How to Move a Public Google Site to a Google Apps Domain (and vice versa)

Better Google Sites

Something I get asked about every now and again is how to move a Google Site that was created in a public account, into a Google Apps for Education domain account. This is a popular thing to do when a school gets Google Apps for Education for the first time. However, it is also a top request among teachers that move to a new job with a new school and want to do the reverse, or even transfer between apps domains. Here’s what you need to know.

The first important thing to know is that you can’t actually move a site. What you have to do instead is make a copy of the site, and for this you need two Google accounts — your personal account and your Apps for Education account. Once you have made the copy, you can choose to delete the other site if you want, or just take it offline and ignore it.

The instructions below are based on a scenario where you have created a Google Site in your public account and want to move it into a Google Apps domain because your school is going Google. However, it is very much the same procedure to make a copy of a site to a public account, or move it between apps domains. So, let’s get started!

1. In your browser of choice, log in to your personal Google account with your @gmail username and password. Then navigate to the Google Sites website you want to work with.

2. Now, add yourself as an owner by clicking on the blue share button in the top right-hand corner of the site. (You are, of course, already an owner of this site, but what you are going to do here is add your new Google Apps for Education account as a collaborator on the site. Be sure to give this account the rights of an “Owner”).

sharing permissions

2. Next, copy the URL of the site you just added your school Google account to.

3. In another browser, (or in another user account in Chrome), log in to your school Google account with your Google Apps for Education username and password.

sign in to Google

4. Paste the URL of the website we made changes to earlier. You should find that you have full access to the editing controls when it loads, but if you don’t, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the Sign in link in the footer.

5. Click the gear icon in the top right-hand corner, and select Manage Site. This will take you to the General settings page of your Google Site.

manage site

6. Choose the “Copy this site” option and rename it accordingly. If you want to keep your other Google account as a collaborator on this site, feel free to copy the original collaborators checked before you copy.

copy this site

7. The site will now appear in your list of websites at http://sites.google.com when you are logged in with your Google Apps for Education account.

There are, however, a couple of caveats. For starters, the site you just created now has a new URL. Be sure to make that available to anyone who needs access to your site, or create a custom tinyurl and share that. The URL you used previously, will direct people to the site that was originally created outside your Google Apps domain.

Speaking of the old site, it’s a good idea to change the sharing permissions on the one to “Private” so not to confuse visitors about which site to visit, or just delete the old site altogether if you don’t think you will need it any more. You also need to make sure that you, as the owner, are updating the correct site!

Otherwise, you should be good to go. When you make a copy of a Google Site it will look exactly the same as the original version so all the content you had before will now be available to you and your visitors inside your Google Apps for Education domain.

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Why the Folder Gadget Beats Attachments in Google Sites

There are a number of ways that you can add file attachments to a Google Site. For instance, you can add files to the bottom of a page in the attachments area. You can also add a File Cabinet page. However, my favorite, by far, is the Folder gadget.

The folder gadget lets you display the contents of a Google Drive Folder on a Google Site. You add your folder by editing a page and going to Insert > Drive > Folder. Then you select the folder from your Google Drive that you want to add to your Google Site.

insert folder in google sites

For me, the Folder gadget has a number of advantages over page attachments or a file cabinet page. Here are a few of the important differences:

1. Updates: The problem with attachments and file cabinet pages is that every time you update a document, you need to remove the one you had from a Google Site and upload the latest version. If you use Google Docs, Spreadsheets or Presentations, you can log in to your Drive account, and edit the document. Because the file is in a folder that is embedded on your Google Site, the latest version of the file is automatically pushed to your website. This is great for teachers who update a syllabus or other class documents.

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How to Preview a Page as a Viewer in Google Sites

When working on a Google Site, the view you get as the owner, is sometimes going to be different to the view a visitor gets when they access your website. Google has a built-in option called Preview page as a viewer, to deal with just this problem. It shows you exactly what your Google Site will look like to someone who does not have access to your site as an editor.

