A Guide to Collaborative Working using Google software and tools


A Guide to Collaborative Working using Google products (1)

Collaborative working with Google products is a dream. If you are not making the most of them yet, then here is an overview of how to piece several of them together.

As such we will cover how to use:

  • Gmail and Google+
  • Google Drive
  • Google+ Communities
  • Google Hangouts
  • YouTube

…when working as part of a team, and want to make the most of collaborative tools.

Gmail and Google+

These two applications work hand in hand.
In your Gmail (using ‘desktop’ as an example) you will see:

Circles (on the left)
Google+ Posts (sometimes you can reply from within Gmail, other times you may need to click a ‘view post’ link)

We will be covering hangouts in detail later on in this guide, but for now, let’s look at circles and how they relate to Google+ posts.

Note: if you are new to Google+, sign up as a Quickstarter here! In 20 minutes you will get to grips with some of the key principles.

Google Circles

This is how you can set up a circle from within Google+

1. Start by clicking to create a new circle.

Create a Google circle (1)

2. Next, you will see a new box pop up where you can name the circle and add people, one at a time.

Create a Google Circle (2)

3. Tip: once the circle has been created, you can ‘select’ several contacts and drag and drop them into a circle.

Create a Google Circle (3)

Note: you may have several people that ‘exist’ in different circles, based on the teams to which they belong.

Using Google Circles alongside Google+ posts.

You can send a private message to your ‘team’ circle by adding that circle into the Google+ post.

You can also add text, images, videos etc. to the post too.

Sending a private Google+ message to a team

Note: remove ‘public’ as the option if you don’t want it to be seen publicly!

If you check the ‘also send an email’ option it will end up in Gmail (if they are using it), and here is the GREAT THING for collaboration…

You can all reply on the same post thread:

Comment thread, and +1s

Also, you can +1 a comment, and if you click on the plus ones to see who has also plus oned – this can give you e.g. a clue at who agrees with a comment, at a glance.

People will also receive a notification when people comment on the thread after they comment.
You can ‘mute’ a thread by clicking on the upper right menu (see below) and you won’t receive notifications from that thread in future, even if someone +mentions you.

Other considerations:

If you want to get your notification’s to receive the right information to you, into your Gmail, here is a guide – click here!

Check out this guide on ‘Who can see your posts’ – click here! (including that ‘private posts’ will only be seen by the people included in them).

How to restrict access to that team only

Before a post is created, you can stop people from sharing it by clicking the small arrow in the post box (h/t Stan Bush):

How to disable reshares prior to sharing

If you want to prevent content being shared once a post has been created, you can do the following:

Step 1 – click on the arrow on the upper right of the post:

How to disable reshares after posting (1)

Step 2 – choose the option ‘disable reshares’:

How to disable reshares after posting (2)

Note: if you disable reshares, neither you (as the originator of the post) nor another who has been included to receive it, will be able to +mention people not included into the comment thread.
Tip: if you want to bring in additional people to the conversation, then simply ‘re-enable reshares’ using the same menu (in the upper right corner), and then +mention the person into the thread, before then disabling the reshares once again. They will still be able to comment when they arrive.

Google Drive –  new version

Google Drive has recently been made a lot more pretty! And this guide will show screenshots of the newest version, but those would would rather, here is an style Google Drive here.

How to use Google docs for effective collaborative working – relevant for  organisations and individuals working on projects.

Google Drive is an incredible and increasingly seemless way of sharing the right information to the right people. It can also be used to help individuals rally others in the organisation who can input into the document, not just view.
If you are implementing a change in your organisation or are a consultant considering supporting a transition to the benefits of Google Docs then here are a few pointers that may help. To begin…

Selecting a file in the New Drive

Once you’ve selected a folder or a file in Drive, right click to bring up the ‘Share’ icon:

How to share a file in Drive

Or, if you just want the link to give to people, click on the ‘link’ symbol:

Seeing who has access to a file in the new Drive

From there you can decide ‘who’ should have access…

Who should be allowed to access the file?

Here are the setting options to consider…

This means you need to explicitly invite people to view.
This requires adding them from your Gmail contacts.

Anyone who has the link.
This option allows you to share to individuals by +name or to circles (as well as to other platforms (Facebook and Twitter)
As people don’t have to sign in to Google+ to see the link, this has to be used with awareness.

This allows for the document to become a publicly viewable document on the web.

You may like to think through the options carefully as including the wrong people to view/edit could create issues. Having an organisational principles for Google Docs could allow you to help people know the parameters.
(Few people like to have to read more guides on their behaviour so may be a brief video could be used as well/instead.)

Sharing Step 2

 Do you want to grant editing rights?

There is a setting that allows people to either have editing rights, or they remain with the author.

Sharing Step 3

Do you just want people to comment?

This could be very useful when you want to receive input but want the original document to stay intact.

Whether you do this will depend upon…

Have you set up principles for collaborative working?

This is a key element in the process. People need to know what is expected of them including what they are allowed to do/not allowed to do.

What to do when collaboration doesn’t work out with a document?

Sometimes the owner (or a person in a specific role) may need to step in and reaffirm some basic ground rules for a project.
The better the project is ‘set up’ (framed) at the outset then the less likely it will be that things will go wrong.

If you find that things do ‘untangle’ you may like to consider increasingly the complexity of the mode of communication to resolve the issue e.g. from text, to voice, to face-to-face (including hangouts). You will often find people relate better to a more complete mode of communication when there are challenges as it enables an increase in the flow of information i.e. visual as well as auditory, auditory as well as text alone etc.

Have you agreed to a clear end point?

