Using Google Docs to make a survey

May 18, 2009 in Hosted "Office", Tips

google-docs-survey-exampleDid you know you can make a free, and rich survey or poll using Google Docs? It’s simple to set up, and as a bonus it drops all your results into a spreadsheet where you can slice/dice/analyze/chart/graph or whatever.

To create a survey, inside Google Docs go to New then click on Form as shown at right.

Go through and create your questions, set the response type (multiple choice, checkbox, text, drop down, etc.) where you’ll enter in the possible answers and if the question is required or not.

When you’re done, select a theme (the look of your survey) and save it and a link to your survey will appear at the bottom of your screen. You can then copy/paste that link into your website, Twitter or whatever to publicize your survey. You can also embed the survey right on your site if you wish.

The results are then fed into a spreadsheet that you’ll find in your Google Docs document area.

Here’s an example I whipped up for this post. Enjoy!

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Google Sites

July 23, 2008 in 4 out of 5 stars, A service, Collaboration, Free, Hosted "Office", Hosted software, Issue trackers, Productivity, Project management

What is it?


Google Sites: A poor man's (pretty darn good) intranet. An online, Google-hosted wiki-meets-project management software service. Google gobbled up Jot Spot (a hosted wiki service headed by Joe Kraus) before it even really got going, it was later re-born as Google Sites.

Google_sites

Who makes it?

Google

Why is it the killerest?

I have a growing and widely dispersed team for my latest venture. I've set up a Google Sites website which is serving as an "intranet" for this team, and it's working quite well.

It's like a wiki in that anyone (whom you allow) can edit or add pages or documents. It also has several built-in tools to help you create things like, a file download repository, a todo list, an issue tracker, or an announcements board.

Googlesitesss There are also many more options available through "Gadgets" like a Google Calendar, a Presentation (read: Microsoft Powerpoint-like document), or a Spreadsheet. Plus hundreds of third party gadgets like maps, weather, games, news feeds, and chat. Not to mention a million other useless things no one would ever want (Woody Allen quotes?). Fortunately it's easy to ignore that stuff.

Most anyone can set one up and manage it, it's not difficult, there are no HTML skills required. You have some limited control over the look and feel; for example you can easily brand it with your own logo and colors.

They've made management of the site very simple. You can invite others as owners, collaborators or just viewers. You can also optionally make the site visible to everyone on the internet.

You get 100MB of storage space for free, and can bump that up to 25GB per account for their paid version which costs $50/user/yr.

They even have an API.

What could be improved?

My primary beef is no discussion forum built in. That would make it twice as valuable for us. Even if they just took Google Groups and married it in, we'd have a winner. This is a huge omission.

I would also like the option not to have previous versions of all my pages available to everyone. It's not a huge deal, but I don't need the last umpteen version of a page viewable forever, and there's no facility to disallow this.

How much does it cost?

Free for most everything, $50 per user per year for the deluxe version with lots of storage space.

Rating?

Reviewed by Carson McComas

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ThinkFree Portable Office for U3

September 20, 2007 in 4 out of 5 stars, A piece of software, Hosted "Office"

What is it?


ThinkFree Portable Office for U3: A portable, zero-footprint, Microsoft Office compatible office suite you can cart around with you on a U3 USB drive. It includes Write (MS Word clone), Calc (Excel), and Show (PowerPoint).

Thinkfree

Who makes it?

ThinkFree, Corp.

Why is it the killerest?

Thinkfree2

The U3 technology is nifty and this is a perfect use for it. It's like having your own private mini-computer with an Office suite that you bolt onto any computer you travel to. It has strong compatibility with MS Office, a beautiful clean user interface. 1/10th the price of MS Office. Surprisingly lightweight. Secure. Theoretically leaves behind no trace on the computer you hook into (which is usually true as long as you remove the U3 drive properly).

They've got versions that'll work with your iPod. Plus the obligatory hosted version, and even a server version, and a desktop version.

What could be improved?

There are a few UI differences in the Office software that take some getting used to.

As a company, ThinkFree is going in so many directions their marketing is confusing.

Windows Only (because of the U3) but they have other versions (non U3) that are compatible with PC/Mac/Linux.

How much does it cost?

$50

Rating?

Reviewed by Carson McComas

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Highrise

April 3, 2007 in 4 out of 5 stars, CRM, Hosted "Office", Hosted software

What is it?


Highrise: Take a CRM, rip out the extraneous confusing garbage no one uses (or understands), accidentally throw a bit of the baby out with the bathwater, but not enough to break the deal, and you've got Highrise.

