Place Google Drive Files on your Android Home Screen for Quick Access

You are at the check-in counter, there’s a long queue of people and the lady at the other end has just asked you to present a digital copy of some document for verification. You remember saving that file on your phone but don’t exactly remember where you placed it? Maybe the file is in your Gmail inbox, or Google Drive, or is it on the SD card?

Locating files on your mobile phone isn’t always straightforward, especially when you are in a hurry, and this is exactly where Google Drive can help.

Create File Shortcuts on Android Phone

You can upload the file to Google Drive, then open the file inside the Drive app on your Android phone, and tap “Add to Home Screen” to create a shortcut to that file on the home screen. You should also check the “Available Offline” option so that the file shortcut works even when you are outside the coverage are.

Android File Shortcuts

If you would like to place shortcuts to multiple documents on your home screen, it is recommended that you create a folder inside Google Drive and then create a shortcut. Unlike files, you cannot make an entire folder offline in Drive.

The Dropbox app for Android also allows you to create shortcuts for folders through widgets. Long tap any blank area on your home screen, drag the Dropbox folder widget and select the folder for which you would like to create the shortcut.

Please note that the option to add files to home screen is only available inside the Google Drive app but not the Docs, Slides or Sheets app. If you would like to create a shortcut to your work-in-progress presentation on the Android screen, you should do it inside the Drive App, not the Slides App.

Also see: The Best Android Apps (2018)

How to Send Emails with Google Forms Based on User’s Answers

With the Forms Email Notifications add-on, you can automatically send emails to anyone each time a user submits your Google Form. You can choose to notify the form owner, the form respondent, your team members or anyone else and the emails are triggered immediately after a form is submitted.

The Google Forms add-on can also send conditional emails to specific people depending on what a user has selected in your Google Form. The body and subject of the email message can be personalized for each recipient with the form answers.

Before we get into the implementation, here are some real-world examples where conditional email notifications can come handy:

Example A: Send Email to Different Departments

Conditional Email Notifications

This is a tech support form where the customer fills in the product name and their location. With the Google Forms addon, you can create a conditional email that goes out to the iPhone support team when the selected answer is either iPhone or iPad. Another email could go out to the India team when the customer selects India in the country drop-down.

Example 2: Route Emails to Class Teachers

School Google Form

This is a school form where parents are required to give consent. If a parent says “yes”, the class teacher of the student should be emailed and a confirmation email should also go out to the parent’s email address. If the answer is “No”, the email notifications aren’t sent anywhere.

How to Send Conditional Emails with Google Forms

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to set up notification emails based on the user’s answers in the Google Form.

Go to the Google Forms store and install the Email Notifications add-on. Next, go to forms.google.com and either create a new form or use any of your existing forms. The addon is also compatible with Quiz based forms.

Configure Email Notification for Google Forms

Inside the Google Form editor window, click the add-on icon (it looks like a puzzle), choose Email Notification for Forms > Create Email Notification (you can also set up mobile notifications with IFTTT).

Here, specify the form rule name (say “Inform the Teacher”) but leave the “Email Addresses to Notify” field blank  – we need to send emails only when specific conditions are met, else we skip the notification. Click Continue.

google-forms-email-rule.png

On the next screen, click the Visual Email button and create your own rich-text email template. You can also include placeholders for form fields – like {{Phone Number}} – and these will be replaced with the actual values entered by the user. Click Continue

Click the Edit Conditions button and here add one or more conditional statements per rule. In the following screenshot, emails are sent to the parent and jeff@school.com whenever the consent value is “Yes” and the teacher’s name contains either Jeff, Jordon or Mary.

In the Rule #2, emails are sent to the school principal if the parent has chosen “No” as the answer and other rules will be skipped.

form-conditional-email-notifications.png

That’s it. Save the rule, go to the live Google Form and submit a test entry. If the rules are correctly set up, the emails will be correctly routed to different email addresses and you can find a copy of all the emails that were sent out in your Gmail Sent Items folder.

