How to make and edit a table of contents in Google Docs to easily navigate to sections of a document

typing on Mac
Adding a table of contents to your Google Doc only takes a moment.

  • You can create a table of contents in a Google Doc with a computer, iPhone, or iPad.
  • Google Docs’ table of contents feature gives readers an organized outline of the entire document.
  • Your table of contents’ sections will be automatically generated based on the headings in your Google Doc.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Google Docs quickly became one of the web’s most accessible, easy-to-use document editing and sharing platforms.

Although Google Docs is a platform beloved for its simplicity, there are sophisticated touches users can integrate into their Google Docs. One of the most useful: a table of contents.

Here’s how you can add a table of contents to a Google Doc, allowing you to organize a lengthy research paper or any other ambitious literary endeavors.

How to create a table of contents in Google Docs

Using a computer

1. Navigate to docs.google.com and open the document that you want to add a table of contents to. Select a document with multiple sections, each set apart by header text.

2. In the top options menu, beneath the title of the document, select “Insert.”

3. Scroll to the bottom to select “Table of contents” and select if you prefer page numbers, which is best for aa document that will be printed, or blue links, ideal for an online-based piece.

Google Docs page with the Table of Contents options highlighted.
You can format the table of contents in two ways.

Your table of contents will appear on the page.

A Google Docs file with a table of contents on the side.
The table of contents will let you move between sections quickly.

Using an iPhone or iPad

1. Open Google Docs and create a new document or open an existing document with multiple sections, each set apart by header text.

2. Tap the ellipsis icon, or three dots, in the top-right corner, and make sure that “Print layout” is enabled.

Google Docs' "Print layout" option.
“Print layout” lets you see what the document will look like on sheets of paper.

3. Tap the edit button – the blue pen icon in the lower right – to open editing options at the top of your iPhone or iPad screen.

5. Tap the “Insert” button, or plus sign icon, and scroll to the bottom of the options menu to select “Table of contents.” The page numbers option suits documents you intend to print, while the blue links option is great for online-only docs.

Google Docs iPhone app with the "Insert" menu opened, and the "Table of contents" option highlighted.
Select “Table of contents,” the last option.

Your table of contents will appear at the top of the page.

A table of contents in the Google Docs iPhone app.
The table of contents’ options will depend on your document’s headings.

How to format a Google Doc to make a table of contents appear

If you try to insert a table of contents and nothing appears, that means you likely need to reformat your document using headers. Then, your table of contents will automatically populate using the text of your headers. Here’s how to do it on desktop and mobile.

Using a web browser

1. Highlight the text you want to add as a table of contents section.

2. From the styles menu, included by default in the main toolbar, the default style will be “Normal text.” Select one of the numeric “Heading” options to add the text as a table of contents section.

The Headings menu on the Google Docs website.
Selecting any heading option will add the highlighted text to the table of contents.

Using an iPad or iPhone

1. Select the text that you want to become the name of your future table of contents section.

2. Tap the blue pen icon in the bottom-right corner to begin editing, then select the underlined “A” icon from the top menu.

3. Under text options, change the “Style” to “Heading,” followed by a number between one and six, depending on how you want the sections and subsections structured.

The Google Docs iPhone app's Text menu.
While here, you can also adjust the font type, size, color, and more.

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How to make a hanging indent in Google Docs, for works cited pages and other forms

student working on laptop with textbooks
You can make hanging indents in any Google Doc.

  • You can make a hanging indent in Google Docs using the ruler tool, which lets you change the margin size.
  • Hanging indents are great for works cited pages, block quotes, lists, and more.
  • You’ll need to be using a computer to get hanging indents in Google Docs – it’s not available in the mobile app.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Hanging indents are rare, but useful. Unlike an ordinary indent – where only the first line of a paragraph is pushed a bit to the right – a hanging indent leaves the first line all the way to the left, and instead pushes all the lines under it to the right.

You usually find them in bibliographies and MLA format “works cited” pages, and sometimes for creating lists within documents.

It’s easy to do hanging indents in Google Docs. Here’s how.

