Thursday, January 8, 2015

OpenClipart, Thesaurus, and Easybib: Three Simple Add-Ons to Google Docs

Today's guest post comes to us from Julie Brem, librarian at Colleyville Heritage High School.  You can follow Julie on Twitter @juliebrem 
Do you find yourself living more and more in Google Drive world, and less and less in Microsoft Office-land?  If so, you probably still reach for features you expect to be in Google Docs that  are part of much-beloved Word.  However, sometimes these features seem to be missing from Google Docs’ relatively pared-down menu.  It may be time to discover that choice nested between “Table” and “Help”--Add-ons.  There you will find a multitude of options bridging the divide between the old school and new, “the ground” and “the cloud”, i.e., Word vs. Google Drive.


Despite recent news that Microsoft is actually abandoning its ClipArt Gallery, we have all become accustomed to putting a little guy in a desk on our handouts, amidst apples, pencils and the usual K-12 fare.  So where is the little guy in the desk in Google Docs--or this...gal?  


*Gasp*  Where did she come from?  Well, thanks to Google apps being open to add-ons by external developers, clip art can be added via something called OpenClipart.  To add this feature, simply click on Add-Ons from the menu of a Google Doc, select “Get Add-Ons”, and scroll to find OpenClipart or search for it.  From there you can click on the “Free” button to install it.  Afterwards, you will forever find OpenClipart on your Add-ons menu in every Google Doc you create.  You can search for clip art and when you click on a piece, it will automatically insert into your document.  Note that you can choose to wrap text or break the text around your art, drag it around, as well as resize it.  So rejoice!  We can now continue to put worms coming out of apples on our handouts.


Then there’s the thesaurus.  Where is the thesaurus in Google Docs?  Well, it’s not built in, but it’s available as an add-on.  Once again, go to your Add-ons menu, click on Get Add-ons, browse for and install Thesaurus.  Then you can highlight words, go to the Thesaurus from the Add-ons menu, and get cool synonyms or as the thesaurus suggested, “equivalent words.”  


And now for something really awesome that you probably want to share with your students (mostly secondary students): Easybib has a Google Doc Add-On.  By now hopefully you know how to get Add-ons, and once you get this one, here’s what it can do: you can enter a book title or journal article title, ISBN (or DOI for journal articles), or keywords, and Easybib will find the book, create a citation, and allow you to insert it.  For websites, you paste the URL and Easybib will start a citation for that as well from what information it can gather.  This Easybib Add-on, together with the Research Tool from the Tools menu, allows writers to possibly complete an entire paper, from researching to drafting to peer-editing, commenting and submitting, all from within Google Drive (and/or Google Classroom for the assigning and submitting part).  Pretty sweet!

Microsoft has had decades (yes, decades, believe it or not) to develop a myriad of features as a fully-functional word-processing program.  However, Google Docs, with the help of Add-ons by external developers, is quickly catching up and is more and more able to meet our everyday word processing needs and more.  These are just a few of the many Add-ons available, so have fun exploring and utilizing these cool tools!

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