Google Drive has enabled Google Add Ons and there are some that you and your students will want to enable right away. Others may appeal more to professional developers or those who work remotely .
[callout]I have updated this post and also held a free webinar talking about my favorite Google Drive Add Ons. I've updated this post originally written in 2014 to reflect current information. This remains one of my most popular posts to date, so I want it to be current and to remove links that no longer work. At the bottom, I include a list of all Add-Ons removed from this post and why.
Want a video tutorial? Texthelp has agreed to send you a link to the video of the webinar I did on my new 15 best add ons. You can get it free if you fill out this Google form.[/callout]
How To Enable Add Ons for Google Drive
Here's a tutorial on enabling add ons. For purposes of this article, add ons, extensions, and other tools are beginning to overlap, so I've included some of each in this post. Lots of people still call all of these add ons. Technically, the add ons are within Google Drive or G suite now. Many of these tools have several options: add ons, extensions, and more. All of them add features to Gsuite tools, so I've included my top 15 here for you! Enjoy!
Essential Productivity Tools
Add-On #1: Extensity
The biggest issue that teachers and students often have is having too many extensions and add ons enabled. Sometimes they will conflict with each other. For this reason, the first thing everyone should install in their web browser is Extensity. [Read more]
Add On #2: Google Voice Typing (with a Twist)
Ok, it isn't really an add on, but it can be accessed through an add on. First, make sure you know how to use Google Voice Typing in Google Docs. You have to use Google Chrome. Learn how to use it.
Then, if you want to use Google Voice typing everywhere, all you need is the Read Write Toolbar for teachers (see below.) After you install it, you'll click the “speech input” button. Now, I say for teachers because Teachers get it free. (When you download it, you have a full 30-day free Premium. In that 30 days, click the ? and then click the I'm a teacher button. Now, they'll confirm you ARE a teacher — don't clog up the works if you're not. Then, you'll have all this.)
This handy toolbar will make Google voice typing available throughout the web. Very cool.
Add On #3: Read and Write for Google Chrome
On the original 2014 post, this tool was called “Text Help for Study Skills” and I recommended it. Now it is Read&Write for Google Chrome and it can do so much more. This tool is a must use for younger kids and English Language Learners (ELL's) Here are some of the features:
- You can highlight words on a web page and then pull those highlights into a new document. You can also take the words and put them into a vocabulary list.
- Hover Speech reads the speech for you.*
- Dictionary looks up the word and you can also get a visual dictionary picture.
- Translate will convert the words into the language of your choice.*
- Speech maker will create an audio file that you download.
- Screenshot reader will read text to you from a picture.
- Screenmask gives you a reading strip that you can move along the page as you read. Dyslexics will want to use this feature.
- Simplify works like the Evernote clearly tool used to. It takes all the ads and other items off so you just have the text to read. You'll want this if you take kids to some websites that have inappropriate articles listed.
- Practice reading aloud – can read aloud and be sent to the teacher. However, if you really want kids to read to you, I recommend trying Fluency Tutor instead as it will go longer than 1 minute.*
- Voice Notes lets teachers leave notes of up to 1 minute inside Google Docs for kids. If you are teaching writing, you should be leaving voice notes.
- Predictive typing helps beginning writers have better writing skills as it coaches them as they type. Fantastic tool. (Part of premium, though.)
- Not all of these features (and there are more) are free. I've put a star by those that are. This is one of those must-use for kids learning to read. All teachers should install and activate the free version.
Add On #4 Grammarly
Grammarly is a fantastic tool. You'll use it throughout the web. It will spell check and also has a fantastic plagiarism check that I use on student papers. However, it doesn't work inside Google Docs, so there, I recommend Pro Writing Aid instead. These two tools are an essential part of my workflow. I've shared the tutorial covering them. [Read more]
To get Grammarly free, make sure you're using the Chrome web browser. Then, go here. Don't sign up on any other browser except Chrome or it will NOT BE FREE. I do pay for the premium version because I get all kinds of features.
Add-On #5: Pro Writing Aid
Pro Writing Aid has a Google Doc Add in, a web tool, and one for Microsoft Word. For serious writers, it is a must-use.
Pro Writing Aid is a robust tool with more features than any grammar guru could use. But it coaches you ot make you a better writer! The two features you must use are:
- Sticky sentences check. These types of sentences slow down your reader and cause them to stop reading. They inlude the most commonly used words in the English language. I ask my students to remove all sticky sentences from their writing.
- Transition words. While Google prefers 30% transition words in online writing, I set a minimum of at least 25% transition words.This is another thing hard to coach as a teacher. Because it is so hard to count and monitor just how many words begin with transitions, letting the computer do it for you is a great idea.