Best of all, it is very easy to do. Make sure you are signed in to your Google Site, then click More > Preview page as a viewer, (or use the keyboard shortcut g then p). Your site will then open in a new tab, minus the editing bar you normally see across the top of your page. Instead, you will see a small yellow rectangle at the top of the page that says “Preview page as a viewer”. If you have asked Google to optimize your site for Mobile visitors (More > Manage Site > General > Mobile) you will also see the option to switch to a mobile preview, but in my experience, this is often not a pretty sight!

preview page as a viewer

Why would you want to preview a page as a viewer? Well, if you are anything like me, you may occasionally (read: often!) forget whether or not you changed the sharing settings on an embedded Google document. In the editor view on your site, everything looks fine, and it displays just like it should. However, visitors who do not have access to a document see a placeholder denying them the ability to see it without first requesting access. It is an easy problem to fix, but a quick preview of the site as a viewer can help alleviate problems like this before they arise.

Using Google Forms for a Contact Page on Google Sites

When I create custom Google Sites, one of the things I often add is a Google Form on the Contact page. It’s a quick, easy, and stylish way to give visitors to your website a way to contact you without ever having to leave your site. Here’s how to set one up.

Start by creating a form in Google Drive, but keep it simple. The more fields you add, the less likely people will be to use your form. So, Name, Email and Comments is usually fine for most circumstances, but feel free to change that up as required, (see below).

Google Sites Contact Form

Next, insert the Form on a Contact page of your Google Site. You can add a paragraph explaining that it is a way that people can contact you about anything you have seen on the site, but again this is optional. So, go to Insert > Drive > Form and select the Form you created.

insert google form

Now adjust the Form settings. I usually recommend leaving the border and title boxes unchecked. That way, you get a nice clean look and it does not immediately look like you have embedded a Google From. Leave the width blank and it will automatically fit the width of your site, and play with the height until it looks right for you and displays without a scroll bar. Then save your page.

Google Form Settings

To get notified of form submissions, go to the Responses spreadsheet that is associated with your Google Form. Then click Tools > Notification rules. This allows you to set up email alerts for form submissions, so check the box that says A user submits a form, and choose how quickly you would like to be notified of that action. Most of the time I select Email – right away, but if your inbox is full and overflowing, you may prefer the daily digest. Click Save to store your preferences.

notification settings google spreadhseet

And that is really all there is to it. From this point forward, visitors to your Google Site can submit questions and comments through the embedded Google Form, and you will get notified of their submission by email. Easy, right? 🙂

Create Great HTML Classroom Newsletters for FREE with Google Sites

Recently, I came across a great Google script by Romain Vialard on how to create nice looking email newsletters from a Google Sites page. It is simple to do, requires no programming skills, and could be a great way to go paperless in the classroom. So, if you are an elementary teacher that sends home newsletters every week, or you are an administrator or a coach who needs to keep communication lines open with parents, read on.

The premise is simple. You build your newsletter by creating a page on a Google Site. If you already have a classroom website that is a Google Site, all the better, but otherwise, you can create a Google Site for free with a Google Account. Then edit the page like you would with any other page, but consider some creative layouts like the three column layout with a header and footer.

Google Sites Newsletter

You can insert images and hyperlinks with ease. Embedded videos do not work when delivered as email, but you can take a screenshot of the video and link that image to the online version of the video, or add a link to say watch the video here. Of course, you can add as much text as you want, and rich text formatting will be retained.

Once your page is complete, it is time to send it to your readers. Install the free Chrome Newsletter Creator app, or visit Romain’s website, and paste the link to your page into the newsletter script. Add the email addresses of the recipients, choose whether or not you want to add a record of your email to a Google Spreadsheet, and click Send.