Highrise logo

Who makes it?

37signals, LLC

Why is it the killerest?

Highrise is extremely clean, immediately understandable, well thought-out and useful.

37signals makes software that I use after the initial infatuation wears off. I'm a regular user of most of their other products (they're best known for Basecamp). After spending a few days with Highrise I'm confident this one's a keeper too.

By appearances, they didn't try to emulate a CRM so much as solve the problems folks typically turn to a CRM to solve. The result is an elegant contact and communication manager.

I'm using it to keep track of the communication I have (email and phone) with partners and customers. When I'm on a call, I just open it up and take notes as we talk. For email I love how I can BCC (blind carbon copy) an email to my Highrise "drop box" and it will attach that email to the contact to whom I sent it. I can also forward any email I get from a contact to that same address and again it's attached and everything is organized. Outlook remains my cesspool of chaos, Highrise is my clean organized communication headquarters.

A little tip: set an Outlook or Gmail rule/filter to auto-forward contacts from specific parties to your Highrise email drop box to make sure nothing gets missed.

It also does reminders, to-dos, contacts, and "cases" where you can group and manage all the contacts, notes, and files related to a specific undertaking, or "case."

Additionally, while I haven't tested it out yet there are several features for sharing all this information amongst various users.

It also supports some ninja moves where you can (for example) forward an email and create a task at the same time based on how you format the email address going to your drop box.

Note that there's a version specifically catered to freelancer/solo folks called the "Solo Plan." It's at the bottom of the pricing matrix (and hard to spot).

The help section is well done and gave me the answers to all my questions as I ramped up the (very gentle) learning curve.

This really is a thing of beauty. 

What could be improved?

Highrise shows its youth. There are a few immature features that I'm sure they'll resolve in time. The software was released on March 20, 2007 and they've already released several new features and re-jigged the subscription plans. It's clear they want to make this work for users.

The one disappointing omission I found immediately was the inability to wholesale import my Outlook contacts (note they do allow "vCard" importing which you can do one-at-a-time from Outlook). Outlook can spit out a predictably formatted text file, so I'm guessing (and hoping) they'll add this feature soon.

The only big feature I expected but didn't find was a shared calendar. I haven't missed it yet, but when I start sharing this with other users, I would love something to get me away from Microsoft Exchange for that.

How much does it cost?

From free to $150/mo for the motherload

Rating?

Reviewed by Carson McComas

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Google Docs and Spreadsheets

October 11, 2006 in 4 out of 5 stars, A service, Hosted "Office", Hosted software, Productivity

What is it?


Google Docs and Spreadsheets: From Google's acquisition of Writely coupled with Google Spreadsheet comes Google Docs and Spreadsheets. A hosted, Gmail-like service which provides (you guessed it) a hosted document and spreadsheet editor.

Just login with your Google/Gmail account to get started.

Docsslogo

Who makes it?

Google

Why is it the killerest?

Google is hit and miss on interface design (or maybe we just need to get used to their approach). This one is done quite well. The options are simple - and happen to be the only ones I think most of us care about anyway. The upside? No bloated confusing morass of menu options.

All your documents are in a nice, clean, hosted centralized location allowing you, or colleagues to access them from anywhere. You can even upload existing doc(Word)/rtf/xls(Excel)/csv etc documents to the repository.

The collaboration stuff really is nice. Send invites, track revisions, chat (IM-like, right in the window) while you work together on a doc, etc. (It's similar to Writeboard only with richer collaboration tools). You can also invite folks to view, but not edit.

You can also export your creations to common formats (doc/rtf/xls/csv/pdf/html/open office). PDF export is a pretty darn cool feature.

Has a very nice spell check.

The spreadsheet (doc too?) allows you to autosave periodically to keep you from losing work (nice touch).

You can also post word docs to your blog (nice clean drop-down+click setup for Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal, SquareSpace, BlogHarbor, Blogware). And you can manually set up other services, including TypePad and Moveable Type, but it takes a bit more finessing.

Works in IE and FireFox (haven't tested others, although I suspect all modern browsers work.)

What could be improved?

I'm not sure how comfortable we'll be having our documents hosted such that without a connection (read: airplane, vacation, etc.) we don't have access to them. Do rich collaboration tools and a hard-drive-crash-resistant hosted repository outweigh the annoyance of that?

They are quite simple in functionality - probably 90% of what we all need, that last 10% may be a deal breaker for power users, especially the spreadsheet side. It's not as eerily omniscient as Excel, if you rely on that.

