dummy run
Click on “Next”
Click on 3 or 4 days when you would be free for the meeting you are trying to arrange – anything
will do and the dates chosen go green one at a time
Click on “Next”
For each date chosen you can give several possible times for the meeting – just put in 10.00 or what
you want for now – use 24 hour clock for pm times i.e. for 3pm put in 15.00
The Options button allows you to refine the result. For example make people pick just one date or
just one time per date. For now though just click on Finish
That is it! You get the “participation link” and that is what you would send out to all your colleagues
for them to fill out.
If you pay you get extra features, if you have an account the same thing – but at the basic level it
works great without payment or registration.
B. Creating a quick diagram or outline of ideas
Scenario: You find yourself away from UCD and your netbook/laptop/PC with the usual software.
You have a sudden inspiration for an outline diagram for your assignment and have a spare few
From your friend’s PC or the internet café or the hotel machine you can use bubbl – a free web
applications. Try to create something like this totally fake example, done with bubbl – or substitute
as you wish the names etc.
Bubbl.us is a simple and free web application that lets you brainstorm online.
It is designed for Mindmapping i.e. taking big ideas and relating them and breaking them down
so there is not much option to change shapes, fonts etc, as it is not primarily for creating
diagrams – it is very basic but it works well within its limitations
Go to bubbl.us - Click on “Start brainstorming” big button
Alter the text of this first buttle from “start here” to something else like “SILS web 2.0 course”
buy double clicking on the text till it is highlighted
The 2 key diagram builders will then be presented to you – to create another bubble at the same
level click on “New Sibling” icon at the middle right edge
To create a bubble one level below click on the “New child” bubble, bottom centre edge
Play about with this product a bit to create some sort of mind map as you wish
Even without registering you can use this software and Export your resulting diagram
Click on Menu at bottom right of your screen and then choose Export
Click on OK to confirm you want image and jpg format and then you can Open and/or save your
2. What tools are available?
Various listings are given in the delicious bookmark set at
Titles starting “Applications available” can be tried out
There are 1,000s of these online productivity tools available, it is daunting, you may be using some
http://lifedev.net/big-list-of-online-productivity-tools/ good starting point manageable, lot of little
small scale things like sticky notes, to do lists, in the list but not totally up to date…
1,000 plus at http://www.philb.com/iwantto.htm with a search engine. A good starting point though
not updated for some months when last checked
Take a look – focus on collaboration and time management sections.
Google searches using advanced search and limiting to pages updated in the last year and something
like “online tool* listing” as the search string brings up lots of other lists.
profits.aspx focuses for example on a range of things for voluntary organizations so plenty of fund
raising and accounting packages there – not all are free but costs are modest.
http://librarianchick.pbworks.com/ has a broad listing including some productivity tools
3. Main practical
Google Apps is THE big suite of online productivity tools used by both individuals and organizations.
Individuals can get a free account, organizations pay to use educational and business versions.
You may already use google apps or you can explore that at your leisure – the main idea would be to
use it as a replacement for Microsoft office applications Word, Excel, Powerpoint with Docs plus mail
http://docs.google.com/ is the core of word processing, spreadsheet, presentations.
To make life easy today we will focus on packages where you do not need to have an account set up
in advance, the idea is just to get a feel for how these products work and what you would use them
for if anything.
ZOHO is another big suite and we will use that today
If you are already very familiar with these types of Office suite replacements then move on to
trying out the other tools starting on page 11.
Go to http://www.zoho.com/ - as can be seen there are numerous modules on offer here…
First of all click on New User? Sign up for free! (if you have an account with google, google apps or
Yahoo you can use that)
Otherwise fill this out, go back to your e-mail and a message will be there - confirm in there to get
started – quite a few clicks to do here
You then get the account page like this:
When you log in in the future you can go to your personal space, which will start showing your mail
account but you then choose the application you want from the left panel and the display alters to
show your existing files in that format like this:
We will focus on the core today – Writer, Sheet and Show but you can explore as you wish or delete
your account after the session, it is just to get the idea of how these web-hosted suites work. This is
a fully features suite of applications, you can only spend a few minutes on each one here.
Click on Zoho writer and wait for it to load to a welcome screen
A welcome document will open up – you can read that if you wish, it summarises the main features.
Otherwise click on New top left tab to start a new document (Note that you can import files in a
variety of formats including Word too from the web or your computer)
(If you would prefer to use an existing document to work on rather than create one of your own
then in the search box in the left hand column key in “literatureonline” and a public document will
be shown that you can use to play around with)
After you have a bit of text in click the save icon (floppy disk top row of icons, the left-most one) and
then give a name - you will see your file pop up in the left hand navigation panel then, highlighted
bold as it is open and you are working on it.
Continue to edit – does it cover the features you use in Word? Tables? Columns? Inserting images?
The Insert tab covers a lot of this functionality
Note the Share tab - various options here including making the document public in zoho and giving
e-mail of people for read-only access or read and edit access. If you wish, give one of the people on
the course access to share your document to see how that presents itself.
