iPads and iOS‎ > ‎

Google Apps for iPad Users

So you have iPads, but you also use Google Apps? It’s a popular combination, and although you can do many of the same things, it’s good to be aware that Google Drive on an iPad is not the same as Google Drive on a computer. If your students have iPads you need to be mindful of what tasks and processes works best on iOS, and how to avoid workflows that could lead to frustration. This session aims to show you how, with a bit of thought, iPad users can also be happy Google users too.

Google tools on a computer have typically been designed to run in a web browser and aim to be device-agnostic, but running through a browser on an iPad does not always translate into a great experience.  The best experience on an iPad is when you use purpose built apps, and with the right apps it is quite possible to live comfortably in a Google world on an iPad.

Here's Google's official page about this stuff - www.google.com/mobile/ios/

PS: The image above is an image map. Click the icons to go to the App Store page for each of those apps

General Principles: Some Tips and Suggestions

Principle 1: If there is an app available for the task you want to do, use it! For example, the Google Drive App, along with its the apps for Docs, Sheets and Slides, are usually the best way to work on Drive files. You get much more effective access to features like sharing, starring, offline mode, etc. The realtime collaboration features also work very well using the Drive apps.  

Apps are improving all the time. Six months ago you would have been very disappointed in the apps for Docs, Sheets and Slides, but these days they are actually very capable. There are still a few limitations and missing features, but the apps are now very workable and have all the major features you will require.

You will also find the Gmail app gives a much better experience than the built in Apple Mail app.

Principle 2:
If an app is not available for a Google service, or you find it's the app is not doing what you need, try opening the service in a browser window (I recommend Chrome) Many of Google's tools do work ok in an iPad browser, as you often get a web optimised mobile version of the page designed to suit the iPad. 

Usually, when your iPad makes a request to a webserver to load a page, the server checks to see what kind of device is making the request. When it detects an iPad, tablet or phone, it tries to respond with a page that has been optimised for a mobile experience. This optimisation is usually done with resized graphics, oversized interface elements, a different UI, and even the removal of some options. 

Principle 3: For those times when the App version of a Google tool will not cut it, or an App version is not available (eg, Sites), or the web optimised version is just missing too many features, the next best option is to use Chrome in Request Desktop Site Mode. 

From the settings menu in Chrome choose Request Desktop Site. This will reload the page using the standard UI and page layout for a desktop browser, giving you all the usual interface and features. Of course the regular navigation elements, menus, buttons, links, etc that were designed for a larger screen will all appear quite small now and will be quite a bit fiddlier to use with your fingers. This is where Fitt's Law starts to kick in and you can see why an App experience is nearly always a better option if you have the choice!

Your Best Friend: The 'Open In...' menu

Because of the strict app sandboxing model imposed on developers by Apple, often the biggest challenge with using an iPad is finding workflows that let you move between one app and another. It can be frustrating to try and perform tasks that seem like they ought to be fairly simple but aren't, like creating something in one app and then opening it with another. 

Fortunately iOS8 improved this situation greatly with the Open In... command.  Although the implementation of this feature is not 100% consistent across the system, you can now use the Open In... command in many apps to send their output to selected other apps. This provides many more options for improved workflow and moving stuff around on your iPad.

What about Flash?

Most popular Flash based resources now have an alternative by using either an app to have been remade using HTML 5. If you *really* can't let go of that one site or game that needs Flash try using either the Puffin Browser or Photon Browser. For more information on using Flash on the iPad here's an article from Macworld that might be useful. 

Seriously though, repeat after me... Flash is dead. Move on.

If you use Google, go "All In" on Google

Using Google-specific iPad apps offers a very important benefit. They have an internal system for "pointing to" each other. For example, if you have Gmail, Drive, Chrome, YouTube and Maps installed, then anytime any of those apps have an opportunity to hand off content to another Google app, it will. Some advantages are...
  • If you receive a Gmail message with a link to a Doc, the link will open in the Docs app (instead of the much less useful Safari)
  • If you have a Doc that contains a link to  Google Map, it will open in Google Maps rather than Apple Maps
  • If you click a link in an email to a YouTube video, it will open with the YouTube app, not Safari
  • If you click an email link on a webpage it will open using the Gmail app not the Apple Mail app
Installing all the Google apps on your iPad makes it much simpler to operate in a Google world, as all your Google apps hand off their links to the other Google Apps. You do need to go into the settings for each app to enable this behaviour.

