Thursday, April 14, 2016

Use Google Forms to Create a Tracking Log

Google Forms is an easy and free way to create tracking logs and surveys you can access from your smart phone.

I recently learned about Google Forms from Andrew Mayne, an author and television personality. He wrote a blog post titled "My Secret Creativity Tool," in which he provided a quick overview of Google Forms.

I played around with Google Forms and decided to create the video below. This project took a couple of nights because I was dissatisfied with my first night's result. I realized that I said "so" far too much, something I previously blogged about. To help myself stay on track I created an outline. It seemed to help.

Another advantage of the outline is that it helped me write this post to support the video.

Google Forms

Google Forms is part of the Google productivity suite, which includes apps for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Although not nearly as powerful as Microsoft Office, Google's productivity suite is convenient because it already uses the same account information as G-mail, Google+, and YouTube.

Google Forms provides a platform to collect and organize information for free. These forms can be used for surveys, polls, and tracking logs. You are only limited by your imagination and the technical limitations of the tool.

One of the immediate applications of interest to me was a tracking log. I have previously written about a writing project in which my goal is to write 1,000 words per day each day in 2016. I am writing in four different categories, and enter my progress each day into an Excel spreadsheet. However, with a Google Form, I can track the same information simply by entering my writing progress into a form accessible on my phone.

In the video I used the example of an exercise tracking log.

Getting Started

The first step is to access Google Forms. If you don't already have a Google Drive set up, the easiest way to locate Google Forms may be to simply search "google forms" and select the first option. Click the + to create a form.

Google Forms - create and analyze surveys, for free.
Analyze your results in Google Forms. Free from Google. Google Editors Docs Sheets Slides ... About Google Docs Google Docs; Google Sheets; Google Slides;

Another way to start a new Google Form is to go to your Google Drive home page. Click: New > More > Forms.

Enter a title and description of your form. Even if only creating the form for your own use, it is helpful to include a brief descriptions.

Adding Questions

Several different types of questions exist.
  • Multiple choice includes multiple choice where only one option is selected from displayed options, checkbox where multiple options can be selected, and dropdown, where an extra mouse click is required to display the options.
  • Free text includes short answer (one line) and paragraph (multiple lines).
  • Date/Time fields include date and time.
  • Rating scale choices are Linear (Likert) scale, for one item, and multiple choice grid, for multiple items, are also available question types, but don't seem as relevant for tracking logs. 

Setting Up Responses

In order to make a form useful, the data must go somewhere. The easiest way to configure this option is to create a new Google Sheets spreadsheet using the same name as the form. On the Responses tab is a small green button which will create a spreadsheet.

Sending the Form

Three options to send the form include sending by e-mail, copying the link, and embedding the link. E-mail is the best option to easily transfer the link from computer to smart phone.

Before configuring the form on your phone, test the form by copying the link and pasting it into a new browser tab or window. As soon as you submit the form, the data is immediately loaded in the corresponding Google Sheets spreadsheet (which you can verify by navigating to the spreadsheet).

Use on Your Phone

Open the message that you sent from the Google Forms "Send" options and click on the link. The form will open on to your phone's browser (in my case, Safari). Using the Share button, save the link to your home screen. The form will now appear as a icon (just like mail, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.).

Now, whenever you click this icon, you will be taken directly to the form.

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