application, Google

Clouds in Google Docs

One of the reasons that my online document space is Google Drive is for the excellent tools.  Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms, Drawings, …  There’s nothing that I do that isn’t well handled here.

But even further than great tools, they have the facility to be even better through the use of Add-ons.  If a particular functionality isn’t there, chances are there is an Add-on that provides it.  Just like you might add more functionality to your browser itself, these Add-ons extend the functionality of the tool you’re using.  Just choose the Add-on menu item and then Get Add-ons.

Sit back because you’re going to spend some time taking a look at what more you can do with your document.

The reason for this post was I had to create a document the other day and needed a Word Cloud.  

Now, we all know that there are excellent utilities to do this on the web already.  It’s just a matter of going to them, paste your text into the creator, let it create the cloud, then you save it and import it into your document.  I’ve done it a whack of times.  I’m sure you might have as well.

But, as I started to create, I wondered out loud.  Does one exist right in Google Drive?

Sure enough there is one.  It’s called Tag Cloud Generator.  It worked beautifully for me.

Just complete your document and invoke the generator and voila!  For the purpose of this post, I opened the interview that I had conducted with Donna Fry a way back and created a cloud.

The utility took the content from our interview and nicely summarized it for me.  So nicely, in fact, I’m sitting here thinking – why didn’t I do this all along with my interviews?  Checking out the cloud reveals the passion that she has for education nicely.  (As well as a love for her beloved Thunder Bay).

The whole process was so quick and it was all done within the document.  This is a learning keeper for me.

Computers, Google, Just Rambling

Trying To Understand My Learning Curve

I find it interesting at times, to step back, and just wonder “Why do I do this?”  Or, “Why don’t I do this?”  Or, “Am I weird?  Everyone else gets it to work”!

Right now, the thing I’m trying to understand is my use of Google’s new interface for Gmail.  It’s simply called Inbox.

Like many people, I think we’re looking for the magic interface that makes email manageable and maybe even enjoyable?  I have Gmail pull all my email from various places (and other services) together in one spot.

When Inbox was announced, it was with limited access.  I asked for a copy and got no response.  Then, it went to a wider distribution and I tried again and go access to it.

I immediately installed a copy on my Android phone (that seemed to be a no-brainer).  I used it and I really liked it.  Tap here, get the material, I liked the layout and the way that Inbox organized my incoming messages.  It was different from the schema that I used with traditional Gmail.  I decided it was a keeper so I downloaded a copy on my iPad.  I had the same response.  This could be a game changer for me.  I tried it in Firefox, my default web browser.  It didn’t work; it wanted to run it in Chrome.  How about Opera Next then?  Nope.  It was a Chrome only solution with the promise of others coming soon.  So, I used Chrome for a while but kept reverting to Firefox because of the extensions that I use regularly.  Even when using it in Chrome, it didn’t seem to have the hook that it did on my phone or tablet.

Then, yesterday, Google announced that Inbox was available on all browser platforms!  Sure enough, when I opened Inbox in Firefox, it was there.  The look was consistent with the mobile interface.


How’s that for a Sylvia promotion.

But, I started using it for my regular email.  I didn’t like it.  How could this be?  It’s my go-to default on phone and tablet?

I opened another browser and opened traditional Gmail.  It did make sense.  Is this just a case of product loyalty?

Then, it hit me.  I did the same action in both programs.  With Inbox, it takes a few more mouse actions to do the same thing.  Plus, as I’ll admit, I don’t always read all of the mail sent me.  With Gmail, I could just easily tag the stuff that I’m not reading and then mass delete them.  I guess it’s a moment of realization that I get too much email.  Many of it comes from subscribing to this and that.  But, it’s one of my learning platforms and I’ll do what I want.

Maybe it just boils down to function?  It’s a lot easily to tap on a device than it is to move a mouse to a spot on the screen and click the mouse button.  Then, I really thought about it.

My approach to email is different on a computer than it is on mobile.  On mobile, I pick and choose what I want to read at the moment.  When I sit down at a computer, I’m on a mission to address them all and reach the mythical inbox-zero.

It was a worthwhile activity and analysis.  Now, Inbox access via Firefox is now just a couple of days old.  I will give it a thorough shakedown.  I’m willing to admit that it’s my preconceived algorithm for attacking the mailbox.  Maybe I’ll be further off in the long run mastering this learning curve.  As with most things Google, it’s bound to be refined and enhanced. 

I’d hate to miss out but it’s slow going at present.


A Year’s Reflection

As 2014 winds down, Google has released its “Year in Review” showing us what we searched for on the service.

The review provides very worthwhile classroom activities for the next couple of days.

So, stick a candy cane in your mouth and …

  • ask just what trending actually means
  • work your way through the list and see who knows / remembers the significance of the event.  (if not, they could Google it…)
  • were there any events that surprised you making the list?
  • ask how does Google results compare with Bing’s results?
  • compare 2014 trends with 2013 trends
  • what would the search trends be at your school / class?
  • what would you predict to be the trends for 2015?

This is a great opportunity to dig just a little deeper into something that everyone takes for granted.  

Android, application, Computers, Google

Digital Advent Calendar

One of the highlights for my brother and me for the month of December were our Advent calendars.  We would get one from my aunt from overseas and, later on, from my mother.  It was with anxiety that we would look for and open the next little window.  Heaven help you if you opened a window a day early!

Where does this fit in the modern world?  It’s still exciting to get an Advent calendar.  They’re considerably easier to get these days – the local dollar store has them which makes it very handy.