Google Apps for iPad users


Start by installing the Gmail app and try using it in preference to the built in Apple Mail app. The big advantage of the Gmail app is that it can directly open links to Chrome, Drive, Maps, Google+ and YouTube in their native Google apps. Setting this up plays a big part in tying together the Google ecosystem on the iPad.

In the Settings, do this...

If you tried the Gmail app a while back and didn't like it, you were not alone. It was pretty ordinary at first.  But like many of the Google tools, it's come a LONG way lately. Try it again. Trust me.
  • Full support for multiple Gmail accounts, as well as Outlook and Yahoo mail too.
  • Full screen viewing mode
  • Threaded conversation support
  • It gives you full access to most of Gmail's power user features.
  • Much better search. Not limited to the last few dozen messages.
  • Gmail labels actually work properly!
  • Mobile or desktop signature file support
  • Big advantage > If you set it up right, you can open Chrome, Drive, Maps, Google+ and YouTube links in the corresponding Google apps (if installed)  Watch the video below to see how....

Google Chrome

  • Chrome cannot be the default browser (Apple's rules!) but you can kind of get around that...
  • Settings > Google Apps can set default linking to YouTube, Maps, Drive, Plus and more.

You also get other cool benefits like...
  • Incognito mode
  • Desktop view mode
  • Tab management
  • Bookmark syncing
  • Other Devices tab launching 
  • Voice search
  • Page sharing

Google Drive (and Docs, Sheets and Slides)

  • My Drive, Shared with Me, Recent, Starred, Offline
  • Create Docs, Sheets, Slides, Folders
  • Can be embedded and shared privately 
  • Share to individuals
  • Share to anyone with the link
  • Upload photos, videos
  • Snap images of student work and add that directly to drive. 
  • Make available offline
  • Collaborate with others 
  • Link sharing
  • View mode with full visual fidelity
  • Some Apps that save directly to Google Drive
    • Explain Everything
    • Picto4Me
    • Notes Plus
    • Notability 

Google Search

  • History (swipe to the right!)
  • Voice
  • Google Now
  • The search app is not a full browser. Once you find the page you're after, use the Open With button to open it in a real browser (Chrome or Safari) or to copy the URL for pasting elsewhere. Also, 

Google Classroom

The best way to use Classroom on your iPad. It includes an excellent notification system so your students will not need to rely on checking email. They will never have to miss another assignment or announcement again! 
  • Google Calendar integration
  • Access to multiple Classrooms
  • Ability to check and submit work from the app

Google Plus

  • Because it’s awesome!
  • Great source of news, photos, videos and information from people and communities

Google Photos

  • Automatically backs up your photos (unlimited storage at high quality)
  • Photo assistant

  • Realtime chat messaging
  • Video calling
  • Voice calling
  • Cross platform - iOS, Android, Web


  • Browse and Watch videos
  • Chromecast support (Awesome!)
  • Flipping the classroom!
  • Manage playlists, favorites
  • Settings > Open links with Chrome

YouTube Capture

  • Easily send video directly to YouTube
  • Capture multiple clips and do simple editing on them before uploading
  • Mark as Private, Unlisted or Public
  • Add music, either your own or from the free YouTube media library
  • Add metadata
  • Publish immediately
  • Super easy!

Play Books

  • It's an ebook reader. Duh.
  • Any highlights, notes or annotations you make in Play Books get automatically saved in a Google Doc in Drive. Neat!