Check out the video tutorial ? on YouTube and the documentation to know more about the capabilities of the Google Forms Notifications addon.

Search your Handwritten Notes with Gmail OCR

One of the most useful features of Evernote and OneNote is Image OCR.  When you clip an image – be it a screenshot, a scanned business card, or a picture of the whiteboard – these tools automatically detect the text inside the image and make the image searchable.

Gmail Gets OCR to Search for Text Within Images

Gmail text search has always been very capable but some might not know that Gmail, like Evernote, also performs OCR on images contained in email messages. When you perform searches inside Gmail or Google Inbox, the results always contain matching images that contain the search keywords.

I tried Gmail OCR search against different types of images and the results were fairly good. Text recognition in Gmail works for both image attachments as well as inline embedded images.

Gmail could successfully find matching text inside product manuals with small fonts, scanned book cover and a handwritten note but failed with logos and some street signs.

Scanned Picture (Pass)

book-cover

Handwritten Note (Pass)

handwritten-note

Product manual with small fonts (Pass)

scanned-product-manual

Street Sign (Fail)

street-signs

Extract Text from Images from Google Keep

Google Drive and Google Keep are other Google products that offer you the ability to search for text within stored images. In the case of Google Keep, you also have the option to extract the text detected inside in an image and store it within the note itself.

google-keep-ocr.png

Developers can use Google’s Cloud Vision API, or Microsoft’s Computer Vision API, to incorporate OCR technology into their own apps with few lines of code.

Also see: Reverse Image Search on Mobile

Voice Dictation – Type with your Voice

Introducing the all-new Voice Dictation v2.0, a speech recognition app that lets you type with your voice. There’s no software to install, there’s no training required and all you need is Google Chrome on your Windows PC, Mac OS or Linux.

Dictation can recognize spoken words in English, Hindi, Español, Italiano, Deutsch, Français, and all the other popular languages. Another unique feature of Dictation is support for voice commands that let you do more with your voice. For instance, you can say a command like new line or nueva línea for inserting lines. You can add punctuations, special symbols and even smileys using simple commands in most languages.

This YouTube video will walk you through the Dictation app.

Open Dictation

How to use Dictation for Speech Recognition

Dictation stores everything in your browser locally and not a byte of your data is uploaded anywhere.  Speech recognition will be more accurate in a quiet environment and the built-in microphone of your computer should be good enough.

Open dictation.io in Google Chrome and choose your native language from the drop-down. Then click the microphone icon (or tap the Start button) to activate web speech and start speaking.

The first time you use Dictation, you would need to allow permissions to the website to access your microphone.  Also, make sure that no other browser tab is using Speech Recognition at the same time.

allow-microphone-access.png

As you speak, your voice is continuously converted into text in real time. There are no limits o and when you are done with dictation, you can click the “Stop” button or say “Go to Sleep” to turn off speech recognition.

Speech to Text with Dictation

Dictation supports speech to text as well so you can listen to the transcribed audio in any of the available voices. You can alter the speed and pitch of the playback with simple controls.

Publish to the Web

Dictation includes a WYSIWYG editor to help you format the transcribed text. You can copy the rich-text to the clipboard with a click and paste into other apps like Gmail or Microsoft Word with the formatting.

You also have the “Publish” button to anonymously publish your note to the Internet and this page can only be accessed by users who know the link.

dictation.voice.png

Convert Recorded Audio to Text

If you have an MP3 file that you would like to transcribe to text, Dictation can help you do that well. Choose the language on dictation.io, click the start button, then play the audio file on your mobile and watch as the words are converted into text in real time. See demo.

Dictation – The Technical Stuff

Dictation uses the HTML5 Web Speech API that is currently implemented only in Google Chrome on the desktop. For Text to Speech, it uses the SpeechSynthesis interface of the Web Speech API that is available in Chrome, Microsoft Edget and Firefox.

The rich-text editor is built with Quill while the voice command interface is made possible with Annyang. Dictation uses the Github API to publish dictated notes online as anonymous gists.