Add-On #6: Fluency Tutor for Google
Fluency Tutor is a handy tool can transform read alouds. Everything is free in this except the detailed scoring and data collection and comprehension questions.
So, you can assign reading to kids and they can read it to you. You can also have all kinds of feedback, etc. This is a must-install for elementary schools with Chromebooks.
Add-On #7: Kaizena
This app is AWESOME for giving feedback to students. I've been recommending this since 2014 and still do. Think about it. When you give students feeback on writing – it should be in a way they understand best. If they are a strong reader, they may be a strong writer — however, weak readers are often weak writers. It makes sense to give students feedback in a way they understand. I love Kaizana for this reason.
Add-On #8: EasyBib
You can insert citations directly into Google Documents directly within the Document using EasyBib. MLA, APA and Chicago Style are available. The EasyBib Add On for Google Drive is one of the first you should enable if you are a writing teacher. Since I first recommended this tool in 2014, they've added new features like the credibility guide and the ability to search sources directly within EasyBib.
Add-On #9: (G) Math
(G)math gives you the ability to create:
- Math Expressions
- Statistical Charts
Additionally, you can even hand write formulas and (G)math reads your handwriting and converts it to a new chart or formula. Awesome!
If you want help with this handy tool, the Gmath help forum rocks!
Add-On #10: Geogebra
Geogebra has many teacher created tools that you can use and assign to your students in Google Classroom. For example, you can see in the gif I embedded below a simple game to teach exponents. I played level 1 in the gif.
To use Geogebra with google Drive, make sure you have a Google Drive (or GSuite) account. Then, go to
http://login.geogebra.org/user/create and just click “sign up with a Google Account.
Add-On #11 Lucid Charts
If you use Graphic organizers in the classroom, Lucid Charts is a must add for you! It has so many templates that you can use and add to Google Drive. Awesome!
Add on #12: Link Clump
Now this is more an extension than an add on, but for teachers who grade a lot of online work like I do. GET IT. You can quickly open up multiple links into tabs in the browser. I've found that it greatly reduces my grading time. I also teach students to use this tool for Google search results so they can quickly open the results and go through them.
Add on #13: Goobric
Now, I use PowerSchool Learning LMS and my rubrics are built in. But for a while, this was an awesome tool and I know people still using Goobric with their Google Classrooms and Doctopus Add-On for Google Sheets.
Add-On #14: Chrome Remote Desktop
This tool lets you remotely share a computer over the web. So, you can access your other computers. Even better, your students can share their screens and you can see them for troubleshooting or other purposes (like putting their screen up on your projector.)
This tutorial is the best one I've found for setting up Chrome Remote Desktop.
Add-On #15: Share to Classroom
This handy tool lets you immediately share a link to everyone in your Google Classroom, helping you get everyone on the same page in a moment. It lets you push links to classrooms set up in your Google Classroom and you're immediately on the same page.
What was on the list in 2014?
Lots of the items above were on the original list, but here are some I didn't include in the update but some of you may still find useful. I've also included a screenshot of the original graphic at the bottom.
Tools that Still Exist but Didn't Make the Cut This Time
- Mindmeister – lets you turn a bulleted list into a quick mindmap from inside Google Docs. This is a cool tool but I'm using Lucid Charts for most graphic organizers now.
- Workflows – This lets you automate gathering signatures and approvals. I no longer recommend this because there are tools like HelloSign that let people sign off on contracts, etc.
- Uberconference Calls – When I included this in 2014 — no one had ever heard of Uber, the car service. However, this lets you make phone calls inside of Google Docs. I use as a variety of tools as do many of you for voice calling. They are so good that I no longer recommend this tool – it just isn't necessary or is replaced but what we already have.
- Gliffy Diagrams lets you make charts and more. I use Lucid Charts instead.
- Twitter Curator let you pull tweets into Google Docs. Storify does the job much better, in my opinion. If you need a storify-like tool for Google Docs, then this is your tool.
- Open Clip Art – While this lets you find clip art, I no longer recommend it for children because they have not done a good job of filtering pictures for appropriateness. Adults may find it helpful if they're not in a location where innappropriate images will get them in hot water.
No longer available or not needed:
Some of the best add ons had features that were so useful that Google Docs added them to their feature set. For reference, here are the names and functions of the add-ons that don't exist any more or just aren't necessary.
- Track Changes – you could track and edit changes for each other. This is now built into Google Drive with the edit, suggest, and read only features.
- Table of Contents – This is a built in feature in Google Docs. Just add headings. Then, go to Insert –> Table of Contents. You can also bring it up in the sidebar and use for navigation. Sure, this add on still exists, but why would you use it?