How to make a hanging indent in Google Docs

1. If it’s not already visible at the top of your Google Docs document, turn on the ruler by clicking “View” and then clicking “Show ruler.”

Google Docs Show Ruler
In order to create a hanging indent, your ruler must be visible.

2. Highlight the text that you want to indent. This can be a single paragraph, multiple paragraphs, or the entire document.

3. On the ruler, find the left indent control (which looks like a blue triangle pointed down) and the left margin control (which is a small blue rectangle). They’re usually stacked together above the left margin.

4. Click and drag the left indent (the triangle) to the right, as far as you want the text to be indented. A common indent is about a half-inch. Notice that when you do this, the margin control will go with it, and all the text will be indented.

Google Docs Moving Indent Control
Drag the indent control to the right, and the margin control will go with it. We’ll correct that momentarily.

5. Click and drag the left margin control (the rectangle) back to the margin where it started.

google docs margin
Return the margin control to the left margin, and you’ve just created a hanging indent.

You’ve now made a hanging indent.

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How to add a video to Google Slides by embedding YouTube files or uploading videos from Google Drive

Two people working on PowerPoint slideshow presentation
You can upload or embed YouTube videos and Google Drive video files to your Google Slides presentation.

  • You can add videos to your Google Slide presentation from YouTube or Google Drive.
  • To add a video to your Google Slides presentation, select “Video” from the Insert drop-down menu.
  • Once you’ve added a video to your Google Slide presentation, you can move or resize it freely.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

If you’re looking to make your Google Slides presentation more interactive or interesting, embedding a video is an easy option.

Google Slides has three methods for adding video to a presentation: you can search for a YouTube video, paste in a specific YouTube URL, or upload a video from Google Drive.

Here’s how to add a video to your Google Slides presentation.

How to add a video to Google Slides

1. Go to slides.google.com and either create a new slideshow or open one you’ve already created.

2. In the top toolbar, click “Insert” and then choose “Video.”

Google Slides 1
Click the Insert tab and select the Video option from the dropdown menu.

3. The Insert video window will open on the YouTube Search tab. Type keywords or the title of the YouTube video you want to embed into the search field and click the magnifying glass icon or hit Enter.

4. Among the search results, select the video you want to embed.

Google Slides 2
Select which YouTube video you want to add to your Google Slides presentation.

5. If you want to add a YouTube video to Google Slides using a URL, when the Insert video window appears, click the “By URL” tab.

6. Open the YouTube video you want to embed in another browser tab and copy the URL.

7. Paste the video URL into the text field.

Google Slides 3
Paste the URL of the YouTube video you want into the text field.

8. If you want to add a Google Drive video file to Google Slides, click the Google Drive tab when the Insert video window opens. Just remember that you’ll need to have uploaded or saved the video to Google Drive beforehand.

9. Choose between the My Drive, Shared Drives, Shared with Me, and Recent tab and find the file you want to upload.

10. With the video you want to add chosen and highlighted, click Select.

Google Slides 4
Select the video you want to upload from your Drive to Google Slides.

11. Once the video is added to your Google Slides presentation, click and drag the file to position the video where you want it on the slide. Red guide lines will appear on the slide to help you center it within the slide.

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A guide to cloud computing, the multibillion-dollar industry that powers your favorite apps

man using phone and several computer screen desktop laptop
Cloud computing transmits data to your computer via the internet, rather than letting you download it permanently.

  • Cloud computing is the delivery of on-demand computing services over the internet.
  • Cloud computing can include online data storage, writing apps, media streaming, and more.
  • Popular apps like Spotify, Netflix, and DropBox all run using cloud computing.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

You may have heard of “the cloud” countless times, but only have a general idea what it means. Cloud computing is the delivery of “on-demand” computing services – whether it’s storage, software, processing power, or other resources – over the internet. You typically pay as you go, billed only for the resources you use or the storage amount you’re subscribed to.

Though cloud computing isn’t an especially new innovation (it’s been around for decades), it’s become increasingly important to the most popular apps around today.