How to Embed Music in your Google Slides Presentation

Audio can bring your presentations to life especially in a kiosk setting where slideshows play unattended in a continuous loop. If you have recently made the switch from Microsoft PowerPoint or Keynote to Google Slides, the one important feature that you might be missing inside Google Slides is audio.

Both Keynote and PowerPoint make it extremely easy for you to add audio to a presentation. You can embed MP3 music files that play in the background for the entire presentation or you can record your own voiceover narration that is synchronized with the timing of each slide.

How to Add Audio to Google Slides

Google Slides do not support audio files but you do have the option to embed videos inside the individual slides. The workaround, therefore, is simple – place the video file on a slide, make it invisible and turn on the auto-play mode.

Demo: Google Slides with Audio

Step 1: Prepare the Audio File

You can use free tools like FFmpeg or Audacity to convert your audio files into video. Then upload the converted file to either Google Drive or YouTube. I would prefer Drive since the playback won’t include any pre-roll advertising.

Embed Video in Google Slide

Step 2: Put audio inside Google Slides

Open Google Slides, go to the Insert menu and choose Video. Here you can either select the file from your Google Drive or switch to the “By URL” tab and paste the link of any public YouTube video.

Step 3: Turn on auto-play mode

Now that your video is embedded in Google Slides, right-click the video and choose Video Options.

google-slides-video-embed.png

Check the setting that says “auto-play when presenting.” If you are using synchronized voiceover narration, you may want to change the start and end time of the video as well.

Step 4: Hide the video player

Since you want the audio to play in the background, it may be a good idea to completely hide the video play from the slide. There are two ways to achieve this.

You can select the video play, drag the resize handles inwards so that the player size becomes too small to be noticed. An even better option is to place the video player outside the slide area so it’s still part of the slide but won’t show during the presentation.

google-slides-music.gif

That’s it.

Click the Share button to get the link to your Google Slide presentation. Replace /edit in the URL with /present and you have a direct link to the presentation mode – see a live example.

Also see: Convert Google Slides to Animated GIFs

You take any existing video from YouTube, place it on the slide in invisible mode and then turn on the auto-play mode so that the audio plays as soon as the slide is in focus.

How to Embed MP3 Audio Files In Web Pages with the help of Google Drive

Audio hosting websites like SoundCloud or Anchor.fm make it easy for you to embed audio files in your web pages and blogs. Just upload your file – like an MP3 song or an audio podcast – to any of these sites and they’ll provide the HTML embed code that you can copy-paste in your web template. Simple!

If you have been storing your MP3 files inside Google Drive, you can embed the files directly from Drive without having to upload them to another website. The Drive MP3 player can be embedded on any website that supports IFRAME and the list includes Blogger, WordPress, Medium or even the new Google Sites.

Also see: Embed YouTube as Audio Player

Step 1: Upload the MP3 to Google Drive

Open drive.google.com and upload the MP3 to your Google Drive. After the file is uploaded, right-click to share and set the sharing permission to “Anyone on the Internet can find and view”.

Step 2: Generate the Player Embed Code

The Google Drive URL will have the following structure:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1234xyz/view?usp=sharing

Now all you have to do is replace /view with /preview and wrap the modified URL in an IFRAME tag as shown below:

<iframe 
  frameborder="0" 
  width="400"     
  height="200"
  src="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1234xyz/preview">    
</iframe>

Here’s a live example. The embedded MP3 player has volume controls, play/pause buttons, seek bar, no Google branding, it works on mobile and the play also auto-detects and displays the duration of the music file.

The MP3 file is hosted on Google Drive and embedded here inside the IFRAME tag.

Transform your Google Slides Presentation into an Animated GIF and Tweet

TallTweets was created in 2010 to get around the 140-character limit of Twitter. You could write a note of any length and TallTweets would squeeze it into a single tweet by posting your text as an image. Now that Twitter offers a native solution in the form of threaded tweets, it is time to pivot.

