Google Apps and G Suite
Description of the Apps
Gmail (including Contacts), also known as Google Mail, was the first of the Google apps. When released in April 2004, it introduced innovative features such as the ability to search your entire mailbox using keywords and other options, and a conversation view to keep related messages together. Not only that, users got one gigabyte free, which was considered a massive mailbox at the time. At first, it was invitation only, which heightened the intrigue.
Over time, Google increased the amount of free storage (to 15 GB today), and added features. One such feature is the ability to create and apply labels very easily within the web-based interface. While they appear as nested folders on the left side of the screen, multiple labels can be assigned to a message, which are plainly visible and easily added or removed when the message is open. Two special labels are available by default: Starred and Important.
- Starred is just like flagging a message in any other e-mail system. To star or unstar a message, just click the star icon next to the message's date/time. Or, if you're using another e-mail program to access your Gmail, flag it as you normally do.
- Important is a label applied automatically by Google when it decides an incoming message might be of greater interest to you. It uses an algorithm that includes factors such as who you send messages or respond to, which messages you open vs. which ones you skip or delete without reading, which messages you star, and even words or phrases in the message that appear in other messages it deems important. Of course, if you manually mark a message as Important, Google will take that into account when assessing future inbound messages.
In 2013, Google added Categories, which are special labels that appear as tabs in the web interface. Incoming messages are automatically sorted as uncategorized e-mail (shown in the Primary tab), notifications from social media sites, payment confirmation and billing notifications (which they call Updates), notifications from forums/boards (such when your post received a reply), and what they call Promotions—advertising that isn't blocked as junk mail. You cannot create your own categories, and the Updates and Forums tabs are hidden by default.
The categories tabs only show messages that are still in the inbox, which can be confusing. Here's why. If you hit the "Label as" icon for a message in the inbox (from the Primary tab) and select a category, the message will appear to move to that category's tab. You'll see it in that category's tab, and not in the Primary tab. But if you hit "Move to" instead and select a category, then if you click over to the tab for that category, you won't see it! This is because "Move to" on a message in the inbox removes the Inbox label, and only items in the inbox appear in tabs. To see everything in a category, expand the Categories item in the list of labels on the left.
There is also the All Mail folder, which includes everything (except items in Trash or Spam), all in one giant list. This includes sent items and unsent drafts, and is useful if you want to scan the list because you just can't seem to find a message by clicking on the labels or categories or using the search function.
Because of these unique features, Gmail works best using its intended interfaces: a web browser (particularly Google Chrome) or the Gmail app for mobile devices. Many users prefer to use their regular e-mail program, such as Mac Mail on the iMac or MacBook, Microsoft Outlook on a Windows computer, Microsoft Outlook for Mac, or the native e-mail apps on an iPhone or iPad. Early versions of these applications had problems with Gmail, especially if you had multiple labels, which appear as folders in regular e-mail applications. You could end up with multiple copies of the same message in different folders. If you delete one of them in an application that isn't Google-aware, then the message will inconspicuously disappear from the other folder, which might not be what you intended. Current versions of Mac Mail and Microsoft Outlook are Google-aware and avoid some of these problems. Also, with the paid editions of G Suite, you can download and install Sync for Microsoft Outlook, which provides much greater integration of your Gmail account with Microsoft Outlook (on Windows only).
Introduced in April 2006, Google Calendar is a typical calendar application that handles calendar sharing and invites. You can even share your calendar with people who do not have any kind of Google account.
As with Gmail, Google Calendar was designed to work in a web browser or using Google's apps for mobile. As a result, using it in a business environment presents some problems, particularly with how Mac Mail or Microsoft Outlook handle recurring appointments, time zones, and invitation responses.
The suite of Google office productivity apps were gradually developed starting in 2006, based on some acquisitions as well as software developed by Google in-house. At first, it was called Google Docs and Spreadsheets, and offered an innovative way to use word processing and spreadsheets using the interactive capabilities of modern web browsers. Your files are automatically saved instantly as you work, and you can even work at the same time on the same file as someone else, seeing the changes the other person makes in real-time. While the files are all saved on Google's servers, you can easily download any file into one of many formats, including those compatible with the latest version of Microsoft Office, the OpenDocument format, and PDF.
Now, Google Spreadsheets is known simply as Google Sheets, and Google has added a presentation/slide show program called Google Slides and an online survey manager called Google Forms. While the word processor by itself is called Google Docs, the apps as a set are often referred to collectively as Google Docs.
Introduced in 2012, the Google Drive browser-based file storage system is similar to many others such as Hightail, Box, Dropbox, Egnyte, Microsoft OneDrive, and Apple iCloud Drive. Google Drive allows you to upload any kind of file for storage and sharing.