This could be important to prevent endless rounds of edits by many parties. If you agree this upfront at the start of the project you will probably save yourself a lot of time.

Gmail and Google+ working together

Email will feel very old fashioned when you use it as a stand alone product, but combining it with Google+ will give you some great options.

When you have e.g. a link to the document (as shown in the Drive section above) you can then share it with a ‘circle of people’ on Google+

Create a circle on Google+

Note: if you do to learn more about Google+, we have a free Quickstarter Guide here that will get your flying in no time.

1. I build a circle with people who I want to collaborate on the project.
2. I share this circle to them; informing them that they are in that circle
3. I open up Google docs and create a document on ‘what else would we like to do to help support jobs/works/projects/meetups etc’ (e.g. a Word doc or Presentation)
4. I invite the circle to edit/comment on the document

You can also receive the email responses to e.g. comments directly in your Gmail as well, so you don’t have to leave that app in order to respond.

G+ post in Gmail

5. I gather the information and integrate it back into the document and then e.g. share the findings publicly to rally more community support

Google Drive is a phenomenal tool and with Google+ sharing it allows the right messages to get to the right people, but also for their input to be respected as well. As with so many aspect of the social layer, it will increase efficiency within an organisation in ways that may not realise until you experience it.

But it goes even further…

Using Google+ Communities

Another REALLY useful way of brining the right people together for conversations is using G+ communities.

Here is a complete step-by-step guide to how to set them up! (it is not very long)

Private communities

This is like having a ‘circle of people’ but with some great advantages, including:

People can receive notifications whenever any of the team posts

The community members can be added to without needed to ‘re-share’ a circle of members to keep it up to date

You have a great ‘in community’ search function so you can see prior conversations

Just like any other Google+ posts, you will be able to see them in Gmail too.

Then here is a lovely little guide on how to use them for collaborative/team projects: Click here!

Ok, next…

Google Hangouts

These are a text based chat, in which you can add images.
You can also start a video call with the people who are included in that hangout, and add more people as well.

Below is one version of the app (different ones will look different, but the principles will be the same):

  1. Click here to start a new hangout

Note: ‘Start a Hangout Party’ would start a video call portion only, bi-passing the needed ‘text hangout’ for this process

  1. If you click in the box, you can then for instance invite people who you have in a circle that are members of your team.
  2. That will then bring up a box. And if you type messages to people within that hangout, then they’re all going to receive that message. And as you can see in this example, there are 14 people within this particular hangout.
  3. Next, click on ‘settings’ i.e. the cog

Hangout process for colloborative working

Note: there are different types of apps for hangouts (this is the ‘standard’ one), but the principles are the same.

Hangout notifications

If you go to the cog, and you click, you’ll see here:

  1. You can name the project and that way you know which hangout relates to which project, and
  2. You can see notifications are switched on. If you uncheck the box, it means when people are chatting, you don’t get notified.

It’s important not to leave the hangout if you want to stay part of that particular collaborative team, as you’ll need to be invited back into the hangout in order to join it.

When you’re ready, click save on the changes.


Step 2 – Choosing a document from Google Drive (Recap, just in case you skipped that bit above!)

Next, let’s look at Google Drive. If you take the example of a presentation.

To search:

1. Click the arrow in the corner to bring up this menu, or you can search in the box directly, then

2. Search by ‘Type’

Searching Drive

Once selected you will see this:

Select a Drive file

  1. Click to choose the one you want to work on together with that group, and
  2. You click on the share button, which is the little + sign.


  1. You come across to who has access.
  2. If you change that to anyone with a link can edit, and
  3. Then press save.

Then you have the settings changed for that file e.g. a document.

  1. You can then copy the link.


Step 3 – Dropping the link into the hangout

Return to your hangout and drop the link into the hangout and press return, and everybody who’s within that hangout will be able to collaborate on that document.

Also, if you click on the icon that looks a little like a camera, that will initiate a video call with everybody who’s within that hangout, providing they’ve got their notifications turned on. And from there, you’ll be able to take that document using the Google Drive app, which you can see here in the video call aspect of the Google hangout.


Optional – Using Drive in a Google Hangout

Once you’ve started a hangout you can:

  1. Click on the Google Drive App, and
  2. If at any time you need to invite more people into the room to collaborate, then you’ll be able to do so by clicking invite people and then adding names, circles, or email addresses.
  3. Choose the file which you want to work on together

Using Google Drive in a Google Hangout

You know how to set up a Google Hangout and keep it alive so you can work together on projects using Google Drive.
Note: if you use the Google Drive app in a Hangout-on-Air it won’t be visible to the viewers, nor when stored on YouTube.

Tip from Ronnie Bincer (the Hangout Master): use ‘screenshare’ instead to show a Drive document, and it will be recorded!

 Hangouts-on-air and YouTube settings

If you want to record your hangout sessions, then you will want to use ‘Hangout-on-air’ instead of a ‘Video call’ (unless you record using third party tools).
They great this about this tool is that you can:

  • Invite a group of people to the hangout, and not have it ‘public’,
  • Then, once it is finished, it will be saved on YouTube, then
  • You can alter the settings on YouTube and decide who gets to see that content in the future.

Youtube settings

You can also choose e.g. a circle of people, or individual email address under the ‘private setting’:

Private settings

Also, you can ‘download the YouTube video’, and then e.g. edit out the best sections before re-uploading and sharing it with the team:

Download MP4 from YouTube


There are so many other Google tools I could feature too, including how content from Google+ emerges in Google Search, based on who have the ‘right’ to see that content – this is why when you search you may well see pictures of people you know alongside Google+ posts.
All in all, these tools are AWESOME and can transform what how you and your team collaborates on projects.

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