- Thesaurus – When explore and define were added to Google docs, many tools like Thesaurus became unnecessary. It has one star now and doesn't work well so I'm not linking to it. Just click a word and right click and say “define” right inside Google Docs.
- Template Gallery – These are also now built into Google Drive and will be taken down soon, however, they are replacing them with GSuite Custom templates. I'm not really sure about all of the differences, but you can set up templates in GSuite.
- Consistency Checker – This was replaced by Pro Writing Aid for me and is no longer necessary.
- Document Merge – This let you do a mail merge inside Google Docs. It doesn't exist, but was rather clunky and the Microsoft Word merge is better in my opinion.
Other Notable Add-Ons for Some Teachers
- Music teachers will want to check out Vextab Music Notation.
- You can embed Google Translate into Documents.
Finding More Add-Ons
While there are other add-ons including those that can let you send a fax from within Google Drive and others that let you sign contracts and documents, these are my favorites for educators. Let me know your favorites in the comments. To see the whole store, just open a document or spreadsheet and go to Add-Ons >> Get Add-Ons
[callout]This post is provided “as is” without any representations or warranties, express or implied. Coolcatteacher makes no representations or warranties in relation to this website or the information and materials provided on this website. The open clip art should be for college and adult students only. Vicki Davis will not be liable to you (whether under the law of contract, the law of torts or otherwise) in relation to the contents of, or use of, or otherwise in connection with, this post.[/callout]
What my recommendations look like now
The 2014 Version of this Chart
I was wondering what your thoughts were on the permissions that these third-party apps are requesting for access to your accounts when you activate the apps? I forwarded your blog post to the head of IT at my school and he expressed real concern about enabling these apps for reasons of privacy. I’d appreciate hearing your opinion on this. Some of these apps seem so awesome for incorporating into the classroom! Thanks,
You must check the terms of service of each app, yes. However, that said, many of these apps are for schools and it is established to work with Google Drive via Google Apps for Domains which has its own guidelines for add ins as per the developers so it would be interesting to do some investigation and see which TOS trumps which one as I think that the TOS for mindmeister accessed through Google Drive is different than that from the main website you sign up on.
This is worth looking into some more and I don’t know the answer to that. I’ve enabled many of these for me, but not for my students yet as we have a process here as well – these just went live on March 13.
But to carte blanche ignore all of them without looking at the TOS would be a mistake as some of them can be very helpful to students and teachers. —
Host: Every Classroom Matters
Author: Reinventing Writing
Co-Author: Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds
:: This email (and tweets too) are off the record unless we specify otherwise.:: :::: Sorry for brevity as sent from my mobile device::::::
Add-ons produced by New Visions for Public Schools (Doctopus, autoCrat, both Add-ons for Sheets) abide by the following TOS – https://docs.google.com/a/newvisions.org/document/d/11J_mLOEPG5Zf-ZLyw-GylIRjPnHkhYQAqguE0fGxSsc/edit
Would love to know whether these satisfy the concerns of IT administrators in EDU.
Hey there Vicki – something you may want to note in this article is that “Add-ons” have TWO totally different galleries. One for Docs and one for Sheets. Tools like Doctopus and autoCrat, formerly Apps Scripts, are now listed as Add-ons for Sheets.
Wow, Andrew. Thanks for sharing this. I didn’t know this. I guess I need to write this for Sheets as well. Thank you for pointing this out, Andrew.
Thank you for the interesting information! I am just becoming familiar with some of these tools, and my students did an online literature discussion using a google doc last week. They loved doing it, they thought it was so cool! I commented on one of your posts before about new ways to teach writing and you mentioned using Kaizena, so I am definitely going to check out that Add-on and see if I can integrate the new tool with my writing classes!
Let me know how you like Kaizena – I enjoyed playing with it and look forward to using it. My sister uses voice commenting – she’s a professor for Savannah College of Art and Design and teaches online – and says it is key to elearning differentiation. You build a closer connection with voice comments!
Hi, we built many of those Add-ons here at Apps4Gapps and would love to hear your ideas about what you need now. google.com/+JamesFerreira
Thanks for these suggestions Vicki.
You are so welcome Peter! You have given so many great suggestions to me over the years- glad to return the favor! ;-)Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
Thanks for this. I was just about to share with my colleagues and realize that the video for #3 is private, and the link for Uber goes to the wrong site. Great ideas!
thanks for all these great tips! One thing is that I found Track Changes is not available anymore from the Google Chrome Store. I went to their website: letterfeed.com and it says contacting them to get more information. Does anyone know what happened?
I don’t but I’ve got a couple of edits to make to this post as well.
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*Vicki A. Davis @coolcatteacher * Author, *Reinventing Writing *(2014) and *Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds*
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