Before Drive, Google Docs files were saved within the Google Docs system, and that was all you could save on Google (apart from e-mailing yourself an attachment, which was limited to 25 MB). Now, if you go directly to a Google Docs app, you will still see a simple list of the files you made in that app. But, if you go to Google Drive, you will see your Google Docs files there, along with anything else you have uploaded, as well as files other Google users have shared with you.
With Google Drive, you can upload a file up to 5,120 GB (5 TB). No one would generally use a file that big in Google Drive, so there is essentially no file size limit. But, any file converted to a Google Docs format (for editing in your browser with one of the Google Docs apps), is limited in size to just 50 MB for a document (Docs), 2 million cells for a spreadsheet (Sheets), and 100 MB for a presentation (Slides).
Sharing is easy and intuitive, especially with people who already have a Google Account, and even more so with other users within your company's G Suite account.
Google Drive also wiped out e-mail attachment size limits when sending from Gmail. If you try to send an attachment in Gmail greater than 25 MB in the web interface, you will be presented with the option to upload it to your Google Drive, and the e-mail will include a link to the file. The recipient can download the file from your Google Drive even if he does not have a Google Account.
Unlike some services, Google Drive does not automatically synchronize files with your computer or device. If you double-click on a Google Docs file in the Google Drive page in your browser, it will simply open in that browser-based app. Photos will be displayed in your browser window. If you upload a Microsoft Word or Excel document to your Google Drive, and then double-click on it, you will have the option to convert it to a Google Docs or Sheets file for editing in your web browser, or just view it (in read-only mode) without converting. For other kinds of files, double-clicking will give you a prompt to download the file manually to your computer. So, like most of the rest of Google, the app was designed primarily for use in a web browser or Google mobile apps. While you can download a Google Drive Sync program (now called Backup and Sync) for Windows or Mac, this is not recommended, as it is difficult to use and can lead to files accidentally being deleted. Backup and Sync is being phased out now in favor of Google Drive File Stream, which uses a different method for making Google Drive files accessible to your desktop applications.
Recently, Google has worked on improving interoperability specifically between Google Drive and Microsoft Office applications installed on users' computers. For example, you can now see and add comments to a Microsoft Word document, even while looking at it in preview mode in Google Drive in your web browser. In addition, the Google Drive plug-in for Microsoft Office enables such functions as inserting an attachment directly from Google Drive into an e-mail you're composing in the desktop edition of Microsoft Outlook.
Hangouts and Meet
Google Hangouts was first introduced in 2013 as part of the Google+ social media platform, and it coexisted with Google Talk and Google Voice for several years as one of Google's real-time communications offerings. Google Hangouts combines classic chat with voice and video conferencing. It can handle group conferences of up to 10 users with a free Google Account; since May 2016, it supports 25 users for those with a paid G Suite account.
A new edition of Hangouts, called Google Meet, was rolled out for businesses in February 2017; the original Hangouts is now referred to as "classic", or Hangouts Chat, depending on where you look. Meet only works with a G Suite account. It supports peer-to-peer connections for better performance, and simpler ways to join a meeting, with the same 25-user limit. With a G Suite Enterprise account, Meet supports 30 participants, and adds the ability for a participant to dial in to a Google-provided phone number from a regular phone. The classic Hangouts allows you to dial out to a participant to phone numbers in the U.S. and Canada for free; the Meet edition, for some reason, does not.
In the Admin Console, the administrator of your G Suite account can create users and e-mail addresses, configure security settings (such as requiring multi-factor authentication), manage what applications are available, manage mobile devices (including remote wipe), purchase extra storage that can be reallocated among users, create groups and shared calendars and shared drives, access audit logs, create rules for the Vault and data loss prevention, enable a global directory, and more. Of course, billing for the account is also found here. While you can get free access to all the other apps listed on this page with just a free Google Account, you can only use the Admin Console with a G Suite subscription.
Other Apps and Features
All other services available to anyone with a Google Account, such as Google Voice, Google Maps, Google Blogger, Google Sites, Google Photos (which replaced Picasa), and a Google+ or YouTube profile, are available to use with a managed G Suite user account, with varying levels of integration with the overall G Suite company account. Some of these are not formally considered by Google to be part of G Suite, meaning they are not eligible for the same level of technical support and guaranteed uptime as the rest of the G Suite apps.
In 2017, Google introduced Google Cloud Search. This enables searching the entirety of information throughout your company's data, whether it's in your mailbox or calendar, your documents, or documents another user has shared with you, all through the familiar Google search engine. It is available only on paid G Suite Business or Enterprise accounts.
Finally, Google continues to expand the number of third-party web-based apps that are integrated directly into G Suite, enabling access to your account information, information found in your mailbox, and company user accounts, while using your Google Drive for storing data you generate within the app. Examples include project management, customer relations, accounting, invoicing, and communications apps. These can be installed from the G Suite Marketplace.
For even more about Google and G Suite:
- Google Accounts and G Suite Editions Reference Chart
- Learn about the Google Chromebook, a proprietary Google laptop designed with Google Apps in mind