Since its original debut back in 2006, G Suite has quickly evolved to become one of the best—and most popular—suites of office productivity tools on the market. As of January 2017, there were more than 4 million businesses paying for subscriptions, with 70 million G Suite for Education users. Since then, subscriptions have grown further.
If you’re looking to tap its true potential, this guide will show you some of the best G Suite tips and tricks to maximize your productivity with all of the available tools in G Suite.
Table of Contents
- General G Suite Tips and Tricks
- G Suite Tips and Tricks: Keep
- G Suite Tips and Tricks: Drive
- G Suite Tips and Tricks: Gmail
- 12. Visualize your email habits.
- 13. Send emails that self-destruct or require 2-step authorization to read.
- 14. Set up automatic filters.
- 15. Create canned responses.
- 16. Integrate with Calendar and Keep.
- 17. Set and track to-do items.
- 18. Use the Snooze button to delay emails.
- 19. Get to know keyboard shortcuts.
- 20. Mute annoying threads.
- 21. Un-send emails.
- 22. Change your Gmail tabs.
- 23. Use labels, markers, and stars.
- 24. Train Gmail to use your desired markings.
- G Suite Tips and Tricks: Docs
- G Suite Tips and Tricks: Sheets
- G Suite Tips and Tricks: Slides
- G Suite Tips and Tricks: Calendar
- G Suite Tips and Tricks: Contacts
- G Suite Tips and Tricks: Hangouts
- G Suite Tips and Tricks: Forms
- Making the Most of G Suite
General G Suite Tips and Tricks
We’ll start with some high-level tips and tricks meant to help you invest in the right G Suite products, and maximize your G Suite account overall:
1. Get the right package.
There are multiple G Suite packages available. There are also some niche G Suite packages, like G Suite for Education, if you work in a specific industry to which Google caters. Otherwise, your three main options are G Suite Basic, Business, or Enterprise. Basic is $6 per user per month and comes with most of the fundamentals you’ll need, but if you want more (i.e., unlimited) storage space, better support, and higher security controls, you’ll need a Business ($12 per user per month) or Enterprise ($25 per user per month) plan.
2. Explore third-party apps and add-ons.
One of the most notable advantages Google offers is its openness to third-party developers, G Suite apps, and G Suite add-ons. Through G Suite Marketplace, you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands of separate and integrated tools you can use to enhance your use of core G Suite products—or embed other functionalities in your daily used apps. Some of these are paid options, but many of them are completely free, so make sure you look through these options and take advantage of them.
3. Get to know the tools available in G Suite.
You’re likely already familiar with Gmail and Google Docs, but how often have you used Keep? And did you know that Google Forms was a thing? G Suite comes with more than a dozen individual tools, and nearly all of them will be at least somewhat beneficial for your organization. Don’t let these hidden gems remain hidden.
4. Use the universal Cloud Search feature.
If you have a Business or Enterprise plan, you’ll have access to a feature called “Cloud Search.” Google is a master of search, and this feature utilizes the company’s collective experience and knowledge. With it, you can perform a comprehensive search across all apps and (if necessary) all people to find exactly the file you need—when you need it. It saves a lot of time if the alternative is painstakingly browsing through your work.
5. Tightly control your user permissions and security.
You’ll get some administrative controls and security settings even with a Basic account, and these grow more robust as you scale up to better pricing plans. Take advantage of these; they aren’t just for show. If there’s ever a security breach in your organization, or if certain users get access to documents they shouldn’t be seeing, it could completely jeopardize your operation.
From here on out, we’ll focus on G Suite tips and tricks that relate to specific G Suite products.
G Suite Tips and Tricks: Keep
In case you aren’t familiar, Google Keep is a note-taking app in G Suite designed to help you take meeting notes, organize to-do lists, and accomplish all kinds of other important tasks. There are hundreds of ways to make use of it, but I’ve got two important tips and tricks you might miss on your first perusal:
6. Create team task lists.
Did you know you could create team-based task lists? There are a variety of ways to organize your tasks and to-do items, including assigned different labels to them, or color-coding them, like you would an old-fashioned sticky note. Create a different color and label for each team, enable sharing, and all of a sudden, you’ve got the perfect platform for comprehensive team-based to-dos.
7. Get location-based reminders.
You can use Google Keep to set reminders for various times, helping you remember to attend meetings or accomplish tasks at the end of the day. But did you know you could also set reminders for a location? For example, you could set your location as the local grocery store, and attach a list of items to pick up; that way, when you go to the store, you’ll get an automatic pop-up with instructions on what to get.