What to know about cloud computing

Types of cloud computing

The term “cloud computing” masks a lot of complexity. Where is the server? “In the cloud” – most users generally don’t need to know more than that.

The name obscures the fact that there are several different kinds of cloud computing architectures.

  • Public cloud: Perhaps the most common kind of cloud computing architecture, a public cloud is owned and operated by a third party and makes its resources available to customers, generally on a subscription basis. Every common commercial cloud service you know, from Dropbox to Microsoft Azure, is on a public cloud.
    Dropbox app
    Dropbox uses the cloud to store your data and back up your files.

  • Private cloud: The only difference between a public and private cloud is who owns and operates it. A private cloud is generally owned by a single business or organization and is used exclusively by that entity. It’s a private network that reserves all of its resources for the business, but is still accessed remotely rather than in data centers on site.
  • Hybrid cloud: A hybrid cloud combines public and private clouds in a way that data, software, and other resources can flow seamlessly between them. It allows for more flexibility, generally by letting public clouds meet shortfalls in computing requirements when the private cloud is fully saturated.

Types of cloud applications

Not only are there distinctions between the architecture of cloud services, but there are some key differences in the kind of applications that cloud computing is used for.

Cloud computing services tend to fall into one of three main categories, and you can read more about this in our guide to cloud applications.

  • Software as a service (SaaS): This is often the simplest kind of cloud computing platform to understand; with SaaS, the cloud computing operator offers software (running on the SaaS operator’s computing hardware) you can access remotely. Microsoft 365 is a common example of SaaS.
GettyImages 854090620
The Microsoft 365 subscription service is a cloud-based SaaS platform.

  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS): In this case, a third party provides the computing hardware to run your software. For example, a software developer might rent space on an Amazon Web Services (AWS) server instead of owning and maintaining a large server locally.
  • Platform as a service (PaaS): Slightly different from IaaS, PaaS includes the hardware, operating system, and middleware needed to host the software you want to run in the cloud. Google’s App Engine is an example of PaaS.

Common uses for cloud computing

While cloud computing was a novelty in years past, the proliferation of online services, web apps, broadband, massive commercial data centers, and other technologies have made cloud computing a core part of today’s technological landscape. Here are some of the most common applications for cloud computing today.

  • Data storage: It’s common today to rely on cloud storage for data storage, backup, and recovery solutions. Not only is data backed up to the cloud, but the cloud is commonly an extension of local storage as well.
  • Software-on-demand: Many businesses and individuals now rent software using SaaS rather than purchasing it outright – like Microsoft 365 and Google Docs.
  • Streaming audio and video: Services from Spotify to Netflix to HBO Max are all examples of streaming services that operate from the cloud. They’ve essentially replaced local media playback, making the cloud an integral part of most people’s daily life.
Netflix
When you watch something on Netflix, you’re accessing content from the cloud.

  • Analyzing business data: Many businesses now store their critical business data in the cloud. They then use cloud services to analyze that data for business intelligence solutions.

The advantages and disadvantages of cloud computing

While cloud computing has become a critical part of the modern computing landscape, it’s not without its disadvantages.

For example, despite the appeal of “renting” rather than “buying,” cloud computing isn’t necessarily cheaper. Long-term, it can be more cost-effective to own and operate your own computing resources, especially if you need those resources indefinitely. If the company hosting your cloud computing service of choice shuts down, you could lose all your data.

Additionally, there are security concerns. If a third party is hosting your data, it’s a potential risk vector for hackers and corporate espionage.

Companies may also want to own their own computing resources as a way to differentiate their capabilities. If you are using the same third-party services as the competition, for example, it’s difficult to offer capabilities that are better than, or even different than what they offer.

On the other hand, cloud computing is popular today because it still offers significant advantages over local computing. It’s less costly, at least in the short term, compared to owning your own servers.

It also allows for greater mobility and portability of your data – it’s already in the cloud and can be accessed from anywhere. And it moves responsibility for factors like security and disaster recovery to a third party that theoretically has that expertise.

