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Did you ever click the bright red “New” button inside your Google Drive?

Google Drawings isn’t at the forefront of tools. The limelight is reserved for Docs, Sheets, and Slides. But let’s do a reawakening of sorts and click on More to go to the “neglected” siblings. We have seen the usefulness of Google Forms Track Key Areas of Your Life In 1-Minute with Google Forms Track Key Areas of Your Life In 1-Minute with Google Forms It is amazing what you can learn about yourself when you take the time to pay attention to your daily habits and behaviors. Use the versatile Google Forms to track your progress with important goals. Read More . It’s time to appreciate the versatility of Google Drawings.

Google Drawings is the freshest among all Google Drive tools. It is not a full-blown image editor like MS Paint How to Edit & Enhance Screenshots in MS Paint How to Edit & Enhance Screenshots in MS Paint Read More . But the graphic editor is more powerful for one simple fact – it is a real-time collaborative application. At its most basic, it is an online whiteboard. At its most advanced it can be more if you allow  Joshua Pomeroy to change your mind about its limits.

That’s just one. Find more inspiration in his YouTube Playlist.

Now, that we have got the limitations of Google Drawings out of the way, let’s look at a few more creative uses. Because not all of us are blessed with Joshua’s skills.

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Use It for Collaborative Post-It Notes

Google Drawings - Post It Notes

Think of Google Drawings as an universal whiteboard for sticking Post-It notes. When you begin, it need not even be a collaborative project. Start your own – and then share your thoughts with others using a URL. The above virtual Post-It note was created in 5 minutes using Shapes, Google Fonts, and an image search for the “pin”. All within Google Drawings.

When you can’t be at the same place, a quick Google Drawings share coupled with a Hangouts chat is an easy solution. Anyone in the team can add comments and other Post-It notes to the virtual office wall.

Create Your Own Graphic Organizers

Google Diagrams - Spider Chart

Graphic organizers are diagrams that help organize information visually. Some of the varieties are called concept maps, entity relationship charts, and mind maps. With the help of one, you can have a bird’s eye view of your thoughts. For instance, a spider diagram can be used to group ideas, a flow chart can be useful for sequencing a process, and a fishbone diagram can be used to show cause and effect.

Use the library of templates to take a shortcut (e.g. a flowchart template) or create your own from scratch. Google Drawings has the shapes, colors, and fonts to help you create memorable spatial structures quickly. The above diagram is a simple spider diagram illustrating the shortcuts you can use to create a graphic organizer.

This webinar by Eric Curts shows you the options you can explore in Google Drawings for your custom needs.

Design an Infographic

infographic in Google Drawings

You might not create the next viral infographic 10 Of The Best Tools For Creating Infographics 10 Of The Best Tools For Creating Infographics The history of this visual science (or art) and tells us that infographics is by no means an invention of the digital culture. The only difference between then and now is the amount of information... Read More with Google Drawings. But if you have an idea and the data to back it up, you are on your way to impress your boss. These two key ingredients can be supported with shapes, images, text, charts, graphs, tables, and colors to create the visual impact. Hyperlink your data to external resources to create a  more dynamic infographic. Here are the basic first steps.

  1. Start by researching the data that will go into the infographic.
  2. Resize the Drawings canvas to a long rectangle as they are usually vertically oriented. Alternatively, go to File > Page Setup and enter the dimensions.Google-Drawings: Page Setup
  3. Use a background color or find free textures 10 Websites for Finding Free Photoshop Textures 10 Websites for Finding Free Photoshop Textures Textures are crucial in everything from graphic design to web design, from poster art to architectural visualizations, from 3D animations to computer games. Here's where you can find some free textures to use! Read More to use for the background. Go to Insert > Image to upload the texture file. Resize the texture to fit the background. You can also set a background color (Right Click > Background).Insert Texture
  4. Create your graphics by combining different shapes and grouping them together. You can create the shapes off-stage and then drag them into the canvas. Grouped graphics can be custom colored with a single click.

Note: Google Drawings includes Snap to grid and Snap to guides. Align objects and draw them to the same size with better precision. Go to View > Snap To > Grids / Guides.

Step-by-step instructions on creating infographics is outside the scope of this article, but here’s a starter video for guidance.