G Suite Tips and Tricks: Drive
Google Drive is G Suite’s built-in file storage and synchronization service. It’s a great way to keep your files organized, share them with teammates and clients, and back up your local devices. But these tips and tricks will help you use it even more efficiently:
8. Use “priority” and workspaces.
Within Drive, you probably already know you can use folders to organize files. But did you know you can also create a “workspace,” which allows you to group together files you typically use in conjunction with one another? In fact, Google will automatically recommend Workspaces to you based on your user activity—all you have to do is confirm its suggestion. You can also create and manage your own; I suggest setting one up for each department, or potentially, each of your major clients. You can also use the “priority” feature to set your most important files, or your to-do items, so they appear more prominently than the rest of your files.
9. Manage Drive permissions.
Sharing and collaborating on files is easy with Google Drive, but don’t get too lax with your sharing standards. As an administrator, make sure you’re managing your Drive permissions with close scrutiny.
10. Set expiration dates for sensitive files.
If you’re sharing something you want someone to see only for a fixed period of time, like a snapshot of a work-in-progress, you can control their access with expiration dates. In the Shared settings menu, you can click “Access expires” to set an expiration date of your choice.
11. See assigned tasks in real-time.
Google Docs, Sheets, and other platforms allow you to assign tasks to your teammates and collaborators, but how can you view all the tasks currently assigned to you at once? The answer is with Google Drive. Find a folder containing a file with a task assigned to you. There will be a small, gray circle on the right of the file name with a number; this will tell you where your action items lie. You can also use the Advanced Search feature to select “Action items only,” and display only the files and folders where action items assigned to you exist.
G Suite Tips and Tricks: Gmail
Ah, Gmail. Arguably the best email platform in the world, and one of the most fully customizable. I’ve written several guides on how to get the most out of Gmail, including this one with 40 Gmail-exclusive tips and tricks—accordingly, I won’t get into too much detail here. However, because Gmail is such an important and useful part of G Suite, I want to share some of my favorite tips and tricks with you:
12. Visualize your email habits.
You spend much of your work life emailing—either drafting emails, reading emails, or checking and organizing emails. Aren’t you curious to learn if there are any bad habits or inefficient practices holding you back? With EmailAnalytics, you can find out. It’s an innovative analytics tool for Gmail that allows you to visualize your email activity, including how many emails you send and receive, your average email response time, and more. You can also install it for your entire team, so you can evaluate your employees as well.
It’s possible to send an email with heightened security standards using the lock-and-clock icon in the draft mode of any message. Click it to access “Confidential mode,” which will allow you to set an expiration date (so the email can’t be read or accessed past a certain time or date), or require your recipient to verify their identity by providing an SMS passcode—essentially enabling two-factor authentication to view the email.
14. Set up automatic filters.
In Gmail, you can set up automatic filters to organize your emails as they come in, saving you tons of time in the long run. There are a few ways to do this, but the easiest is to conduct an advanced search using the search bar at the top of the desktop app; search for the types of emails you want to filter based on parameters like sender, recipient, subject line content, and more. Then, click “Create filter,” and instruct Gmail what to do with these types of emails in the future. You can always adjust your filters later in the Settings menu. For more specific instructions and a list of ideas of filters to get started, be sure to check out our more thorough guide on Gmail filters here.
15. Create canned responses.
The Gmail feature previously known as “canned responses” is now known as “templates,” but it serves the same purpose. Head to the Settings menu, navigate to the Advanced tab, and click Enable next to Templates to gain access to it. Once enabled, you’ll be able to type out a message in an email draft and save it as a template for future use. You can even name the template so it’s easier to identify, like “rejection letter” or “welcome aboard!” In the future, whenever you compose a new message, you can click the vertical ellipses in the corner, select templates, and access the content of your choice.
16. Integrate with Calendar and Keep.
Gmail offers the ability to integrate with thousands of apps, but two of the most valuable are G Suite’s own Calendar and Keep. With these, you can automatically convert any email in your inbox into a new calendar item, a note, or even a to-do item. With any message open, click the vertical ellipses at the top, then click Add to Tasks or Create event; from there, you’ll be able to edit the details and finalize the entry.
17. Set and track to-do items.
Speaking of to-do items, you can use the Tasks icon on the right side of the Gmail desktop app to keep track of everything you have to do. The interface here is super intuitive, and you can easily search and sort through your tasks to order them as you see fit. When you’re done, just check them off—it’s a great way to stay organized when navigating your inbox.
