By default, you start Google Apps on Windows in four steps: Go to the Start Menu, click on your browser, type “www.google.com/a/yourdomain.com“, then login.
But Windows users can access applications in a variety of ways. Some people are comfortable starting a browser, and then going to a bookmarked or favorite site. Other people look for applications in the Start Menu. Still other people rely on desktop shortcuts.
When you set up a Windows user’s desktop for Google Apps, I recommend you configure the system so people can access Google Mail, Calendar and Docs/Drive from:
- Auto-opened tabs for the applications in the Chrome browser;
- Browser bookmarks;
- Desktop links;
- Taskbar links; and
- Start Menu links.
That’s five ways for Windows users to get to Google Apps quickly:
- Two in the browser
- Two on the desktop
- One in the Start Menu
While all of this may seem excessive, I’ve found this configuration makes it easy for a wide range of users to access Google Docs on Windows easily.
Before you do all of this, I recommend that you create custom web addresses for your Google Apps Mail, Calendar and Docs. This lets users access mail with the simpler “mail.yourdomain.com” instead of the much longer default of “mail.google.com/a/yourdomain.com”. See Google’s “Create a custom web address” video and instructions for details. The result is a simplified set of links: mail.yourdomain.com for email, calendar.yourdomain.com for calendars, and docs.yourdomain.com for documents/Google Drive.
After your custom web addresses are configured, move to the user’s Windows desktop.
1. Install and configure the Chrome browser to open email, calendar and documents tabs on startup.
When running Chrome, click on the wrench icon in the upper right. Choose Settings, and then look for the “On start up” section. Click “set pages”.
Choose “Add a new page” then add: your custom web address, e.g., mail.yourdomain.com. Repeat this process for your Calendar and Docs. Click “OK” after all three are configured.
Now, when Chrome starts, the user will automatically have access to their Mail, Calendar and Documents via open tabs.
2. Set Bookmarks for Mail, Calendar, Docs/Drive
With Chrome still open, make sure the Bookmarks bar shows. If not, press Ctrl-Shift-B to toggle the bookmark bar visibility.
Go to the Mail tab. Click on the icon to the left of the “http://” in the address bar. Drag the icon to the bookmark bar. (In most cases, the icon will be a green lock.) Right click on the link added to the bookmark bar, and then rename the link “Mail”. Repeat a similar process for the Calendar and Docs tabs.
The user now will have quick access to Mail, Calendar and Documents from the Bookmarks bar.
3. Create Desktop links
Google provides a link to download an application that will create desktop links to Google Mail, Calendar and Documents/Drive.
Go to your Google Apps Control Panel, choose the “Advanced Tools” tab, then scroll down to the “Google Apps desktop features” section. You’ll find the link here. I recommend you share this link with all of the Windows users in your domain. Run the application to create desktop links for Mail, Calendar and Documents/Drive.
4. Pin links to the Taskbar
Once the above desktop links are created, drag the desktop Mail link to the taskbar. Repeat this process for the Calendar and Documents links.
The user can now access Mail, Calendar and Documents with one-click from the Taskbar.
5. Pin links to the Start Menu
Right-click on the Mail desktop link created in Step 3. Select “Pin to Start Menu” from the displayed list. This adds the link to the Start Menu. Again repeat this process for the Calendar and Document links.
Have a suggestion
How have you setup your Windows users to access Google Apps? How have you setup Google Apps access for yourself on your Windows system?