Content Creation and Storage

Here we look at online tools that enable you to collaborate with others, all working in the same document, as well as ways you can save your working documents so that they are available from any computer and will not be lost if your computer is stolen.

Google Documents
Blog publishing options

Google Documents

Once again, it seems Google has all of the answers. Google has produced a range of documents which you can use for free and which are hosted online.

There are three main benefits to creating and storing your documents online:

  • Your material is safe. Even if your computer is stolen, the documents are stored on remote servers.
  • You can access your documents anywhere, from any computer. You simply need to know your login, and you can use any computer to bring up the documents you have stored.
  • You can share the document with other people. Many people can all can work in the same, most up-to-date version of a document.

Create a Google account

If you do not already have one, then the first thing that you need to do is to create a Google account. (This does not mean you must start using Google's mail account, Gmail. But if you do alreayd have a Gmail account, it means you don't have to create a new Google account. If you do not have a Google account yet, create one using your regular email address.)

Open Google and look for the sign-in link at the top right of the page. If you don't see any links, just scroll your cursor over that space and they will pop up.

Google account creation

Figure 1: This page should look familiar to you. Scroll your cursor over the top of the Google page and you will see a whole list of options. Once you have created your Google account, you will be able to personalise all of these dozens and dozens of free tools to your own preferences and interests.

Click on 'Sign in'. If you do not already have a Google account, you will have the chance to create one. Otherwise you will just sign in with your usual email address and password - the ones that you provided when you first created your account. It is a good idea to simply remain signed in (by ticking that option, as you can see below) and then you never have to go through this part of the process again.  

create a new Google account

Figure 2: If you do not have an account, simply click on the box at the bottom right and go through the very simple steps of creating one. It is best to use your standard email address and a password you will remember easily.

Create your Google Documents

Now that you have your account, you can create or upload a whole range of documents which will all be stored in your account and viewable only to you.

Create Google Docs

Figure 3: Now you are going to scroll down the list and click on 'Documents'. But it is worth spending some time exploring all of the other rich functionality which is all completely free.

The first time the page opens, there will be a big blank space in the centre. In the future, this is where all of your documents will be listed, together with all kinds of information on when you last viewed them, who you have shared them with, etc.

Click on 'Create New' and you will see a list of options of the type of Google Documents that are available. All of these should look very familiar to anybody even vaguely familiar with the Microsoft Office range, particularly the most-used top three:

  • Document is similar to Microsoft Word
  • Presentation is similar to Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Spreadsheet is similar to Microsoft Excel

Notice that next to 'Create new' is the option to 'Upload'. This is where you could upload an existing Word, PowerPoint or Excel document, for example, and have it stored securely online, and available to others to view.

Create Google Docs

Figure 4: The list of Google Documents that can be created or uploaded.

Once you create your document, you should really feel at home. The various tools should be familiar, though the range of options might not be as broad as you are accustomed to. The first thing you should do is give the document a name. Google will have called it 'Unknown'. Just click in that box and rename, as in the example below, which has been renamed to 'Shutha test'. The 'Save' button is on the right.

Create Google Docs

Figure 5: The document looks very much like any usual form of Word document, with the same basic functionalities.

Sharing your documents

This is where the real difference comes in. You can invite somebody to edit your document and they will make changes in the very same document that you are or were in. The old versions are safely stored, so that if one of you makes a mistake, you can go back to a previous version.

Google docs sharing

Figure 6: Just click on the 'share' button at the top right, and this dialogue box will come up, in which you can invite somebody else to share the document. They will receive an email invitation, from which they will click through to view.

Your sharing options are very secure. When you invite somebody to share a document, you can click to stipulate whether they 'can edit', as in the example above, or whether they 'can view'. A summary of what permission you are granting them is listed at the bottom of the dialogue box, with the option for you to change the settings. To do that, click on the blue 'change' and the Sharing settings will appear.

Google doc sharing permissions

Figure 7: The sharing settings are set to maximum privacy by default.

Unless your document is very private or confidential, you might want to change this to the middle option. The link will be extremely cryptic, so the likelihood of anybody accidentally coming across it will be negligible. It will just be much easier for the person you are sharing the document with, as they will not have to sign in. A benefit of having them sign in, however, particularly when you have shared the document with more than one person, is that you can then check exactly who has viewed or edited it.

Blog publishing options

There is much more to the free blogging software available online than meets the eye. Popular blogging tools such as Blogger and Wordpress have an enormous range of functionality that you can use to create and store information. It is a mistake to assume these are only for blogs, or that the information posted there will be available for all to see.

View the full tutorial on using Wordpress.

The key aspect that many people overlook is that you can use your blog to store information that you do not want others to see, or that you only want specific people to read. Online storage is not the primary use of a blog, but it can be very useful. The default option for any blog post is that it is open for all to view - it is public. There are two other options:

  • View with a password. Perhaps you have specific information that you only want a select group of people to see. In this case, you can password-protect the post, and you control the access by limiting who you share the password with.
  • Private. Sometimes you might want to store information, but it is for your eyes only. Bear in mind that any blog post you create is not viewable until you press 'publish'. If you write it but do not deliberately publish it, it is saved in 'drafts'. Some material, however, you might choose never to publish.

Start by creating a post in the same way as you would usually. Give it a title, and input the text, as per usual. But then take a closer look at the options available.

blogging tools publish options

Figure 8: Notice the options in the 'Publish' box on the right. Whatever blogging software you use, you will have similar options. The default setting is 'public' - obviously the usual idea with a blog post is that as many people see it as possible. But underneath that you have two other options.

In the example above, 'password protected' has been clicked and automatically a box for the password pops up. This gives you the ability to grant many people access to secret information on your site, and all of them can only see the posts you had specifically intended for them.

By clicking 'private', you keep the post only visible to yourself.