Sometimes, you’ll get an email that warrants a response, but you’re not ready to respond immediately. This is where the Snooze button really shines; with the email open, click the clock icon at the top and “snooze” the email until the time and date of your choosing. At that time and date, you’ll receive the email as if receiving it for the first time, alerting you to its presence. And if you need to refer back to the message before it comes in again, you can always head to the Snooze section of the left-hand menu to access it.
19. Get to know keyboard shortcuts.
Gmail has many built-in keyboard shortcuts—over 100, actually—and each one of them can save you a few seconds of time every time you use it. There’s a learning curve here, but if you can get to know common commands like draft new message or send, you can greatly increase your emailing efficiency. You can even create custom keyboard shortcuts of your own using the “Custom keyboard shortcuts” option of the Advanced tab in the Settings menu.
20. Mute annoying threads.
We’ve all had email threads that seem to go on and on needlessly, and they always seem to be the ones we shouldn’t have been CC’d on in the first place. If you find yourself in this annoying situation, head to the vertical ellipses icon at the top of the thread, and click “Mute.” You’ll hide the thread from your inbox and no longer receive new notifications about it. You can always unmute later.
21. Un-send emails.
Head to the Settings menu and scroll down the General tab until you find the Undo Send option. It should be enabled by default, but you’ll need to choose a period of time you have to “unsend” a sent email. I choose 30 seconds to have the greatest amount of time. When enabled, anytime you send an email, you’ll have a brief window of time when you can reclaim the email, preventing it from being fully sent. It’s great if you discover that you forgot to include an attachment, or if you suddenly notice a spelling error. It’s saved me more than once. For more help, see how to unsend an email in Gmail.
22. Change your Gmail tabs.
By default, your Gmail inbox will be organized with three main tabs at the top of your page, known as Categories. Primary will include most of your important messages, while Social keeps your social media notifications, and Promotions quarantines your marketing and advertising emails. You can change these in the Settings menu, under the Inbox tab; you can remove Social and/or Promotions, and/or add Updates and/or Forums to filter additional messages.
23. Use labels, markers, and stars.
Labels, markers, and stars are all systems of organization that can help you email more productively. Labels, for example, work kind of like folders; they allow you to tag emails with various qualities based on who sent them, how important they are, or any other factor of your choosing. Importance markers help you decide which emails are worth looking at, and different colored stars can help you determine what an email is about at first glance.
24. Train Gmail to use your desired markings.
Even better, if you use these systems consistently, Gmail will “learn” from your habits, and start to apply these as it sees fit to incoming emails, saving you time. If there’s a pattern Gmail doesn’t pick up on, you can always create a new filter for it.
G Suite Tips and Tricks: Docs
Let’s talk about Google Docs, G Suite’s version of Microsoft Word. These tips and tricks often elude newcomers, but can increase your productivity significantly:
25. Type with your voice.
Are your fingers tired after a long day of typing? Or did you never learn how to type the “right” way? Google Docs allows you to simply type with your voice! First, you’ll need to make sure you have a microphone attached to your computer. Then, click Tools and select Voice typing. After that, click the microphone icon that appears when you’re ready to speak. It takes some getting used to, and you’ll need to learn how to handle things like punctuation and correction, but if you can master it, you can type much faster.
26. Compare documents to highlight differences.
Have you ever compared two versions of a document, completely unaware of what the differences are? With the Compare tool, you can quickly and easily highlight the differences. With one version of the document open, click Tools, then Compare Documents. Here, you’ll be able to open a separate document, then compare the differences between the two.
27. Use digital signatures to quickly verify identities.
Google Docs is friendly to add-ons and extensions like Gmail is, so all you have to do is install an add-on to get access to digital signatures. This is an important security measure (and it can help you process contracts faster). There are many different providers, so browse by selecting “Add-ons” in the menu, and clicking “Get add-ons.” From there, you can search for signature extensions.
28. Instantly translate your documents.
Google’s translation services are still inferior to human translators, but they often get the job done. With a document open in Google Docs, click Tools, then Translate to translate an entire document, or a section of text you’ve selected. You’ll also need to choose the language to which you’re translating.
One of the best collaborative features in Google Docs is the comment feature, which is great for communicating with remote teammates on a single, shared document. When in a document, highlight a section and click the speech bubble icon that pops up on the right. Here, you can enter a comment. Once your comment is posted, you can click on the vertical ellipses to get a link, which you can use to direct people to this specific comment—that way they don’t have to go digging through the entire document to find it.