Play Music

  • Keep your music in the cloud and play anywhere via streaming
  • Download your favourite music to your device
  • Using Google Play All Access you can have unlimited access to music
  • Chromecast compatible

Play Movies and TV

  • Watch TV and video on your device
  • Chromecast compatible

Google Translate

  • Translate any languages to any other languages
  • Is it perfect? No. Good enough? You decide.
  • Translation is done algorithmically
  • Text to speech (very handy!)
  • Full screen mode
  • Favourites list
  • NO offline mode like Android! :-(


  • Manage multiple blogs
  • Write, edit and publish posts
  • Add iPad media
  • Note: If you are serious about blogging using an iPad you might try Blogsy

Google Maps

  • Traffic, public transit, cycling, etc
  • Satellite mode
  • Link to Google Earth
  • Press and hold to drop a pin
  • Tap an address to get details
  • Tap a route to get directions
  • Streetview, photos, ratings
  • Star a place to have it show on desktop Maps
  • Offline maps (Type “OK Maps” to save the current viewable area)

Google Earth

  • Drag to pan
  • Pinch to zoom
  • 2 finger drag to tilt
  • 2 finger rotate to rotate
  • Layers. Lots of layers.
  • Integrates with Places from the old Maps


  • Photo editing app
  • Apply filters and effects to images
  • Advanced image manipulation, change tone, contrast, saturation, etc

Google Street View


  • Explore the world in 360 panoramic images
  • Photosphere is a feature built into the camera app on Android phones, now finally available on iOS
  • Take a full 360 degree spherical immersive image
  • Submit your completed photosphere images to Google Views



Google Authenticator


Easily generate codes for two-factor authentication
Generates new codes every 30 seconds
Does not require network access so works without the need for receiving an SMS
Can only set up on one device, so you might prefer to use your phone instead

Google Admin

  • Manage some aspects of your Google Apps domain
  • Limited functionality but still very useful for most common tasks

Activities: It's time to Play!

Pick a couple of the above apps that you have not spent much (or any) time with.  
Now install them and go spend time with them!

  • If you mainly use the Apple Mail app for mail, try the Gmail app for comparison. Send a message. Reply to a message. Forward a message. Add an attachment. In other words, actually try it.
  • Switch to it for at least a week and see what you think. (you can always go back if you really want to, but give it a fair chance)
  • If you have not used the Drive app very much, go try it. 
  • Make a document, edit it, share it. Share it with a buddy and try editing collaboratively.
  • Think of a process you ask your students to do with their iPads and try doing it yourself. What is the experience like?
  • Discuss with your buddy, what did you find difficult, easy?
  • Did anything about the Drive app surprise you?
  • Upload photos or videos to your Drive.
  • Use the Drive capture tool to take photos directly to your Drive.
  • Share those photos with a partner
  • Make a short video using YouTube capture
  • Try shooting multiple clips and editing them together
  • Add some music from the free YouTube library
  • Publish the finished clip to your YouTube channel
  • Try using the Google Search app to find information using only voice commands.
  • Do you speak a second language? Try the Translate app.
  • How well does it work in your language?
  • Find someone else who speaks a different language and see if you can communicate with them using only the Translate app.
  • Take some photos with your iPad/iPhone, and edit them using the Snapseed app.
  • Try some subtle image improvements
  • Go crazy with the effects and see what you can come up with
  • Use Google Maps to find to a location
  • Use Streetview to look around and explore that location
  • Plan a route from where you are now to that location
  • Check the traffic along the route
  • See how to get there using public transport
  • If you're an administrator of a GAFE domain, try the Admin app
  • What can you do with it? How many of your regular tasks can you use it for?
See some other app on the list that you want to explore? Go for it!

iOS Device Management from the Google Apps Dashboard

Say what? Managing iOS devices from the Google Dashboard? Seriously?
Yep. On Sept 20, 2014 Google announced a project to enable a degree of iOS device management from the GAFE Admin Dashboard. For more details, check out the official blogpost at http://googleappsupdates.blogspot.com.au/2014/09/increased-productivity-and-security-for.html

What's next? Cats and dogs living together?

Want even more?

Get a second perspective.... Check out this other presentation on Google Apps for iPad Users from Google themselves.

If you have a moment I'd really appreciate your feedback on this session. Thanks!