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How to add audio to a Google Slides presentation from Google Drive or Spotify

giving a presentation to coworkers
Google Slides makes it easy to add audio to your presentations.

  • To add audio to Google Slides, insert an MP3 or WAV file directly from Google Drive.
  • You can also insert a link to play music from Spotify, though this method is more cumbersome.
  • If you want to add video to Google Slides, you can also embed a YouTube video.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Slideshows can either be exciting and engaging, or the most boring part of the workday. One way to avoid the latter experience is to add audio or music into your Google Slides presentation.

You can add audio into Google Slides directly from your Google Drive, or you can add a link to a Spotify track – here’s how to do both.

How to add audio to Google Slides

1. Upload the audio file in either MP3 or WAV format to your Google Drive.

2. Open your Google Slides presentation and go to the slide you want to add audio to. Click “Insert” in the toolbar at the top of the Slides screen.

Google Slides Insert
Click the “Insert” tab at the top.

3. In the “Insert” drop-down, select “Audio.”

Google Slides insert Audio
Select “Audio” in the “Insert” drop-down.

4. In the “Insert audio” pop-up, you can search for your audio file in “My Drive,” “Shared drives,” “Shared with me,” or “Recent.” You can also type the name of your audio file in the search bar.

Insert slide page
Find the audio file you want to include from your Google Drive.

5. Click the file you want to add, and hit “Select.”

6. Your audio file will now appear in your slide as a small sound icon. To resize the icon, click on it and drag one of its corners outward or inward.

When you click the icon or hover your mouse over it, a playback bar will appear where you can pause, play, or fast-forward the audio.

Google Slides playback
You can use the playback bar to play, pause, and skip ahead.

When you click on the icon, a sidebar menu will appear on the right side of the slide – here, you can customize a number of sound and design elements like audio playback, reflection, shadow, color, and more.

Google Slides sidebar menu
On the left side, you can customize your audio.

How to add music to Google Slides with Spotify

1. Open the Spotify Web Player or desktop app, and find the right track.

2. Click the ellipsis icon next to the song, album, or playlist you want, and in the pop-up, go to “Share” and click “Copy Song Link.”

slides8
Click “Copy song link” in the “Share” menu.

3. Open your Google Slides presentation and go to the first slide you want the music to play under.

4. Select a bit of text (or an image) on the slide, click “Insert link” and paste in your Spotify link.

slides10
After clicking “Insert” and “Audio,” paste your Spotify link and click “Apply.”

5. On the day of your presentation, make sure that you log into the browser version of Spotify. While you’re giving the presentation, you’ll need to click the link, which will open Spotify in a new browser window. You’ll still need to click play on the song in the Spotify window before returning to your Google Slides presentation.

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How to use the COUNTIF function in Google Sheets to determine a number of items within a specific condition

businessman at office on laptop
The COUNTIF function in Google Sheets is useful for finding specific pieces of data.

  • You can use the COUNTIF function in Google Sheets to find the number of items in a range that meet certain criteria.
  • You can use text, numbers, and dates as criteria in the COUNTIF function.
  • COUNTIF is an easy way to find out how many rows in a spreadsheet contain a blank cell, for example.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Like Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets includes a simple COUNT function that tells you the number of items in the selected range. But what if you want to know the number of items based on some condition – like only the products in a list that are below a certain price, or only the cities in a specific state? That’s when you would use the COUNTIF function.

As the name implies, COUNTIF combines the abilities of COUNT and IF – it checks to see if the IF argument is true before returning the COUNT value. Here’s what the function looks like:

=COUNTIF(range, criterion)
  • Range: This is the range of cells you want to test against some sort of criterion and then sum.
  • Criterion: This is what you want to use to test against the range. You can use a number, text, or even a date as your criterion.

How to use COUNTIF in Google Sheets with a number condition

Using COUNTIF in your own Google Sheets is pretty straightforward, since you only need to specify two arguments. Suppose you had a spreadsheet like this in which you wanted to know how many items cost less than $500.

