Day 27: Google Docs Scripts and Power Tips

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30 Days With...Google Docs: Day 27

With the month coming to a close on the 30 Days With...Google Docs project, I think we have established that Google Docs is more than adequate for creating simple documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and other content. Now, let's take a quick look at some of the features that power-users might appreciate.

For more advanced users, Google offers Google LookUp and Google Finance to automatically search for and add information to cells in your spreadsheet.By adding Google LookUp syntax to a spreadsheet cell, you can populate the cell with information stock data, country demographics, celebrity details, planets of the solar system, and more. Google says that the data can come from any Web site, but that certain sites like the CIA Factbook and Wikipedia tend to appear as sources more often than others.

Google Docs
Google Docs has advanced features for power users too.
To use Google LookUp, type "=GoogleLookUp("entity";"attribute")" in a cell. For example, if you want to populate a cell with "=GoogleLookUp("Michael Jordan" ; "average points per game")" Google LookUp searches to find out what Michael Jordan's average points per game was, and automatically populates the cell with "31.5".

Google Finance works in a similar way, but is specifically focused on finance and investing information. For example, "=GoogleFinance("GOOG" ; "price") fills the cell with the current share price of Google stock, or "=GoogleFinance("MSFT" ; "volume") populates the cell with the volume of shares traded today for Microsoft stock.

While these functions might save you some time from manually looking up data like Charlize Theron's birth date, it is better for information that is dynamic and may change frequently--like share price or share volume. To see what other options are available, just type "=Google" in a spreadsheet cell and a box will pop-up that lets you know how you can complete the query.

It did take me a few attempts to master the syntax. You don't need the quotes at the beginning or end of the queries that I listed, but you do have to include the quotation marks around the entity and attribute conditions so Google knows what to look up.

Another power tool from Google is Google Apps Script--a Javascript based language that you can use to automate tasks with Google Docs. You can do things like create an expense report workflow that automatically converts currencies, catches errors and omissions, and forwards the expense report on to an approving authority.

You can also use it to automate a mail merge with Gmail. Google told me that there is a update coming soon which will allow Google Maps to be integrated so that mail merge recipients could each receive custom driving directions from their location as well. That sound pretty cool.

These are just a couple of the power tools. At first glance, it seems obvious that Google Docs does not have the bells and whistles of Microsoft Office, but when you start to poke around you find that Google Docs actually has a fair amount of advanced features and capabilities for power users as well.

Get the complete30 Days With Google Docsseries compiled into a Kindle eBook.

Day 26: OCR in Google Docs

Day 28: My Five Biggest Google Docs Complaints

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