Initially I had some issues with adding recipients to the text box, because it did not deliver the newsletter to all the email address I added. However, if you click the spreadsheet icon to the right of the text box (see below) you can select a Google Spreadsheet that you have pasted the email addresses into, and use that as your mailing list. This worked much better for me with larger numbers of recipients.

newsletter creator

In no time at all, you can check your email to find the finished product. It looks great in Gmail and most other clients. The page title is used for the subject title of the email, and the rest is neatly packaged into a professional looking HTML newsletter that you created with little effort and no cost.

gmail classroom newsletter

Of course, you could take this one step further and use a freely available HTML newsletter template from the web, paste the code into the HTML box in  a Google Site, and use that as a template for an even nicer looking custom newsletter. I tried it, and it worked pretty well. You don’t need to know any HTML code to edit the content, but if you want to tweak any of the colors or design, it would be useful. You can see a video demo of Romain’s script below.

If, like me, you spend a lot of your time using Google Apps, you may well have forgotten most of the intricacies of how to use Publisher or Word for newsletters, but Google Sites is easy to learn. So, why not give it a try? Feel free to leave your thoughts on this tool below.

How to Add Favicons to Google Sites

Some time ago, I talked about how to add an Apple Touch Icon to a Google Site. Today I want to show you how to add favicons to a Google Site. It is quick, easy, and a fun way to add some extra style to your website.

What is a Favicon? A favicon is a small icon associated with a website that you will see on every tab, and/or in the address bar next to the URL, depending on what browser you use. You can make your own favicon with any number of free favicon generators out there, but sometimes I just like to head over to FreeFavicon.com and download one of their free, ready-made favicons.

free favicon.com

Once you have the image you want, you first need to make sure that you have the filename correct. Google Sites only recognize favicons that are named favicon.ico. If you have it named as anything else, you will need to rename the file first, otherwise the standard Google Sites favicon will remain.

Next, go to More > Manage Site > Attachments > Upload and select your favicon. After that, you are done. You should see the favicon appear on the tab at the top of the page, or in the address bar of your browser within seconds.

upload favicon google sites

It is a very quick tweak, but another way that you can build Google Sites that don’t look like Google Sites. For a video walkthrough of this process, you can watch the awesome Stacy Behmer below:

Pimp My Site: Customization Options for Google Sites

iowa-mini-summit

Recently, I shared the first of my three presentations at the Iowa Mini Google Summit – Editing Video Online with the YouTube Editor. Today, I am sharing the second – Pimp My Site: Customization Options for Google Sites. It’s an exploration of the ways in which you can make a Google Site easier on the eye, and less like a stock Google Site.

I have grown to love Google Sites. They are easy for students and teachers to build and maintain, but they are also easy to tweak…if you know where to look. They don’t have to look like a stock Google Site if you learn a few simple tricks. It takes a little bit of time to apply all these tweaks, but once you start using them, you will get faster, and you will get more adventurous with ideas of your own.

One of my favorite things to do when I find a truly awesome Google Site is to try and backwards engineer it. How did they do that header? How did they make the navigation so elegant? How can I get a background like that? I would encourage you to do just that. At the same conference, one of my colleagues made a one page Google Site for their session handout. He stripped out all navigation, and had a simple two color palette. It was clean, simple and elegant. I love coming across new ways of doing things, and for me this was a great example of that.

So, take a look at the slideshow below and see if you can apply any of these tips to your own Google Site. Together we can make the web more beautiful! 🙂

Adding an Apple Touch Icon to Google Sites

You’ve seen it before. You add a Google Site to the homescreen of your iOS device, and you get that generic Google Sites logo as your icon. For an individual user, it’s no big deal. However, for Google Apps schools, it is much more of an issue. They may want their students (or staff) to bookmark several different Google Sites websites. So, what would be a good way to differentiate between these sites on an iPad or iPod Touch homescreen? An Apple Touch icon.

The Apple Touch icon is a small image that will replace the generic Google Sites logo as the homescreen icon and help your bookmarks stand out more. They are easy to create, and require very little technical expertise. So, if you are interested in creating an Apple Touch icon for your Google Site, watch the video below. I made it in less than 5 minutes, and with a little bit of practice, so can you. All you need is a royalty free image, and a little imagination.

The ease at which an Apple Touch icon can be made will quickly compel you to add these to the default list of things you add to a new Google site, but don’t stop there, because you can add a favicon to a Google Site just as quickly.