30. Browse through your past versions.
Your documents probably go through lots of different versions, just like mine. But occasionally, you’ll find a need to go back and see what changed, or revert to a previous version. You can do this in Google Docs by clicking File, then Version history, then See version history. Here, you’ll be able to see not only all the earlier versions of your document, but also who made edits, what they edited, and when they edited it. You can even name different versions to make it easier to reference in the future.
G Suite Tips and Tricks: Sheets
In Sheets, you can use some of the same tricks, like translating batches of words, but there are some tips and tricks you’ll want to learn for this app exclusively:
31. Sync data between multiple spreadsheets.
I’ll admit I haven’t found the opportunity to use this one, but it’s possible to sync one spreadsheet to another in Google Sheets—you’ll need an original spreadsheet, and a spreadsheet to add information into. The process is a bit complicated, but you should be able to figure it out from the instructions on this official Google blog post.
32. Use the activity dashboard to track collaboration.
As a G Suite administrator, you’ll be able to track individual user activity using the Activity dashboard. This is especially important for Google Sheets, where you’ll likely have dozens of different people viewing, editing, retrieving, and messing with your files. Use it to keep tabs on new changes and make sure the integrity of your most important files is preserved.
33. Get creative when visualizing data.
Sheets has dozens of ways to visualize your data, so experiment and get creative. In the Insert tab, you’ll find multiple options for Charts, Images, and more. Conditional formatting can also help here; for example, did you know you can create a heat map of your data by setting gradually more intense colors for your minpoint, midpoint, and maxpoint, then adjusting your midpoint to a percentile?
G Suite Tips and Tricks: Slides
Similarly, you’ll want to use these tips and tricks to get the most out of Google Slides, G Suite’s version of Microsoft Powerpoint:
34. Extract images from Google Drive.
Presentations instantly get more engaging and memorable when they have perfect images on each slide. But how can you find those images conveniently? You can pull them directly from Google Drive; just head to Insert, hover over Image, and click Drive to navigate to the image you want to use.
35. Replicate formatting to multiple Slide objects.
If you have a format you want to copy onto different objects within your presentation, you can use this trick. Just highlight the format you want to copy, click the Paint Format icon, then highlight (or paint) the new area to which you want to apply this formatting. It’s that simple—just tap the Escape key to stop.
36. Use the built-in laser pointer.
Laser pointers and slideshows go together like peanut butter and jelly. But what if you forget your laser pointer at home? No worries—you can use your mouse like a laser pointer in Google Slides. There’s a laser pointer icon at the bottom of your screen, to the right of the “Presenter view” text. Click it to transform your mouse.
G Suite Tips and Tricks: Calendar
Google Calendar can be used in coordination with many other apps on this list, but while you get used to those integrations, make use of these G Suite tips and tricks for Google Calendar:
37. Use keyboard shortcuts.
Like with most of G Suite’s apps, there are keyboard shortcuts in Google Calendar you can use to simplify your actions and get more done in less time. Check out Google’s own article on the subject here; it may take you some time to familiarize yourself with the commands, but eventually, you’ll be able to move the calendar, change your view, and make changes to your events with simple keystrokes.
38. Change the owner of individual events.
What happens when you originate a meeting, but can no longer host it due to a conflicting event? Don’t worry. You can change the “owner” of the event. In the Options menu, click Change owner, then enter a new owner; you’ll get to send them a message notifying them of the situation.
39. Attach files to your events.
Meetings go much better when they have an agenda, but how can you make sure all your attendees have the attachment? The convenient way is with Google Calendar’s built-in functionality to add files to your event. Create an event and click More options, then at the bottom of the description box, click Add attachment. You can upload from your desktop, or from Google Drive.
40. View available meeting times.
If you have access to your colleagues’ calendars, take advantage of them. When creating a new event, add a few participants, then check out the “Suggested times” feature on the right; Google will automatically recommend some timeslots that seem to work for everybody (or as many people as possible).
G Suite Tips and Tricks: Contacts
Did you know G Suite has a built-in, comprehensive management system for all your contacts? You can make the most of it with these G Suite tips and tricks for Google Contacts:
41. Use labels to smartly organize your contacts.
If you meet a lot of people, it’s pretty easy to lose track of who you know and where you know them from. That’s why the Labels system exists. Just like Gmail, Google Contacts allows you to create and assign labels as you see fit to all your individual contact entries; that way, you can label people based on where they work, where you met them, or what you need them for.