Introducing the all-new Tall Tweets app for Google Slides. It will help you convert your presentations into high-quality animated GIFs that you attach in an email, embed on a web page or share on Twitter right within the Tall Tweets app.

Watch the video tutorial to get started.

Tweet Google Slides with TallTweets

To get started, open talltweets.com, sign-in with your Google account and select any existing deck from Google Drive. The TallTweets app can convert an entire deck into an infinitely looped GIF or you can choose to convert individual slides of the presentation into PNG images.

gif-google-slides.png

You have several options to customize the generated GIF images. You can specify the width of GIF images (the height will be calculated automatically to preserve the original aspect ratio) and you can also speed up or slow down the GIF slideshow by changing the time interval between slides.

Skip or Re-order Slides in GIF

One unique feature of the GIF maker is that it gives you an option to change the sequence of slides in the generated GIF.

google-slides-twitter.jpg

Let’s assume your presentation has 6 slides. If you leave the sequence input box blank, it would render all slides in the GIF in the order in which they appear. However, you can skip slides, re-order them or even change the length of time of individual slides.

  • 1,2,3,6 – Will skip slide #4 and #5
  • 6,5,4,3 – Will reverse the order of slides
  • 1,2,2,2,3,4 – Will extend the duration of slide #2

When you launch Tall Tweets for the first time, it will require you to authorize access to your Google Drive so that it can pick your Google Presentation for generating the slides. It generates the GIF locally in your browser and no byte of data every leaves your Google Account.

The app uses Google Apps Script to convert your presentation slides into images, the GIFs are generated on the client side using Yahoo’s Gifshot library while the front-end UI is written in React.

How to Embed the Facebook Customer Chat Widget in your Website

Looking for a simple and free alternative to popular live chat software like Intercom or Zendesk chat? Well, the new customer chat widget from Facebook Messenger is here and anyone can embed these widgets on their website to engage with visitors in real time.

Facebook Customer Chat widget, if you are new, lets people chat with businesses without leaving the website. The widget works on both desktop computers and mobile phones. The business owner needs a Facebook Page and all the visitor needs is a regular Facebook account.

There’s no learning curve or complex installation. The visitor clicks the Facebook icon on your web page, type their message and you (the business owner) get an instant notification on your Facebook Page. If you are online, you can carry on the conversation with the visitor on the Facebook website or inside the Facebook Pages Manager app on your phone.

If you would like to give Facebook Customer Chat a try, go to Digital Inspiration, wait for the page to load and click the Facebook messenger icon in the lower right corner to start a conversation.

How to Embed Facebook Customer Chat

Facebook Chat App

Step 1: To get started, go to developers.facebook.com and click the “Add a new app” button to create a new Facebook app.

Step 2: Give your app a name and click the Create button to get your own App ID. It is simple sequence of digits like 1839871239373637.

Step 3: Go to your Facebook Page, click the Settings tab, choose Messenger Platform, Whitelisted domain, enter the full URL of your website and click Save. You can also enter multiple domains if you wish to embed the same widget on multiple websites.

facebook whitelist domain

Step 4: Get the Facebook Page ID of the specific page that you wish to connect with the customer chat widget. All customer interactions will show in the inbox of this page.

Step 5: We are almost done. Open your website template and copy-paste the following code in the footer of your template. You need to replace the App_ID from Step 2 and Facebook Page_ID from Step 4.

<div class="fb-customerchat" page_id="PAGE_ID"></div>

    <script>

      window.fbAsyncInit = function() {
        FB.init({
          appId            : 'APP_ID',
          autoLogAppEvents : true,
          xfbml            : true,
          version          : 'v2.11'
        });
      };

      (function(d, s, id){
        var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];
        if (d.getElementById(id)) {return;}
        js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;
        js.src = "https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js";
        fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);
      }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));
      
    </script>

That’s it. Your Facebook Chat widget is now live on your website. If you are not seeing the Facebook messenger logo on your pages yet, clear the cache and make sure the website domain is listed in the domain that you have whitelisted in step 3.