Make Custom Graphics for Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides

This is perhaps the most obvious use of Google Drawings. As a sibling, it is the most accessible tool for inserting custom graphics into your Google Drive documents via the Web Clipboard. Here are a few creative ways you can use Drawings:

Create your own Clipart Library. Make your own reusable batch of clipart. Source images with Google Search and modify them in Google Drawings.

Create your own picture bullets. Create unique vector bullets with Shapes. The “Lightbulb” bullet below was made by combining shapes and a callout. You can also tweak a minimalist raster image and use it as a bullet.

Google-Drawings Vector Image

Create a custom signature. Customize your digital signature in Google Drawings. Group all the elements into a single graphic and use it in Drive documents or Gmail.

Digital Signature

Do Note: Copying a drawing to a different file creates a copy of the original drawing. Edits made to either the original or the copy do not automatically apply to the other. 

Screen Design with Wireframes

Wireframes

Wireframes What Is a Website Wireframe & How Can It Help You Develop Your Website? What Is a Website Wireframe & How Can It Help You Develop Your Website? On a technical level, a modern website isn’t just one thing. It’s a complex soup of interacting technologies, such as HTML (the markup you see on the page), JavaScript (the language running in your browser,... Read More are blueprints for any screen designs. Think simple shapes without any color or frills. They help the designers focus on how content will be laid out or how a prototype design will function. There are a dime and a dozen wireframing tools 10 Easy & Quick Online Mockup Tools That Help You Imagine Anything 10 Easy & Quick Online Mockup Tools That Help You Imagine Anything Make the best use of instant-creation technologies, with your own mock-up designs. Mock-ups help evaluate, fix flaws, and tweak designs before creating them. Design just about anything with these tools. Read More , so you will be spoilt for choice. But for simplicity, collaboration, and accessibility Google Drawings can step up to the plate. Google Drive gives you a few readymade wireframe templates.

You can just as easily create your own wireframing kit with Google Drawings. The wireframing kit can be made up of the basic starting blocks you need for any design. Leave the elements in the gutter (the space next to the canvas) for quick reuse on any new project.

This 15-minute video gives you an idea of the process:

Understand Relationships with Database Schemas

Using Google Drawings to plot database schemas is not my original idea. The Web Development Group demonstrates this simple hack. Database schemas are logical grouping of objects such as tables, views, stored procedures etc. It describes how a database is structured and the relationships between the objects it holds.

Think of a database schema like a roadmap: it lays out the overall process, visually demonstrating where information is coming from and where it is going.

Google Drawings can be used to show entity relationships. Couple it with real-time collaboration and you get a useful tool for creating schemas.

Annotating Screenshots

Annotation

Annotating images help to describe what an image is all about. In a time when everything is so graphic, annotation also works as a tool for visual “storytelling.” Again, you can choose from a wealth of web annotation tools. Google Drawings is one that’s close by for any image commentary.

Annotating an image in Google Drawings is simple with the variety of tools on offer.

  1. Use Print Screen to take a screenshot (or upload an image directly to Google Drawings).
  2. Use the Crop tool (Format > Crop Image) on the toolbar to isolate the section you would like to show.
  3. Use the Shape and Line tools to highlight the points on the image.
  4. Google Drawings has a variety of shapes and arrowheads to help you stylize the annotations.
  5. Insert text annotations (with the Text Box) and format with font style and size. Also, try Shapes > Callouts.
  6. Go to Format > Image Options for any color corrections.
  7. Go to File > Download as for the finished PNG or JPEG file. You can also share the annotated image via Google Drive.

Create Hotspots on Images

Think of a world map. Clicking each country takes you to the Wikipedia page with all the details.

Think of an idea. Explain it better by breaking down the idea and linking its part to more external data.

With the help of an image map or hotspots, you can convey a lot of information with just a single photo or drawing. Guess what! Google Drawings helps you easily craft neat image maps without any knowledge of HTML. And quickly, too.

Insert or draw an image on a blank Google Drawings canvas.

  1. Go to Insert > Line > Polyline. Use the Polyline tool to draw around the clickable area.
  2. Go to Insert > Link (or Ctrl + K) and add the external webpage or another Google Drive document to the hyperlink box.
  3. Make the bounding polygonal area vanish by setting Shape and Line color to transparent.
  4. Share the Drawing, embed it in your blog, or download it as a PDF file.

