You've probably heard of Google Docs. Chances are, you even use them. But how well do you really know Google's cloud-based suite of Office-like software? I recently discovered a powerful feature of Google Docs that will allow me to automate many of my monthly tasks and, as a result, save me scores of hours each year. Read on to learn how you can use Google Docs to automate nearly anything on the web.
The Secret to Saving Time Through Automation
The secret to saving time with Google Docs is through automation with APIs (application program interface). An API is a way to use simple programming building blocks to pull information or perform commands with an application.
For example, each month you may like to know how many Likes your blog posts have received. You could manually tally the Likes for each post at the beginning and end of each month and subtract the difference, but this would take time. Or you could use the Facebook API and a Google Docs spreadsheet to create a list of your blog posts and pull in the corresponding number of Likes in a matter of minutes.
Track your competitors' social media campaigns with APIs. Combine data from Google Analytics and SEOmoz with APIs. Track prices of Amazon.com products with APIs. Build prototype web tools with APIs. Basically, a life of automated information glory awaits those who master the API.
Why spend hours each month with boring, repetitive tasks when you can set it up once through an API and spend all that time on more productive tasks? Thankfully, it's now a lot easier to break through the API learning curve with Google Docs. And Google Docs Unleashed is the perfect way to get started.
From Zero to API with Google Docs Unleashed
Up until a few days ago, I knew about APIs but had no idea how to use them. Then I found Google Docs Unleashed through a recent AppSumo deal. (If you didn't know, AppSumo is a popular daily deal site for software. Just provide your email address and you'll get access to ridiculous deals on cool products such as Google Docs Unleashed.)
Google Docs Unleashed is a series of brief web videos that explains the basics of using APIs with Google Docs, produced by AppSumo and Tom Critchlow, Vice President of Operations at SEO consulting firm, Distilled. The beauty of these videos is that you can use Google Docs to do your API dirty work instead of requiring a complicated architecture of web servers and code.
The screenshot above from Google Docs Unleashed may seem intimidating, but each step is easy to understand with the helpful visual format of the video.
Tom walks viewers through each step in the process, highlighting and explaining the actual code and what it means. Everything from his screen is captured in the video, so you can pause, replay and analyze any part of the process in full detail.
You don't have to be a developer (not by a long shot) to use the tips presented in Google Docs Unleashed. APIs require combining simple building blocks of code, and Tom breaks this process down step-by-step. I can't imagine learning more about APIs in such a short amount of time.
A Stitch in Time...
Inefficiency is like nails on a chalkboard to me. If I can spend an hour or two today to save me dozens of hours in the future, I'm there in a heartbeat. That's why Google Docs Unleashed appealed to me so much. I spent an hour learning some API basics and gained an hour back each month for the foreseeable future. Efficiency like this helps me scale my efforts and be more successful overall.
What tasks would you like to automate using APIs and Google Docs and how much time would it save you? Let's chat about it in the comments below.
(Disclaimer: There were affiliate links for AppSumo and Google Docs Unleashed in this article. I only use affiliate links with products I recommend personally).