How_to_use_COUNTIF_in_Google_Sheets 1
You can use the COUNTIF function to find the number of items in this list that cost less than $500.

1. Type “COUNTIF” and press the Tab key. Google Sheets automatically adds the open parenthesis.

2. Click and drag the mouse to select the column that has the pricing information.

3. Type a comma and then enter the criteria – in this case “<500” (include the quotes).

4. Press the Tab key. Google Sheets will close the parenthesis and display the result in the cell.

How_to_use_COUNTIF_in_Google_Sheets 2
COUNTIF is simple to use in part because it has just two arguments.

How to use COUNTIF with a text condition

The COUNTIF function can also sum items based on text criteria. If you needed to find out how many items in a list have a particular color, you would do this:

1. Type “COUNTIF” and press the Tab key. Google Sheets automatically adds the open parenthesis.

2. Click and drag the mouse to select the column that has the color information.

3. Type a comma and then enter the criteria, such as “blue” (include the quotes).

4. Press the Tab key. You should see the result.

How_to_use_COUNTIF_in_Google_Sheets 3
You can use a text criterion to find how many items have that matching text.

If you’re looking for the sum of all the cells that don’t have this value, that’s easy to do as well – just use the NOT operator, like this:

=COUNTIF(A1:A12,"<>blue")

Likewise, the COUNTIF function is often used to find the number of entries that are blank, or the number that are not blank. This can be handy for cleaning up a messy spreadsheet. Find the blanks with a pair of quotes with nothing between:

=COUNTIF(A1:A12,"")

And the non-blank entries can be found with a NOT operator:

=COUNTIF(A1:A12,"<>")

How to use COUNTIF with a wildcard

Wildcards can come in handy because they help you find partial matches, such as all the descriptions that mention the color red.

1. Type “=COUNTIF” and press the Tab key.

2. Click and drag the mouse to select the column with the product descriptions.

3. Type a comma and then enter “*red*” (include the quotation marks).

4. Press the Tab key. Google Sheets will add the closing parenthesis and you should see the result in the cell.

In this example, we’re looking for cells that contain the word red anywhere. But you could use “*red” to find cells that end with the word red or “red*” for cells that begin with red.

How to use COUNTIF with a date condition

The COUNTIF function can return the number of items that correspond to a particular date. Suppose we want to total all the sales that happened on January 15.

1. Type “=COUNTIF” and press the Tab key.

2. Click and drag the mouse to select the column with the range of dates.

3. Type a comma and then enter “DATE(2021, 1,15)” (do not include the quotation marks).

4. Press the Tab key. Google Sheets will add the closing parenthesis and you should see the result in the cell.

As you can probably guess, you can use variations of this argument with logical operators:

  • =COUNTIF(D1:D8,”>=”&DATE(2021,1,7)). This returns the number of items dated on or after January 7.
  • =COUNTIF(D1:D8,”<>”&DATE(2021,1,7)). This returns the number of items with any date other than January 7.
How_to_use_COUNTIF_in_Google_Sheets 4
By combining logical operators with the date, you can find the number of items that are associated with a specific date range.

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How to use the IMPORTRANGE function in Google Sheets to keep multiple spreadsheets in sync

Woman sitting on couch working on laptop
The IMPORTRANGE feature in Google Sheets is useful for managing several spreadsheets at once.

  • You can use the IMPORTRANGE function in Google Sheets to easily copy data from one spreadsheet to another.
  • To import data, you only need to know the URL and name of the original spreadsheet, and the range of cells to import.
  • Once imported, the data is automatically updated when it changes in the original Google Sheets spreadsheet.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

If you work with Google Sheets often enough, you’ll inevitably need to get data from one spreadsheet into another.

You could always simply copy and paste the cells in question, but if you do that, there’s no live connection between the two sheets – if the original data changes, your second spreadsheet will become outdated.

Instead, you can use the IMPORTRANGE function, which quickly and easily helps you import data from one spreadsheet into another and keeps the two spreadsheets in sync at all times.