Watch Chris Betcher use a Google Drawing for an image map of his team:

A Canvas For Your Ideas

Like any other drawings tool, only your ideas can explore the limits of Google Drawings. From explaining multi-step processes to brainstorming collaboratively, Google Drive’s much neglected family member could be your favorite foot soldier for everyday tasks. Tools like Microsoft Visio might be more convenient for more complex charting jobs, but few tools can beat Google Drawings at its most unique selling points – real-time collaboration and the fantastic price of free.

As a chess lover, I can’t help but think – is it possible to create a real-time chess game with Google Drawings? Or an interactive visual resume How to Make a Visual Resume with PowerPoint in 3 Steps How to Make a Visual Resume with PowerPoint in 3 Steps Read More with graphics, text, and hotspots? See where my wild thought took me!

So, tell me yours. Do you use Google Drawings? What are the creative uses you can think of putting Google’s fledgling tool to?

  1. Michael McClure
    October 21, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    Great stuff. I've been using Drawings for several years now, creating a new, iterative 'server room diagram' each year to show changes. At first, I was just creating a visual mimic of data I have over in a Sheet (not so pretty to look at). Recently I started including imported charts into my diagram, and the best part is that they stay live and updatable within my Drawing (!!). I've been manually recreating the server data numbers from my Sheet into my diagram, which is laborious and prone to human data-entry type errors. Do you know if there is a way to import live cells of data from my Sheet into my Drawing like I can import live charts? Seems reasonable that if you can do one, there might just be a pathway to doing the other... Thoughts? Thanks, /\/\

    • Saikat Basu
      October 27, 2016 at 4:31 am

      There doesn't seem to be a way so far, Michael. Hoping someone comes up with an add-on.

      • Michael McClure
        October 27, 2016 at 5:55 pm

        Thanks, Saikat. That would be great. Would save a lot of time (and possible mistakes, knowing my fat finger tendency...). /\/\

  2. Al
    May 17, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    Now, if only I could add the Google Drawings into Google Forms. (Drawings, not images... Drawings!)

    • Saikat Basu
      May 19, 2016 at 3:37 am

      Any potential uses you have in mind? Some creative ideas maybe. Would love to hear them.

      • Alfonso R Navarro Jr
        May 19, 2016 at 9:27 am

        I'm a science teacher and I would like to add diagrams to forms that I use as quizzes. Right now I have to export every image I want to use before I put it in the form. If I want to add several drawings, this is a tedious process, and not flexible at all (if I want to change a free-body diagram, I have to export a while new copy just to change a number...)

        • Saikat Basu
          May 19, 2016 at 2:21 pm

          Lovely! Yeah, I see how it can be useful now. Thanks Alfonso.

  3. Darshan Gajara
    February 4, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    Joshua's work in Google Drawings is simply amazing.

  4. Müjdat Ba?türk
    July 31, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    Hello Saikat Basu,

    I thought you may add this small trick one to your list (in keeping with your theme of Google Drawings being the little known gem in Google Drive).

    You can insert a functional video into a Google Drawing

    Step #1 - Create a Slideshow using Google Slides
    Step #2 - Insert a VIDEO of your choice
    Step #3 - Copy the Video
    Step #4 - Paste in into your Drawing

    It works! If you download as a .pdf, the video turns into an image that links to the YouTube page.

    Enjoy

    • Saikat Basu
      August 1, 2015 at 6:19 am

      Thanks Joe. The Video turning into a clickable image is GOLD!

      • John O'Reilly
        August 17, 2016 at 5:50 pm

        Thanks so much - I am bookmarking this as I want to take my time checking out the videos. I am in the early stages of moving all my work from Microsoft office into Google docs, sheets, slides and drawings. I use drawings to deliver a "visual net worth diagram" to my financial service clients. We call these "circle charts". I would like to auto-populate account data from sheets to the client's circle chart in google drawings. Is that possible?

        • Saikat Basu
          August 21, 2016 at 7:06 am

          Wow. That's a creative use. Though, auto-population is not possible. From what I understand, any text in a drawing object is inaccessible from a script.

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