One of my absolute favorite things about watching others teach is to see different ways things can be done. I love learning big ideas from others, but I swear, often times my biggest ah-ha moments are when I watch someone else use a hack to save time. I love hacks. I hoard hacks. They save time and make my life easier, so I use them whenever I can.
And the more I talk with other educators, they’re in the same boat: time is precious. Mental bandwidth is hard to come by. We all need to do anything we can to make our lives easier. So, I want to share the wealth. I have chosen 7 of my favorite simple, yet powerful Google hacks to share with you to save you time and make your life easier. Be sure to get to the end for a bonus hack! I may have saved one of my favorites for last.
Hack #1: Reopen Closed Tab
Speaking of learning from others, have you ever worked so hard to get to a certain webpage (go to this site, click here, scroll, hover, then click…), only to accidentally hit that pesky “x” on the right of the Chrome tab and lose it all? It can be so frustrating! But oh so easily fixed. Enter “Reopen Closed Tab.”
I’m starting with this hack since it is always a favorite in my sessions, and this Chrome option recently moved. So if you were already familiar, I want to be sure you don’t freak out, thinking it’s gone (like I did).
All you need to do to quickly reopen any tab you’ve closed is to right-click on a blank space on your tab bar in Chrome (see screenshot).
Right-click, then click “Reopen Closed Tab” and voila! Chrome will open the most recently closed tab for you, in just two clicks. But wait, there’s more! This feature has a history to it, so if you go and right-click and click “Reopen Closed Tab” again, Chrome will open the second-to-last tab that has been closed…and so on. It keeps a history of your tabs. It’s a super handy feature and can save loads of time. I use it all the time!
Hack #2: Chrome History (on multiple devices!)
Speaking of Chrome history…this leads me to my next hack perfectly: Chrome History (and on multiple devices!). Let’s say you’re looking for a site you visited yesterday. Reopen closed tab isn’t efficient because you’ve been to countless tabs since yesterday. This is when you turn to Chrome history. Chrome History is located in the Chrome menu, found when you click on the 3 dots (or snowman, as some call it) in the upper-right corner of your window. See screenshot:
When you hover over History, a drop-down of about 8 of your most recent sites visited will appear. If you click on History, you’re taken to your complete Chrome History, where you can see all sites visited over time, organized by date. You can search your history, and my favorite, you can even see your History from other devices (where you’re logged into Chrome under the same account). See screenshot:
I use this feature ALL the time. Often times I’ll start reading or working on something on my phone, realize I need more space, so I head over to my computer or Chromebook. Accessing my phone History on my computer allows me to open the Chrome tab right away, without missing a beat. Try it. You won’t regret it.
Hack #3: Copy multiple files in Drive (my hack for new Google Sites templates!)
I find all sorts of reasons to quickly copy a Google Drive file, and as a teacher, even if you have access to Classroom, you may find yourself in a position where you need multiple copies of a particular file. Quickly. I find myself in this position with the new Google Sites quite a bit. You can’t “make a copy” of a new Google Site for each student in Google Classroom. Site Maestro and true templates are only for Classic Sites (at this point). So what are we to do? While it’s still not the most efficient process, making copies of multiple files in Drive can help save quite a bit of time.
Let me tell you more about what I mean. When you’re in Drive, if you right-click on a file, one of the options on that menu is to “Make a copy.” See screenshot for reference.
Well, this handy feature also pops up if you’ve selected multiple files at one time. In the screenshot below, you can see that I have 4 new Google Sites selected before right-clicking. Side note: you can select multiple files by holding down the Shift button when clicking.
When you click “Make a copy” with multiple files selected, Drive will make a copy of each site for you all at once. It takes a moment since Sites are larger files, but it’s still quicker than right-clicking and copying on each individual site! Here’s a screenshot to show you what my Drive looked like after I clicked “Make a copy” in the scenario above, with 4 sites selected:
If I were doing this for an entire class, I would then select all 8 sites that I now have, and copy those. Then I would have 16 sites…and so on. It doesn’t matter how many sites you’ve selected, you can create a copy of all of them in just two-clicks (and a little patience as Drive works hard to copy them as quickly as possible).
You can see that the names of the copied sites aren’t the prettiest, but don’t let that deter you. If you try this process even one time, I bet you’ll come up with a quick way to sort out the names of the sites. One idea is to have all of the Sites in a shared folder, and your students can go in and choose one to rename. Or, you could take a quick couple of minutes and rename each Site – up to you how you do it!
And remember, making copies of multiple files at once isn’t just limited to new Google Sites files. I have just found this feature super handy with the new Google Sites. I’d love to know ways you’ve used this feature with other files in Drive – please comment below!
Hack #4: Control to open in new tab
When I’m on a website, and I want to click a link to open a new page, oftentimes I want to keep my current page open. I want the link I click to open in a new tab. There are multiple ways to open a link in a new tab, but the way I find myself using the most – since it’s the quickest, is to hold the Control button (Command on a Mac) down when you click on a link.
Holding the Control button down when you click a link tells Chrome to automatically open that link in a new tab. That way, you’ve preserved your original tab while still opening a new tab. Still with just one, single click. It seems small, but I bet once you start using this hack, you’ll find yourself using it all the time.
Hack #5: Control + Shift + V – Match destination formatting when pasting
When you paste copied text using the two most popular methods of pasting: either right-click or use Control +V (Command on a Mac), it can take 10+ clicks to get that text to match the formatting of its new destination. Think: 2 clicks for each – font, size, color, highlight, and then add in bold, italicize, underline…the list goes on. I think you’re getting the point. Clicks equal time, and nobody has time for all of that!