How much does it cost?

Free

Rating?

Reviewed by Carson McComas

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Dabble DB

July 10, 2006 in 4 out of 5 stars, Hosted "Office", Hosted software

What is it?


Dabbledb Dabble DB: A hosted web application replacement for desktop "consumer" level database software.

Who makes it?

Smallthought Systems, Inc.

Why is it the killerest?

It's a nice, simple, and quite impressive, hosted spreadsheet/database solution. It has a clean and simple interface, but it's also very powerful. It's obvious that a great deal of thought, work, and refinement has gone into this product.

What could be improved?

I'm not sure how much sensitive or critical information I'd want to trust to a hosted environment like this.

A novice will still have a learning curve (as they would with any solution).

How much does it cost?

From $10 to $150/mo. Starts with a free 1 month trial.

Rating?

Reviewed by Carson McComas

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iRows

May 2, 2006 in 3 out of 5 stars, Hosted "Office", Hosted software, Productivity

What is it?


iRows: iRows is an Online (web based) spreadsheets application, which lets you create, share and collaborate online. With just a web browser, you can access your spreadsheets from anywhere. iRows supports functions, charts, sort, dynamic stock prices and a lot more. You can upload or export Excel, OpenOffice and CSV files.

Irows

Who makes it?

Yoah Bar-David and Itai Raz

Why is it the killerest?

Spreadsheets are killer applications, and iRows makes spreadsheets accessible from anywhere, easy to collaborate on,  and easy to display in other pages (like blogs)

What could be improved?

It could use more functions and be multi-lingual. They have a few more ideas on their "What's new" and "What's planned" page.

How much does it cost?

It's free

Rating?

Reviewed by Suzan Bird

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Writely

September 15, 2005 in 3 out of 5 stars, Hosted "Office", Hosted software, Productivity

What is it?


Writely: A web based document editor. (Kind of like a web based Microsoft Word).

Writelylogo

Who makes it?

Upstartle, LLC

Why is it the killerest?

It has all the stuff from Word that you actually use, plus some very cool collaboration features that make it great for sharing (you can invite others to share by email, they are then able to edit the document with you, or you can share/"publish" it read-only).

It retains the complete document history, so you can roll back to previous versions at any time. 

You can upload a document to it, or create it there from scratch. It has rich document editing capabilities.

You can also download documents as .doc (Word) files, HTML or zip. It will also allow you post to your Blogger blog (other blog support coming).

What could be improved?

As a hosted application, it has the inherent downsides associated. Namely: how do I work on a document when I'm on a plane? It's also unclear what they will charge for the service when it leaves Beta (although they claim they will at least have some form of a free version).

How much does it cost?

Free during beta. "There will be a range of free and paid options, depending on usage."

Rating?

Reviewed by Carson McComas

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Zimbra Open-Source Collaboration Suite

September 14, 2005 in 3 out of 5 stars, A piece of software, Free, Hosted "Office", Hosted software, Productivity

What is it?


Zimbra Open-Source Collaboration Suite: Previously known as Liquid Systems, Zimbra is the new name of the company, as well as its flagship product: an extensible open-source client/server system for managing email, contacts, and calendaring that can be accessed with either a slick, cross-browser, AJAX-powered user interface, or via desktop applications like Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird/Sunbird, Apple Mail/iCal, and others. The server that powers all this, Zimbra Collaboration Server, is written in Java, and sits upon familiar open source components like a MySQL database, a Postfix Mail Transfer Agent (MTA) (with SpamAssassin and ClamAV for anti-spam and anti-virus by default) and a Tomcat Web Application Server. Has some other very cool features like message tagging, dynamic search folders, 3rd party tools integration. Be sure to check out the Flash demo and then try the live demo yourself to see the power of this tool.

Zimbra_logo

Who makes it?

Zimbra

Why is it the killerest?

It's like someone put Gmail, Outlook, Mail.app, iCalendar in a blender, and whipped up an application that runs in the browser. If you need a calendaring, mail, and contact management system and don't want to drop the cash on Outlook, give Zimbra a try for free.

What could be improved?

Well, it's not a hosted application, so it requires a Linux technician to install it, configure it and get it working on your end. This may be out of reach for many potential clients (and it's a shame). But the cost of having a technician set up and maintain this, for a small business may be a huge cost savings over other office productivity applications with which it competes.

How much does it cost?

Free, but it wouldn't be free to setup (technician's time, and the hardward to host it).

Rating?

Reviewed by Brian Sweeting

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