An incubator of ideas, projects, and collaborations
Review by Kathy McCurley, 2017
G Suite, formerly known as Google Apps, is an online productivity suite with integrated support for collaboration, file sharing, and multi-system support. It comes with many basic office software applications, Google Docs (Word processing), Google Sheets (Spreadsheet), and Google Slides (Presentation), among other valuable tools. You can get a brief introduction in the video below.
Price: Free for educational institutions, business pricing available (free, but simplified version available for personal use)
Platform: Browser based, Apps available for mobile devices, Chromebooks (provides the user support for the system's OS)
A personal account through Google is as simple as registering/creating an email address. The process is more extensive if you want to enroll in the Education or Business packages, but the suite offers a lot of great features that offset the process of enrolling.
Ease of Use:
Odds are that you already have a Google account and probably use some of the elements on a daily basis. Google accounts run a lot of sites (including YouTube) and that account is all you need to get started using the various Google Apps. Additionally, if you are even basically familiar with the Microsoft Office programs it is a fairly easy translation to these products.
Personal/Basic Account: Free through creation of a google account (usually an @gmail.com account) gives access to most commonly used Google Apps (Drive, Docs, Hangouts, Gmail, Calendar, etc.)
Educational Account: Free but you do need to go through an application process (See here for more details) includes all of the personal account items but adds in Google Classroom, customized domain names for email
Business Account: Subscription based at a rate per user, $5 per user for Basic, $10 per user for Business, Enterprise users will need to contact Google for more information (see here for more details); includes many of the features of the Educational Account (excluding Google Classroom), and includes more cloud storage, and more powerful collaboration tools and features.
This is a product where a special trial time is not needed. I use both the personal and education accounts. As I use it on a daily basis to organize and run my life it's only fair to mention some of the ways that I utilize it. Gmail is my preferred email account, I have the app on my phone and can easily manage multiple email accounts turning off notifications and inboxes with a few simple clicks/swipes. At work I use Google Classroom to deliver content to my students on a daily basis, 98% of my student work is turned in via Classroom. Google Drive is used to share documents between myself and my students, as well as among my colleagues. I also use Google Drive to share photos and other documents between myself and friends for personal collaboration, as well as transportability - I have many of the Google Apps on my mobile devices for working on the go.
Now that I use Google Classroom (watch the above intro video for more information) it's hard to imagine going back to the days of my students turning in their work to a network folder or a flash drive that would need to be transported home for grading. Now my students' work is accessible anywhere with internet access, there's no more worrying about accidentally forgetting the drive at work. I can also deliver lessons to my students remotely if I should ever (heaven forbid) get sick, and upload in a format they are familiar with so class is as interrupted as little as possible. Additionally, my students can access their assignments from anywhere, they don't need to worry about losing assignments, or if they miss the notes they're uploaded in Classroom after lecture so they can catch up with a read through and a few questions.
In my personal sphere I can upload novels to Google Docs and rest easy knowing they are safe in the Cloud and I can access them anywhere or with a few clicks share it easily with someone who has volunteered to edit a passage or offer an opinion.
While Google Docs and Google Sheets are fairly good replacements for their Microsoft counterparts, they aren't a total replacement for Office 365. I maintain an Office 365 / OneDrive Subscription and utilize those apps on a fairly equal basis with the Google equivalents. Microsoft products do offer more options for formatting, but if you don't need these features the free Google versions can be a cheaper alternative without sacrificing too much. If advanced spreadsheet formulas, and precision word processing tweakings and formatting are your thing then you're going to want Microsoft.
One thing I really wish that Google would make available is the ability to lock areas of a document (like directions on a Google Docs worksheet) to protect them from accidental deletion by a student when working. This would also be helpful when sharing a class document that everyone is working on at once - it can get pretty messy in the digital sandbox after all.
One of the downfalls of the Google Apps is that they do require an internet connection in order to access your files. There is an offline mode, but in the past, I've had trouble working with it. While this isn't really a deal breaker for me, free is pretty hard to beat, it is something that I consider before working on a file.
I highly recommend the Google Apps/G Suite. It offers the security of the cloud, inter-connectivity, and real-time collaboration. Something to consider though is there is a cap on your storage, but as long as you aren't storing massive files on it (most Google files won't take up a lot of space) it is plenty. The business and education suites offer personalized domain emails with the ease of gmail, but even if you're going the personal account approach, the flexibility of a Google account is something that can't be ignored. In particular, the addition of the Google Classroom hub makes it a powerful instrument in the classroom.