Collaborating on a document has become increasingly easy these past few years. You can work together on the same document using services like EtherPad, you can have your documents in the cloud using Google Docs or you can sync your documents in real-time using services like Dropbox – and this is just naming a few.
Another player in the field is Google Cloud Connect. Google Cloud Connect is a plugin for MS Office that connects your Office documents to your Google Docs. It serves both as a backup for your documents, and as a means to share, get feedback and collaborate on a document.
First, you will need to download the Google Cloud Connect plugin and install it on your computer. The installation takes some time, but you will end up with a new toolbar in all your MS Office applications. To get started, you will need to log into your Google account and give the plugin access to your Google Docs.
You will then get the chance to configure the global settings of the plugin. There isn’t much to configure here, really – you can choose to sync your documents manually or automatically, and you can decide where the files will be saved. This is also the place to go if you wish to associate Cloud Connect with a different Google account.
The Cloud Connect toolbar is quite obtrusive. If you want to hide it, look for the (very) small triangle in the bottom center part of the toolbar and click it. This will hide the toolbar, and you can click it again to unhide it at any time.
Syncing and Sharing
Using Cloud Connect, you can create a new Word, Excel or PowerPoint document and sync it to the Google cloud or share it from within the document itself. Clicking the Sync button will sync your document to your Google Docs, and you will immediately get a link to it right in the Office window. The Share button will allow you to add people to this document. You can add many people at once, and choose whether they’ll be able to edit the document or just view it.
When you sync your document to the cloud, it will appear in your Google Docs. You will now be able to access it and view it online, but you will not be able to edit the document using Google Docs. The document will be mingled with your other Google Docs, and you can tell them apart by the little icons on the left.
If viewing and sharing online is not enough, you can convert your Office Doc into a Google Doc easily, by clicking on Actions and creating a Google Docs copy. However, you will not be able to download this copy using Cloud Connect and work on it offline.
The newest feature of Cloud Connect is the ability to download documents from Google Docs into MS Office, right from the MS Office window. To do this, click on the huge “Google Cloud Connect” logo and choose “Open from Google Docs…”.
Note again, that you cannot download your Google Docs into MS Office. To use this feature, you will need to have Office documents synced to your Google Docs first. When you have some of those, you will be able to choose the document you want to download, and get it to instantly open in Office.
Cloud Connect can be used to work together on a document. If what you all like best is to work on your document in Office on your own computer, this could be the solution for you. Each person can download and edit the document, and then sync it to the cloud. If you’re all working on it at the same time, you might get messages like this:
This is nice, because it makes it harder for several people working together on the same document to erase each other’s work, and it also keeps all the versions of the document, in case you wish to revert. To access all the versions from within Office, click on the little page icon and choose “See revision history“.
I can’t really decide what to think about Cloud Connect. On the one hand, I feel it could be much simpler to use Dropbox to save my documents in the cloud and share them with a friend. On the other hand, Cloud Connect lets me do everything from within the document I’m working on, and allows me to share the document with numerous people without giving them permission to actually edit it.
All in all, I think this is a nice solution, and I will love to see them add the ability to also edit documents in the cloud. This is one thing that will truly make Cloud Connect stand out. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for Google Docs replacements, you can read about some of them here.
So what do you think? Is Cloud Connect useful or boring? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.
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