How to use IMPORTRANGE in Google Sheets

1. With only two arguments, using the IMPORTRANGE function is usually quite simple. Suppose you have a spreadsheet and you want to import the table into a new spreadsheet.

2. Click the URL in the address bar at the top of the browser and copy it. Alternately, you can copy just the spreadsheet key from within the URL.

How to use IMPORTRANGE in Google Sheets 6
You can import any range of cells from a spreadsheet like this into another by copying the URL or spreadsheet key.

3. In the new spreadsheet, type “=IMPORTRANGE(” – without the quotes.

4. Paste the URL and add a closing quote (“).

5. Type a comma, add a quote (“) and enter the range of cells you want to include. It should look like this: “Sheet1!B1:C6” Here, we’re specifying that we want the spreadsheet named “Sheet1,” and want cells B1 through C6.

6. Add a closing parenthesis and press Enter.

7. The complete function should look something like this:

=IMPORTRANGE("https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Zoq0M0RG-RLYZ9HjOf01ff9eSPIYY3s/edit#gid=1027643093", "Sheet2!A1:C12")
How to use IMPORTRANGE in Google Sheets 2
This example uses the spreadsheet key instead of the full URL.

8. You might have noticed, though, that the data didn’t import – there’s a #REF! error in the cell instead. Click this cell and you’ll see a message that you need to connect these sheets. Click “Allow access” and then, a moment later, the data should appear. You’ll only need to do this once for each spreadsheet you import data from.

How to use IMPORTRANGE in Google Sheets 3
You only need to allow access to a spreadsheet once.

How to use the IMPORTRANGE function with a named range

If you prefer, you can use a named range instead of specifying the range in the manual way.

1. In the original spreadsheet, select the range and then right-click.

2. In the dropdown menu, choose “Define named range.”

How to use IMPORTRANGE in Google Sheets 4
The option to name a range of cells is in the right-click menu.

3. In the Named ranges pane that appears, give the selection a name and then click “Done.”

How to use IMPORTRANGE in Google Sheets 5
Name the range and it will include the name of the sheet, simplifying the task of importing cells.

4. Now when you add your range_string to the IMPORTRANGE function, you can just enter this name, which already includes the name of the sheet. It’s much easier than building the argument by hand.

How to use IMPORTRANGE in Google Sheets 66
Just remember to enclose the name range in quotes, the same as if you specified a range manually.

Using the spreadsheet URL or spreadsheet key

There are a few nuances in the way this function works you should be aware of. Let’s start with the URL.

You have a choice: You can use the entire spreadsheet URL or you can use just the spreadsheet key, which is the part of the URL that follows the “d/.” For example, suppose you had a spreadsheet with this URL:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1K6Jy9BAUsNLYtbEIIxI3LONV9JQ0hTY/edit#gid=25213

You can use the entire URL, or just the part after the d/:

1K6Jy9BAUsNLYtbEIIxI3LONV9JQ0hTY

Both options work exactly the same; the only difference is convenience, so use whichever works best for you. Either way, always enclose this argument in quotes.

How to use IMPORTRANGE in Google Sheets 1
Every spreadsheet has a unique spreadsheet key.

Using the range_string

The range_string also has its own quirks. Specifically, when you enter the range in the IMPORTRANGE function, you need to clarify which sheet the cells are located in. Keep in mind that a spreadsheet might have many tabs, each being its own sheet. As a result, this argument takes this form:

Sheet1!A1:A12

In this example, Sheet1 is the name of the sheet, and the cells are indicated by the range A1:A12. You need to always include an exclamation mark between the sheet name and the range, and like the URL, always enclose it in quotes.

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Google Docs and other Google Drive services are experiencing issues

Google Drive app on smartphone
  • Google Drive and Google Docs have been experiencing issues.
  • On Monday morning, thousands of users reported error messages and difficulty getting into files.
  • Google said it is in the process of investigating and working to resolve the issue.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Google said on Monday morning the company was experiencing some issues with Google Drive and Google Docs.