Explore the template Library to the bottom left. You can use ready-to-go document templates of
various kinds as presented here. You have to click on template library, and pick templates of
interest to add to your own template listing which is initially empty.
When you have had a little try out with this exit Zoho writer and move on to Zoho sheet – click on
“Switch to” in the top bar and pick ZOHO sheet and wait for it to load…
Try this out and create a new sheet and add a few rows and sums etc.
(If you want to have an existing sheet to work on rather than creating a new one then in the search
box at the left column key in this “Pageviews for Subject E-Resource Listings” and a file that I have
made publically available will be retrieved and you can load and use that to try this out more quickly.
How does this compare to Excel?
The overall layout is similar to ZOHO writer with your files appearing in the left panel.
Again you can import data including Excel sheets and Comma Separated data (CSV) that you have
saved elsewhere e.g. using local university Microsoft office
Again you can save as and your new filename will appear in the left hand library.
Try out the product for a few minutes and see if it works for you at the level that you use Excel,
whether basic or advanced
Are some things hard to find (how to format a cell as number, text etc?)
Are some things easier (merging cells, formatting the text?)
It again offers export and sharing capabilities to you.
When ready save this and move to presenter – click on Switch to and from the drop down pick ZOHO
You may want to watch the SLIDESHOW on the welcome page first. The product now includes ability
to use as the core of a broader online conferencing type session, sharing your whole desktop and
with chat etc going on.
This product is in beta and has a slightly different layout – any existing presentations that you have
appear in the main screen area not in a side panel as with the other applications tried so far:
For now Click on Create New (if you are really not confident with things like powerpoint then use
the search box at top right to key in “LIRMarch07” and you will retrieve a public presentation that
you can play about with, but it is best to try and create one of your own)
Give name, description, some tags on what the subject is
Choose a category and then a theme within it for the look and feel of your presentation – double
click on your chosen theme to move into the editor
Try and create 3 or 4 slides and see how you get on – those who use powerpoint a lot can compare
the way it works, those who do not can see if it is intuitive
Try inserting an image – there is clip art available via bottom right
Or you can load in from Picasa, Flickr, or upload an image from your own PC and then use that. (For
flickr you have to link to your flickr account if you have one – I had some problems with that)
You can view the slides as a lightbox display and move them around or take a slideshow – both just
as in powerpoint. You can also add notes to each slide again as in powerpoint.
In the right panel there are 4 tabs – find the versions one. One of the good things about the online
system is that if you make a hash of things you can revert to an older version, not something easily
done with Powerpoint unless you keep many backup archived copies.
When you have something save – you can save also as PDF note
Export options – you can export out of Zoho in various formats
You can go public with your presentation in which case people can search and find it and the product
will function like Slideshare as well as a presentation production tool, you can also get the code to
embed links to your presentation into web pages and blogs
As with other modules you can invite other people to read or contribute by putting in their e-mail
address(es) – do that now if your presentation is acceptable content
Make remote is where you can set things up so that lots of people look at your desktop as you run
the slideshow and comment etc on it so that a conferencing session takes place based on your
That concludes our look at ZOHO – they clearly envisage many users will run Office and Zoho side by
side rather than totally shifting. To that end they have a plug-in for Office:
“What all I can do with Zoho Plugin?
The new plugin enables users to :
• Create, edit and save their documents & spreadsheets directly to Zoho Writer/Sheet from
within Microsoft Word/Excel.
• Alternatively, users can open and edit their Zoho documents & spreadsheets in Microsoft
Word/Excel and save it back to their respective Zoho services (Writer/Sheet).
• Publish local offline documents/spreadsheets for the external world to see using Zoho Share.”
An alternative all in one package - Zimdesk
Want to try an alternative? Zimdesk – complete PC with applications and store etc all on the web,
nothing to install, free. http://www.zimdesk.com/pages/zimdeskos.php Not in the same league
however, very basic.
Further individual functional options
a. Flowcharting and Diagram tool – gliffy.com
With Gliffy online diagram software, you can easily create professional-looking flowcharts, diagrams,
floor plans, technical drawings, and more.
Go to http://gliffy.com
Click on “Get started now”
Provide the details asked for to get a basic 30 day account
Click on Sign up now! And you should be ready to use the product straight away.
You can have 5 free diagrams.
You get a sheet of graph paper presented
Choose one of the main types from the left panel – there are some fairly serious types of diagram
offered or you can use basic shapes for a more elementary need – some options then offer further
choices in left panel.
It is a drag and drop system
Right panel allows control on size etc – if you highlight a shape it also allows you to add colour and
shading to it and adjust that. Also to decide if you want gradient and shadow effects or a solid fill
Top panel allows you to add text, move things to front or back, add various types of line to join
elements on the diagram
Drag elements about your page to re-position them
Once you have something ready to save click on save in the top panel
To point to the online diagram or embed it click on point and share
To export the file click across top on file | export as jpg | Save and pick a location
Writeboard is collaborative online writing software from 37signals.com, makers of Basecamp,
Campfire, Backpack, and Ta-da List.
Create, share and revise documents, and compare versions, subscribe to documents by RSS feed and
be notified of changes. Free.