Greeetings and Out-of-office Messages

With Facebook Messenger Chat, you can set a welcome greeting that will show up instantly as soon as a visitor initiates a conversation. Similarly, you can set up an away message that will be displayed when you are unable to join the live chat.

To configure these messages, go to your Facebook Page, Settings, Messaging and update the Response Assistant section.

Note for Adblock Users

Please do note that the widget is served via Facebook. Thus, if you are using any adblock add-on that blocks social plugins from loading, the chat widget may not show up for you.

How to Create Personalized Documents from a Google Spreadsheet in Minutes

Introducing Document Studio, a powerful Google add-on that lets you effortlessly generate documents and reports using merge data stored inside Google Sheets. It can also create documents with live data from Google Forms submissions. The generated documents can be automatically sent inside personalized email messages using built-in Mail Merge.

There’s zero learning curve and you can work inside the familiar Google Docs environment. The documents can be produced in PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and several other formats. The generated files are uploaded to your Google Drive, they can be instantly shared and there’s also an option to send files directly to the printer via Google Cloud Print.

The uses cases are endless. Businesses can streamline workflows and send professional looking invoices to customers. A school teacher can print individual exam certificates of every student in her classs. An instructor can generate personalized training handouts for attendees.

Getting Started with Document Studio

It takes 3 easy steps to get started.

  1. Create a template inside Google Docs, Google Sheets or Google Slides and add placeholders, such as {{Name}} or {{Address}}, for merge fields.
  2. Create a Google Sheet with the source data. The column headings will correspond to the placeholders in the template while the rows represent the records.
  3. Install the document merge add-on and follow the wizard to produce the documents. Document Studio will create one document per row in the sheet.

Document Studio includes a WYSIWYG email editor to help you send the merged documents to one or more recipients inside personalized email messages.

If your template is a Google Spreadsheet and it contains any formulas, they are re-calculated and evaluated in the generated document. You can also include unique images, Google Maps, QR Code images and PayPal payment links in generated documents with the help of simple spreadsheet functions.

In addition to document merge, the add-on can also be used for creating documents in real-time from Google Forms submissions.

Watch the video tutorial on YouTube or check the help center to learn more about Document Studio.

automate document workflow

Schedule a Phone Call to Yourself and Politely Escape any Boring Situation

You have been invited to a meeting that would last really long. You cannot say “no” but secretly wish that someone calls your phone in the middle of that never-ending meeting and rescue you from the boring situation.

Well, you can take the help of a human friend or use IFTTT, the versatile automation app available for both iPhone and Android. With IFTTT, you can easily create a workflow (applet) that would simulate a fake phone call to yourself at the scheduled time and help you smoothly exit that meeting.

What’s new then? The phone calling service has been part of IFTTT for some time now but it was earlier limited to the U.S. region only. The latest version of the IFTTT app brings phone calling to everyone outside the U.S. as well. Let’s get started.

phone-call-yourself.png

Schedule an Automated Phone Call to Yourself

Create a free account at IFTTT and enable the Date Time service and the VoIP Call service.

Next, create a new applet and choose Date Time for the “this” condition. The trigger should be set to “Every day” and then choose the time when you want your phone to ring. If you wish to receive multiple calls, you’ll need to setup multiple applets, one per call.

For the “that” action, choose the VoIP call service and specify any text message. The calling service will speak the message when you receive the call. That’s it. Make sure your phone is connected to the Internet else the IFTTT applet won’t run.

Also see: How to Schedule Emails in Gmail

Ring your Mobile Phone on Demand

If you forgot to set the scheduled phone call, IFTTT offers another good option to help exit a situation. You can tap the IFTTT widget on your phone screen and it will simulate a phone call. Here’s how:

Install the IFTTT widget on your phone screen. Next, create a new applet like before but set the “this” condition to IFTTT’s own Button widget. For the “that” action, choose the “Call my Phone” action and specify the text that will play out during the call.

That’s it. Tap the widget on the phone, it fakes a call and you can politely excuse yourself.