Problems started around 9:36 a.m. ET and have affected users in the US, UK, and China, as well as several other countries.

While it is unknown how many users have been impacted, over 5,000 Google users reported issues with Google Drive on Monday morning, according to DownDetector. The company said it is in the process of investigating issues with the products.

“Hi there. We are aware of a service disruption and are working right now to resolve it,” @googledrive tweeted. “We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience. Stay updated by following the Apps Status Dashboard: http://goo.gl/NOZTZ. Thanks!”

Affected users are able to access their Google Drive, but are seeing error messages, according to Google’s Workplace Status Dashboard. The error messages ask users to reload the page.

On Google Docs and Google Sheets, some users have not been able to access or create new documents and spreadsheets. Google Slides is also showing error messages.

It is unclear when the issues will be resolved. A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Many users took to Twitter to report the problem.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Is Google Drive secure? How Google uses encryption to protect your files and documents, and the risks that remain

Google Drive app on smartphone
Overall, Google Drive is fairly secure, but unlike some end-to-end encrypted apps, it has vulnerabilities.

  • Google Drive is generally very secure, as Google encrypts your files while they’re being transferred and stored.
  • However, Google can undo the encryption with encryption keys, meaning that your files can theoretically be accessed by hackers or government offices.
  • You can make Google Drive more secure by using two-factor authentication and being careful when giving other apps permission to use your Drive.
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Google Drive is quickly becoming the most popular storage service around. And with more than a billion users and over 2 trillion files saved, it needs to be secure.

But Google users have been victim to hacks before – in 2014, approximately 5 million Gmail usernames and passwords were stolen and leaked online.

So if you use Google Drive, you might be wondering how secure your files really are.

How Google Drive secures your files and data

Regardless of previous hacks, the risk of using Google Drive is low. Google uses the strong 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption on all its Google Drive servers (with the exception of a small number of storage devices that date prior to 2015 – those use AES128 encryption instead).

Likewise, when the data is in transit between users and Google Drive servers, Google uses the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol to protect the data and prevent interception. 

In short: your data is largely secure.

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Google Drive uses enhanced encryption tools for both file transport and storage.

How Google Drive may be vulnerable

Some security experts don’t love that Google keeps encryption keys for all the files on Google Drive. Encryption keys are tools that let Google (or whoever has the keys) decrypt files, bypassing all their security.

“Because they are in control of these encryption keys, it can lead to vulnerabilities for its users,” said Kristen Bolig, founder at SecurityNerd. “They have the power to decrypt files which can make them easier for hackers.” 

This is in contrast to apps like Signal, where not even the company that runs the app can access your data.

Moreover, Google is subject to governments and law enforcement. “If your files are subpoenaed, depending on what Google decides, it might not take a security breach to forfeit your privacy,” said Monica Eaton-Cardone, chief operating officer of Chargebacks911.

And as is often the case with cloud services, the most significant risks aren’t related to the encrypted infrastructure, but with the user, and Google Drive has a number of user-related vulnerabilities. 

Google Drive lacks cohesive organizational permissions, for example. Nick Santora, CEO of Curricula, said, “The way Dropbox uses folders allows us to segment data by department and only give employees in that department access to those folders. Google makes this extremely difficult to do. Everything you do is a one-off. The permissions system is ad hoc, which leads to mistakes.”

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Google has no coherent system for file permissions, so every file permission is applied in a one-off, highly error-prone process.

How to protect yourself as a Google Drive user

The biggest risk to your Google Drive data is often you – along with the computers or devices you’ve connected to Google Drive. Remember that in general, any files on Google Drive get synchronized to your computer, so those files are vulnerable. “You can use encryption to further hide and protect your files,” Bolig suggested. 

In addition, you can take advantage of two-factor authentication to prevent hackers from accessing your files from another device, even if they take your username and password. And of course, always make sure you have a strong password.

Security.org editor Gabe Turner said it’s important to “remove any apps or browser extensions that have access to Google Drive unnecessarily.” Every app with permission to access Google Drive is another vector for hackers and a security vulnerability. 

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