This is very very basic – you have to put in “coding” to get bold, underline and so on, there is no easy
editor. But it grows on you because of the speed of it for quick basic note taking.
Go to http://writeboard.com/
Use to lower left panel to get started.
Give a writeboard a name and password, give your e-mail, tick to say you agree to terms and then
click on “Create the whiteboard” and you can start
You see in right panel you can invite others to participate in the board and see versions and compare
versions. This is one of the main attractions – joint working without the complexities of a wiki or a
google docs environment. Click on that, add one or two e-mails and then click on Send invitation
Click at left always to Edit the board
As you see it is a pretty poor editor compared to say a wiki and in the right panel the basic markup
guide is available to you that you need to use to get any effects you want in the text like bold – click
on “formatting guide” to get an expanded set of options displaying above your board.
Give it a try…..best for basic text notes
Save as a new version each time or for very minor edits like spelling you can badge as a minor edit
and save over the current version, handy once you get started with multiple editing.
You can click on export at the top to download as html or text file.
c. And others…
web spreadsheet, just does that, less complex than the big suites, sign up in 10 seconds
If you need a Word document viewer, try thinkfree
This also does lots of other really useful things like converting to pdf, sharing docs, embedding to a
blog etc, worth a try
http://wufoo.com/ creating online forms and surveys and polls. Set up free account and 3 forms
before have to pay anything
Portable alternative to Endnote or Endnote web for storing your references
time and project management application with iPhone add-on
4. Blog entry for this class
The class has looked at the basics of what online productivity tools are, we looked at their use by
organizations to replace traditional locally hosted software and hardware, but focused on the
possibilities and freedom they provide for the individual to complement or even by-pass the
applications provided by their organization
Write 200 words on whether you see any use for any of these tools for yourself in relation to what
the University provides for you in the way of software applications.
Would you use these things, if so which ones and when?
Are there any risks and dangers in it?
Add a link to at least 1 online productivity tool of interest to you.
Case study 1
University of Westminster
The number 1 large scale offering is Google apps , available since 2006-
Here is their own summary of this:
“Sign up today and Google will give you full online word processing, spreadsheets, its Gmail e-mail
system, contacts database, photo storage and sharing, Google Earth and Google Maps, presentation
software and blogging services, plus data storage for nothing. Companies have to pay, but the fee is
far lower than for traditional systems.”
Roger James on Westminster University's Google apps implememtation
• The University decided to turn their student and staff e-mail over to a cloud based provider
in the auttumn of 2007. They narrowed the supplier down to Microsoft and Google. After
assessing the suppliers, the IT department asked staff and students who they preferred.
Staff were split 50/50, but students overwhelmingly preferred Google. In June 2008 they
signed the agreement with Google, and everything was set up ready for the students to use
when they returned from their summer break for the new academic year 2008/09
• The University own the domain name, each google apps account, and all the e-mail
addresses. If they want to delete a student's Google apps account they can.
• Some people at the University were concerned that outsourcing e-mail to Google would
mean that personal data was being stored outside of the European Economic Area ... Google
have contracted to only store Westminster University's data in European data centres
(although it would be hard for the University to verify this is actually taking place). Roger
pointed out that before they went over to Google apps 96% of students auto-forwarded
their e-mail to their personal webmail accounts (yahoo/gmail/hotmail etc), where the data
was going out of Europe and also out of the University's domain.
• The University rolled out Google apps to 1,500 staff, without training. In addition to e-mail
Google apps gives students Google docs, Google video and Google sites. Roger was
particularly impressed by Google video which has turned into a University of Westminster
specific You Tube. They have only received 120 help desk calls since it has gone live.
• Google apps has cost Westminster just £2,000 because Google offer it free to Educational
bodies (Microsoft offer similar deals). Roger estimated it would have cost £1million to put an
equivalent infrastructure in.
Other universities that use it: School of Oriental & African Studies U of London, Glamorgan, Leeds
In USA an example is Arizona State university, the largest US university, offering google apps to its
And closer to home TCD use g-mail for their students. A key advantage is that you can keep the
account when you leave university, unlike your local accounts. Not replacing the whole office suite
however, but just the mail/diary side of it is a more limited ambition and approach.
Case study 2
Google apps at Erith Group
Paul Driscoll on Google apps at Erith Group
• Erith Group is a demolition firm, with 250 employees. They knock buildings down and clear
up the mess afterwards. They became one of the UKs' first Google apps customers in the
autumn of 2006.
• Paul had taken out a 30 day trial of Google apps. By chance in the middle of that trial, a fire
took hold of a nearby building. As a result of the fire an oxyacetelene cannister exploded,
wiping out their server room, and denying the company access to its HQ for an extended
period. Paul put all his colleagues onto Google apps, and the company have been using it for
their e-mail and document storage ever since
• Erith used to have seven servers, now they only have one (to host their accountancy
system). Paul reboots that one server every Friday on his way out of the office. He doesn't
have to think about servers the rest of the time.
• Google apps costs Erith £25 per user per year. In the break he told me that he thought the
actual saving was higher: a 250 person company typically requires an IT complement of 3
people. Erith get by with Paul as the only IT person.