Questions from Google Forums
December 8, 2010
The university is studying the advantages and disadvantages of migrating to Google Apps for Educatoin for Mail and Calendar. The Committee on Information Technology hosted forums for faculty and staff on November 17, 2010 and Dec. 3, 2010 to raise questions and raise concerns. CIT Chair Susan Borwick captured questions asked at the forum, and these questions and responses are presented here for the benefit of those who could not attend.
Some questions were identified in advance by the Committee on Information Technology and the IT Executive Committee and are addressed here. Additional questions raised at the forums can be found below. Most of these questions are about process and functionality. For information on how to do particular tasks, please visit the Google Pilot FAQ.
How likely is it that all of WFU will migrate to Google apps?
- That will not be an Information Systems decision. We will report what we find to the Committee on Information Technology and the IT Executive Committee for their consideration.
If we move to Google, how will the transition be handled?
- We plan to move all faculty and staff in each department on the same day, with training provided on the day of the migration. We want to do the complete migration in as short a time as possible, because departments being split across calendar systems gets in the way of calendar sharing. The limit on how fast we can move is training.
Will everything migrate without retyping?
- Mail, calendar, and contacts will migrate without typing. IS will move the mail and calendar in Exchange, and we will provide synchronization instructions for local Outlook files (*.pst) and Thunderbird mail.
Have you considered Microsoft Docs synchronization with Google, which came out last week?
- We have not had a chance to study this. (One faculty member was a beta participant for Google for this project. He was pleased.)
There's a very new tool from in Google that you can upload any Office Doc to. Have you tested it?
- It is reported to be a decent version control and sharing system for Microsoft docs. We have not yet tested it.
How well does Google calendar integrate with a personal calendar?
- Very well. Google lets users share calendars with any other Google user, and you can share your personal calendar with your work identity. Google also lets you create another calendar whenever you want. (Some departments create a new shared calendar to schedule appointments with every visiting speaker, and then delete it after the engagement.) Smart phone clients let you view any combination of your personal and WFU calendars and mail.
Does Google Mail integrate with Google Calendar?
- Yes. Each mail message has an option to create a calendar event or task, and to automatically associate the mail message with the event.
In Outlook calendar, you see all the people's blocks by hovering over them. Does Google calendar do that?
- Instead of hovering, one must click. Clicking on any person's name displays the person's blocks. A second click hides them.
Can we set up a prototype account in each department, so we can at least see other departments' calendars.
- We do not recommend this because of the confusion of multiple accounts
Will the email address change?
Is there a slow learning curve?
- People find that they are comfortable with nearly all tasks within a day or two. Within two weeks, most people (other universities report 90%) prefer the Google web interface to their previous client, which says good things about the learning curve.
What are the privacy settings of Exchange vs. Google?
- Very similar. In both cases, the default is to show free/busy status of appointments. In both Google and Outlook, the user can make any or all appointments and visibility private.
Does the calendar and document sharing process work between Google Ed and public Google accounts?
Will Outlook views and filters work the same in Google?
- Outlook rules and filters are replaced by Google filters, which are reasonably flexible, but different.
- Outlook views can still be used if you use Outlook for a client. However, most users find it much better to use the Google filters, since they will work ubiquitously, anywhere you check your mail.
- In the Google web interface, there is nothing exactly like Outlook views, but many view purposes can be well addressed by labels or the very fast search capability. Searches you have defined can be named and saved for this purpose.
- It is worth noting that having the power of Google Search for your own e-mail and calendar very quickly changes (for the better) the way you work with your e-mail.
How does Google handle tasks?
- Google task manager supports multiple to-do lists with optional reminder dates. It is not as powerful as the task manager in Outlook.
- In Google, one can create both tasks and calendar entries that are tied to mail messages. (There is a button in the e-mail view to create a task or calendar entry.)
- Our most sophisticated Outlook Task users have been pleased with the online Toodledo task manager as an alternative to Outlook tasks. It is designed to well support the Get Things Done time management methodology, and integrates nicely with similar smart phone apps.
In switching from Exchange to Google, how has the battery life changed?
- Android users see about a 30% increase in battery life after switching to Google.
- We have heard no comments of battery life changes from users of other phones.
The outside world that receives our email: Is it masked over or Google email?
- It shows our wfu.edu e-mail address in the "From:" field, but the detailed header shows Google servers as the originating mail servers.
Can I create reminders associated with e-mail that needs later follow-up?
- Yes, by creating either an associated calendar entry or task with reminder.
Can I do mail merge?
- One can do simple mail merges within Google Docs. (Video tutorial.)
- For more complex mail merges, the best recommendation at present is to continue to use Word/Outlook with Google as the back end. (There may be limits on recipients per message -- under research.)
Is there a limit on the depth of folders/labels in Google?
- Rather than folders, GMail has nested labels. Outlook and Thunderbird folder structures get translated into nested labels.
- There is no limit per se on the number of levels of nested labels, except that there is a 40 character limit for the whole folder path name, including slashes. Examples:
- "Level1/L2/L3/L4/L3/L4/L5/L6/L7/L8/L9" is OK (less than 40 characters).
- “Work/IS/StaffMeetings/Minutes/2010/March” is OK (40 characters), but
- “Work/IS/StaffMeetings/Minutes/2010/March3” is not OK (41 characters).