This is why I am constantly using Ctrl + Shift + V to paste text. It automatically matches destination formatting without all of the extra clicks. It’s a massive time saver! Check out the GIF below to see what I mean. You obviously can’t see the keyboard in the GIF, but after I’ve selected the text in the original Doc (where it’s black), and copied it using Ctrl + C, I head over to the new Doc with purple, larger font, I just hold Ctrl+Shift+V to paste, and voila! The pasted text matches the formatting of the new destination.
Hack #6: Google Search Settings & Tools
Do you ever conduct a Google Search and hope the most recent articles will rise to the top? Or in Google images, do you spend a bunch of time looking into the copyright of each image you wish to use? Or most importantly, do you cross your fingers like crazy when you or your students are searching, hoping desperately that the district filter is working and nothing inappropriate pops up?
All of the scenarios above equal time, and in some cases, stress! If you’re unaware of what Google’s Search Settings and Tools can do for you, please do yourself a huge favor and read on.
First off, where are Google Search Settings and Tools? They live just underneath the search bar. If you don’t see them, conduct your search, entering your term in the box, and then you’ll see search options pop up on the results page.
You’ll see that you can quickly filter your search down to just include images, Videos, News, etc. And each of those areas of Google have their own set of Tools. For this post, I’m going to talk about the Settings and Tools for your general Google Search, but please remember that there’s more Tools to find in Images, Videos, etc.!
First off, let’s take a look at our general Google Search Tools. This is where you can specify the date of your results. I use this all of the time to find the most current information on a topic.
When you look at Tools when you’re in Google Images, that’s where you can search for images based on copyright. This was a game-changer for me!
Back to your general Google Search area…did your ears perk when I mentioned filtering inappropriate content earlier? If so, you’ll want to be sure to check out Google Search Settings. Under Settings, you’ll find the option to Turn on SafeSearch.
If you manage accounts in your school, be sure to check out how to Lock SafeSearch for devices & networks you manage.
To be honest, this hack is actually a boatload of hacks all wrapped up into one. Hopefully, now that you’re aware of the Settings and Tools areas in Search, you’ll be inclined to click around and find out what other awesome time-saving options are there for you!
Hack #7: Force Copy Link
Have you ever had a Google file that colleagues and/or students frequently copy? If so, how many “Request for access” emails have you received? If we were together in person right now, I feel like so many of you would be giving me a confirming head-nod. For some reason, it can be very difficult for people to figure out how to make a copy of a Google file, whether it be a Doc, Slideshow, Sheet, Drawing, and so on.
The hack I’m about to show you has saved me and my colleagues countless clicks and confusion, and it’s saved my email inbox from unnecessary “Request for access” emails.
This hack is all in the web address for your Google file. All Google file links end in either /edit or /view – it’s okay if there are letters or numbers after.
The simple version of this hack is to just delete the word “edit” or “view” and all of the text after, and then put the word “copy” in its place:
And when people visit this link, the one that ends in “copy,” they will see this:
All they have to do is click “Make a copy,” and they’re all set! Super easy.
Sometimes people appreciate being able to preview the file they’re copying. If that’s the case, you can create a template link that allows users to do just that. Instead of replacing the end of the link with “copy,” you’ll use “template/preview.” When you use this link, you’ll see a preview of the file with a “Use Template” option in the upper-right corner. Again, super easy and direct for people looking to make copies of Google files!
Your inbox and students/colleagues will appreciate if you use this hack to simplify the copying process!
BONUS HACK: Backwards search in Explore for citation
This is something I discovered, sort of in desperation. I was up against a deadline, and I had finished all of my writing and research, but I needed to properly cite a few of my sources. If you’re like me, while you adore the Explore tool in Docs, sometimes you find yourself conducting your research in a new tab in Chrome, away from the Explore tool completely.
Since I had used websites outside the Explore tool, I couldn’t create a citation in just one click – probably my favorite feature of Explore. (If you’re unaware of this hack, click here to learn more. It’s amazing.) And the websites I had used for my research were not coming up in the Explore tool, no matter how I worded my search. This is when I got creative.
I went to the tab that had the site I referenced. I copied the web address for that site, then I went back to my research Doc, and I pasted the web address into the Explore tool search box and hit Enter. Alas, the first result was in fact the site I had used! I then hovered over the result to find my beloved quotation button that allowed me to cite my source in one easy click.
I created a quick GIF to try to show you what I mean.
You’d be surprised how often I use this hack. I absolutely love it.
Okay, I am going to stop myself now! As you can probably tell, I love hacks. I couldn’t even narrow it down to 7. I had to sneak a bonus in there. What hack will you try first? And what hacks do you have to share? Please comment below!
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Katie Christie is a Google Certified Educator, Innovator, Trainer, and past LearnZillion DreamTeam member. She currently works with the EdTechTeam as a Spotlight Speaker, Online Lead, Keynote, and Blogger. In 2015, she worked as a partner with Google to help rewrite the Google Certification Training Center content. Katie most recently worked as the Technology Integration Specialist at Runyon Elementary School in Littleton, Colorado. She has nine years of experience in the classroom. She spent her first 4 years of teaching in Shaker Heights City Schools in Ohio, a district known for its academic excellence and cultural diversity. Then she had the incredible experience of teaching and learning in a 1:1 Linux-based netbook 5th grade classroom in Littleton, Colorado for 4 years where Google Apps for Education was integrated seamlessly into the curriculum. Katie has been a Lead Learner for the Google Teacher Academy (now known as the Google Innovator Academy) numerous times and helped with the selection process for each Academy. Katie enjoys sharing her passion for effective technology integration in the classroom by networking with other educators, whether the connection happens online or face-to-face.