Free productivity with Google Docs & sheets

I’ve been exploring the internet for online productivity tools and the same ones keep on occurring. You can look online to see the posts yourselves.

What I did come across though were some interesting tools withing programmes I use a little and should use more. As I’m transitioning away from Microsoft Office and looking at free alternatives there are some features in Google Doc’s that I’m  impressed with.

Now, I do have an issue with Docs. When I want to use them, I have to go online, find my Google account, then sign in and then get to the docs. A bit more complicated than just clicking an icon on the taskbar.

Because of the interesting features I’ve been finding out about Doc’s that I want to try out,  I’ve built myself a logging in macro in AutoHotKeys that I have linked to my Voice Macro for activation,  it logs into my account and opens up google docs to the document directory page.

So now I can access Doc’s quickly I am able to access them more readily to avail myself of its features.

Google Docs

1. Text Expander

I have been exploring Text Expander free programmes and at the moment am still using Phrase Express.

I saw an interesting video that showed the process for using this feature within Google Docs.

In the example of the screenshots above I could type:

-xx (enter)

and it would be replaced by:

the quick brown fox goes to this url

So you can put whatever strings you use a lot in to a short key to expand the text.

This video demonstrates the process:


I inadvertently opened up this video, thinking it was the one above and although it uses a different text expander, I was impressed with using the highlight part of the document to be able to add comments with reference materials, eg links to YouTube video’s and forms. I can see myself using this as a good method to reference things I have in my document.

Voice typing in Docs

I had some trouble getting this started as I was using Firefox browser. It only works in Chrome. When I switched to Chrome it ran beautifully. I was extremely impressed with its accuracy.

The one thing that got me flummoxed was I’d normally say “Full Stop” but it prefers “Period” then “New Line” .

For the brief tests I’ve used it for, I found it quite accurate, and I’m a bit aware of voice recognition using “VoiceMacro” which sometimes does not like the way I speak.

I’ll need to setup another macro to start Doc’s in Chrome too to use this tool.

Checking the meaning of words in Docs

Defining and exploring words in your document.

I would be a bit of a technical writer as an architect/engineering designer and my education has left a lot to be desired. I would use “Word” in its basic form, just using the spell checker for getting the words spelt correctly. This tool, which I think is a benefit of being an online tool accesses information so quickly, so you’d use it to check that you had the correct term in the correct context. I much prefer something like this to “Grammerly”.  I like both the ” Define” and “Explore

Google Sheets Time sheets

I got quite enthused about the text expander feature in Google Docs, so I headed over to sheets to see if it was in that too. It isn’t! Shame.

The reason for that is I have been doing my Tax Expenses, I have a lot of repetitive receipts from the same shops, so I used Phrase Express to add a lot of short keys for those. It was quite a useful tool and sped up the process of filling in all the cells, and less typo’s too. I think the first time it was not productive as I had to set it up but it will be useful in the coming months.  I was using LibreCalc for sheets as I’m trying to get away from Excel.

BUT, I did find quite a nice add-in that I will definitely be exploring.


TimeSheet utilizes your Google Calendar as a time recording tool.

##NEW: With Timer-Component (Beta)## TimeSheet utilizes your Google Calendar as a time recording tool. You simply create entries with #tags in your calendar and TimeSheet will create full reports about project usage, resource consumption and project status for you. Why spending time on additionally tools if you can use what’s already there? TimeSheet is a great and free solution for freelancers and small sized companies. • Use Google Calendar to track time • Use Google Sheets to create reports…   This is from the Add-in Overview

It basically links up to one of your google calendars so that you can add your times to that and it will create  for you and reports. I have only just found out about this and am keen to get started on using it.

I have been playing with TSheets, which is quite nice, but this  Google Sheets add-in appeals to me. I use Google calendars all the time, so to have a tool that I regularly use being able to be utilised for extra work appeals. My current time sheets are just simple spreadsheets so this appeals to me too.

It is on my “tech” level.

Update 30/1/2019. Actually a bit disappointing. In the Calendar you need to put a “#” tag before whatever you want the timesheet to extract. It does sum up for a week but does not give a specific date for individual times.

So timesheet is quite simplistic. This doesn’t meet my needs so I’ll keep on looking for a solution that will.

Firefox add-in Side View

This is a really handy tool. You’ve done a search and have the list of results. You can take a peek at one of the results using side-view.

Initially this confused me as I found a side-view selection that I wanted to save and couldn’t find the URL in the side view panel. Duh! You just need to go to the main page to get the URL. A quick way to glance at articles.


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