If contact sharing is turned on for your organization (learn more about that here), you can delegate contacts to people that share your domain. All you’ll have to do is click the Settings icon in the top left, then click Delegate access. From there, click Invite delegate, then enter the name of the person you want to help manage your contact list. All users you invite will be able to see and manage your contacts.
43. Learn to search for contacts effectively.
The search feature in Google Contacts is very efficient, so long as you know how to use it effectively. Type whatever information you can remember, and search by label if you can; the search feature is pretty intuitive, so you should be able to at least narrow down the list.
G Suite Tips and Tricks: Hangouts
Hangouts remains one of the best communication tools for professional teams—especially if those team members are working remotely. These tips and tricks make it even better:
44. Use a meet bot when in chat.
Google’s Meet bot is capable of scheduling, modifying, and canceling meetings. Open the Chat app, click “Find people, rooms, bots,” then enter “meet,” and select the bot from the list of suggestions. Use @meet to call out the bot by name, and give it instructions to handle your requests. For example, you can tell it to “Move this meeting to next Wednesday” or “schedule a meeting with Dave today at 4:30 pm.” You can learn more about meet bot here.
45. Create a poll during your meeting.
In large meetings, it’s sometimes difficult to come to a resolution. That’s why polls exist—they can help you quickly tally a vote or feel out the opinion of the room. There’s a free third-party add-on that needs no installation—just call out the user @Polly, and create your poll, line by line.
46. Get used to Smart Reply.
Many users scoffed at Smart Reply when it first came out, but it’s evolved to become quite sophisticated. The basic idea is that Smart Reply suggests responses for you, like “thanks, I’ll get on it,” based on the content of the messages you receive. It’s also available in Gmail. Pay attention to these responses; if you learn to trust it and choose the most appropriate response, it can save you a minute or two of time with each interaction. Over time, those minutes add up.
47. Snooze and manage notifications to remain undistracted.
Chats are great for collaborating, but terrible for distracting you when you should be focusing on heads-down work. That’s why it’s important to “snooze” your notifications, and manage your notifications actively so they aren’t coming in when you need to focus on something. Snooze notifications by clicking your status, and setting a time to snooze all incoming alerts. You can also turn notifications off completely by heading to Settings, clicking Web and Desktop, then clicking the down arrow to list potential notifications to receive.
48. Use Jamboard to collaborate in real-time.
People understand visuals easier than speech or writing (in most cases), so consider adding a visual element to your team meetings with Jamboard. It functions like an interactive, team-based whiteboard where individual users can sketch things, drop images, and engage with other visual elements already present on the display.
G Suite Tips and Tricks: Forms
One of the underutilized and underappreciated apps in G Suite, survey/quiz creator Google Forms is useful for a number of situations. Get more done with these G Suite tips and tricks for Google Forms:
49. Create quizzes and surveys for internal and external use.
People underestimate how valuable Google Forms can be. It’s useful not only in conducting market research and customer satisfaction surveys, but also in reaching group decisions as an office, or evaluating the satisfaction of your employees. Get creative, and make the most of it.
50. Get notifications from new submissions.
Aren’t you eager to see what your recipients are saying? In the Responses tab of your new form, click on the vertical ellipses and select “Get email notifications for new responses.” If you do, you’ll get an email every time someone responds to your survey.
51. Add logic branching.
Are you looking to create a survey that’s a little more complicated? Like one that filters people out based on their demographic information? You can do this with conditional logic branching. First, you’ll need to create multiple different sections, which you can do with the twin-rectangles icon on the right. Then, you’ll need to create a multiple choice question at the end of one section, and make that question required by using the option in the lower-right. After that, click on the vertical ellipses next to the “Required” option, and click “Go to section based on answer.” Playing with this option allows you to send users to different sections based on how they respond.
Making the Most of G Suite
For my money, Gmail is still hands-down the best productivity tool in G Suite. Email is connected to everything you do, so how you use Gmail can make or break your productivity strategy. If you want to make the most of Gmail, you need to give EmailAnalytics a try.
EmailAnalytics is a popular add-on for Gmail that functions as a productivity analytics tool; with it, you can import and analyze data related to your email usage, including metrics like your average response time and your busiest times and days of the week. You can even visualize these data with charts and graphs, and project analyses for each member of your team. If you’re ready to get started, or if you’re just curious to know more, sign up for a free trial today!
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics, and co-host of the podcast The Entrepreneur Cast.