It’s official: Google Docs is revolutionising the way businesses communicate and operate. Over 5 million businesses have chucked Microsoft Office for Google Docs, and Docs were sitting at 20 percent business penetration in only 2009, according to market research firm IDC. What can you do to ease the transition across all the computers in your workplace?

  1.  Gmail

Get your mailboxes sorted. The new Gmail will ‘thread’ message chains – stick them all in one section so you can see them, kind of like text messages on your laptop or desktop – but there’s so much more you can do. Smart Mailboxes will sort your mail based on rules you submit – such as mail that’s come in the past three days from a particular group of people, or mail whose subject contains a particular tag line (useful for dividing your mail up in to senders). For an extra swift tip, head to Settings>General>Button Labels to turn the icons of the new interface buttons in to text, which might help you orient yourself a bit better.

  1.  Google forms

Collecting any data is a pain. First, there’s designing the questionnaire. Then, there’s getting the data. Then, there’s entering it in to spreadsheets manually. Then there’s analysis. Not any more! Google forms are easy to set up – just drag and drop options for people to select – and very easy to distribute through e-mail or by providing a public link (which you can share on to Facebook, or so on). It enters all the responses in to a logically laid-out spreadsheet automatically, and provides access to all of Google Docs’ esteemed array of analysis tools. Using Google forms cuts the time it takes to do certain tasks from weeks down to hours. It’s a bona fide lightweight CRM tool, market analysis tool and feedback agent.

  1.  Documents

The WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) word processor built in to Google Docs rivals Microsoft Office. Highlight text and right-click to add comments, which is awesome if you’re running iterative cycles on product development or using the built-in synchronous editing tools to work on a document at the same time as someone else. Make sure you export your stuff to Word format after you’re done, and then others can open it up in Office natively. Or, save it as a Google Doc, capture the link at the top of the page and e-mail the document without taking up loads of space as an attachment. Simple.

  1.  Drawing

Shockingly, this is one of the most useful collaboration features in Google Docs. As well as allowing you to import images of your own files for annotation, Google Drawing updates on every viewer’s computer in real-time. This means you can hold a real meeting, at the same time, with one person on a desktop in the office and another user on a laptop the other side of the world. The right-hand pane in Drawing allows you to search through your own docs (using keywords) or the web, which makes the cloud application ideal for collaborating pin-board style on a big topic, almost as if on a collaborative light board. For best performance, you need to use Google Chrome.

  1.  Use Google Gadgets

Make your docs super-interactive by use of code snippets available from the Google Gadgets repository. A little calendar could help everyone to keep on track when editing synchronously. Or, an Angry Birds widget could offer some time out. If you have a knowledgeable dev among you, you can create more purpose-built gadgets – which could move your entire operation in to the cloud. It’s a start towards more specialised services. You’ll be surprised at how much more effective collaborative document editing using Google Docs can be.