In search of a digital solution?  For years, we’ve become accustomed to tracking Santa from the NORAD site on Christmas Eve.  Now, thanks to some great programming at Google, you can enjoy an online countdown to Christmas via the Santa Tracker.

Through the power of digital, you can’t open the next little window in advance of the date.  Well, you’d hate to never say never.

There are little tips beneath the days – Watch, Play, Learn…looks interesting.

If you like the Google resource empire, you’ll love it here.  In the best of Google Doodles and video (at least so far), there are some pretty impressive things to interact with.

But just don’t play within the calendar.  Move into the Village for another representation of the activities.

Today’s activity was a little shooter activity.  It was a great deal of fun waiting for the coffee to stop dripping!

And, what would a Google product be without a Chrome Browser Extension?

Or, an Android version? (Actually there are all kinds of Santa trackers in the Play Store)

PCWorld has a wonderful poem dedicated to the app here “Google Santa Tracker returns with gaming, puzzles, and learn-to-code goodies“.

But, check it out – download the extension – and enjoy.

p.s. there is a mute button in the bottom right corner of the screen.

application, Computers, Google

The Fine Print

There’s a lot to be said for reading the fine print.  But, like most people I suspect, I seldom do.

But there’s a fine print that you probably should look at every now and again.  It’s at the bottom of your Gmail box.


I’m talking about the little “Details” link.  Clicking on it will pop up a little window showing you activity on your Gmail account.


It’s great reading if the topic is digital forensic science or just healthy paranoia!

Details are provided about access to your account, how, where, and when.  If you’re accessing email from a variety of locations, you might be surprised with the details.  There might be your home computer, your computer at school, your cell phone, your tablet, ….

What you don’t want to see is access from a location, identified by IP address, where you’re not!

It’s a quick little reminder but so important.  If someone reports that they got an email from you and you just know you didn’t send it, this should be one of the first places you look to see if something has gone wrong.

There’s lots to be reminded of with an exercise like this.  Are you using two-step authentication?  Do you log out when you’re done reading email?  Do you have a secure password?  Do you change your password regularly?  Have you shared your login details with anyone else?

Computers, Education, Google, learning, software

A Natural Progression

I found this article so intriguing.  “A picture is worth a thousand (coherent) words: building a natural description of images". 

At the same time, it shouldn’t come as totally unexpected.

After all, Google has been doing amazing things with images for a long time.  Google Goggles is just an indispensible tool.  Take a picture and let Googles help you decipher what it is.  It’s a great replacement for a specific QR Code reader application but can be so useful in answering the questions “What is that?” or “Tell me more about that?”  It’s a great tool for inquiry.  In addition, Google’s Search by Image lets you get alternative views to a picture that you’ve taken or found online.


Humanity has been feeding the web images forever, tagging and describing them, and search engines are there to index them.  An algorithm to describe the images just seems to me to be a natural in the progression of things.

Just the possibilities of this are kind of mind boggling.  Google has a picture of my house online.  I wasn’t there when they drove by but they did.  Can you see comments generated like “Looks like Doug needs to cut his grass”.  Or, in the next stage of commerce, identifying all the dandelions on my front lawn and sending an email to the local landscaping companies who have subscribed to a service with the message “We’ve got a live one…”

Technology serves us best when it makes out lives better.

  • Immediate results from an x-ray or MRI with a detailed description not subject to human error;
  • A description of a robbery suspect moments after a holdup at the local variety store;
  • A description of a hit and run vehicle caught on camera, again moments after it happened.

Sometimes, we’re slow at adopting new technologies.  While the process seems at its infancy now, it’s bound to mature.  What will our lives be like when it does?  What does this do to our privacy?

This article makes for a great classroom discussion.  Can students extend the list of uses for an application like this? 

Android, Computers, Education, Google, iPad, Read/Write Web

News and Weather

There was a great deal of hubbub yesterday when word got out that Google had released a copy of its News and Weather Application for iOS.  It had been previously available for those who use the Android system.  I gave it a download to see what it looked like on iOS.

I guess that I shouldn’t be surprised when, if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, … but other than the default dark display install of the familiar white of the Android, it looks and functions exactly the same way.  In fact, the first thing I did was go to the menu and add “Education” as a category.  Now both versions should pick up the same content.

But other than that I was off to the races.  Of course, location is important when you’re looking for the weather and there was no issue quickly picking up me at home.  A quick change of location and you’re pulling in the weather from wherever you want.

Like good news reading applications, a collection of “Top Stories” occupies the home for the application.

Tapping the now familiar hamburger menu lets you see the default news categories.  There is a nice selection to get started – World, Canada, Business, Technology, Entertainment, Sports, Science, Health, and of course the local stories from Amherstburg and Windsor.  Amherstburg just doesn’t have a whole lot to report so the application appears to pull in stories from around the country to fill.

With each story, a down arrow exposes related stories which is a very nice feature.  Once you’re done with the top stories, swipe left and right to work your way through your defined categories.

Clicking on a story takes you directly to the story.  There’s a navigation bar at top that will bring you back to the application.  Therein lies a problem for sharers.  Unlike other reading/sharing programs that connect directly to Twitter or Facebook, News and Weather doesn’t.  Fortunately, in this day and age, most sources have a way to use social media on their website.  The problem is that there’s no consistent way to access it.  It would be nice to have a native sharing button.

The layout is clean and you know that with Google who is already indexing things anyway, you’ll get relevant and fresh content.  For those on the iOS platform looking for a reader, I’d suggest downloading it and seeing if it has a home on your device.

Android Download

iOS Download