5 cool Google Apps tricks for business users

Here are some of Google Apps' best hidden features -- including a solution to the age-old question: "Was that meeting time PST or EST?"

You're probably familiar with the Google Apps basics: Perhaps you use Gmail or have uploaded some files to Google Docs, or maybe you've tinkered in Google Sites to develop your own Web site. But whether you're new to Google Apps or you're a seasoned user, it's worth taking a deeper look.

Google has built into its suite some lesser-known shortcuts and tricks that can make your use of Google apps more customized, streamlined and simple. Consider these five to start.

1. Enable shortcuts in Gmail for faster use

Gmail keyboard shortcuts
Gmail keyboard shortcuts

Google's Gmail shortcuts -- almost 50 of them available in total -- help you save time while reading, composing, deleting and archiving e-mails in your inbox.

By default, this shortcuts feature is turned off. To enable it, log into your Gmail account and choose "Settings" from the navigation bar on the top right of your screen. The third option is "Keyboard shortcuts" -- choose "Keyboard shortcuts on."

Take a look at a longer set of Gmail shortcuts here.

[Have you checked out Google Apps lately? Read: 5 (More) Google Labs Projects that Should Be on Your Radar.]

2. Add events to Google Calendar via SMS

If you're at the airport and forgot to schedule a meeting in your Google Calendar, don't worry: You can easily add events via your cell phone in a few quick steps.

First, sign into your Google Calendar account and choose "Settings." Then, click the "Mobile Setup" tab and enter the necessary information. A verification code will be sent to your phone; enter the code in the appropriate field and click "Finish setup."

Once the setup is complete, you can send events to your calendar via your phone. Do so by texting the details of your event (for example: "Dinner with John at Jimmy's 6:30pm May 16) to GVENT (48368). You'll receive a confirmation text message shortly after, and the event will appear in your calendar.

3. Whiteboard collaboratively with Google Drawings

Google Drawings is the newest app added to Google's suite of cloud-based tools. This stand-alone editor in Google Docs lets you create charts, diagrams, designs and other schematics -- perfect if you're working on visualizing a project timeline or even mind-mapping an idea.

Using Google Drawings to create a chart
Using Google Drawings to create a chart

To access Google Drawings, sign into your account and click "Documents." Then click "Create new" and choose "Drawing" from the drop-down menu to begin your work.

A few other highlights: You can edit your drawings in real time with anyone you choose by selecting "Share" and inviting people. You can also chat with others who are editing your drawing, from within the drawings editor. These two features will be rolled out fully by next month; right now you can opt in to its "preview" by visiting your Docs settings page, choosing the "Editing tab" and clicking "Create new text documents using the latest version of the document editor."

Also, the drawings editor supports alignment guides, snap to grid and publishing drawings as images.

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